We here at the Medical Museion are a diverse group of academics, curators, administrators, tour guides and other help and support staff. Perhaps one thing that ties us together is that we all engage with social media in one way or another at work. But what happens to that dynamic when we step foot inside the Museion between the hours of 9-5?
That was the topic for an afternoon discussion as part of the Medicinsk Museion’s ‘Museion & the Web’ workshop held on February 29. We spent the morning addressing the question “why would we use social media in our daily work life?” We split into small groups for a while before returning to present examples of good and bad uses of social media in our daily work life. We then had a plenary discussion on scientists who blog – or bloggers who do science, which was inspired by a blog post by Lynne Murphy on the LSE’s ‘Impact of Social Sciences’ blog. Murphy works as an academic linguist at Sussex University and her situation is this: she is a blogger, she is an academic, but is she an academic blogger? Another way to look at it is this: are you an academic who blogs or a blogger who’s academic? A third question we could add that arose during the discussion is: is there a difference? Do we necessarily have to have this dual role, this split personality?
This issue relates in some way to the Museion’s identity as a university research museum. In a house that positions itself as an experimental museum, we started by questioning exactly what is work in relation to the use of social media? What are our roles as academics and non-academics, and how can we change the impression that using social media is not ‘real’ (academic) work? How can we make the use of social media a more explicit part of our job? A key reason for discussing these issues is that as academic employees of the University of Copenhagen, we have an obligation to tell the world about our work. Can we not look at social media as tools for disseminating our work, and integrate them into our profile, instead of calling it a separate thing? Do we necessarily need to call ourselves ‘bloggers’, or can we just be intellectuals and academics who wants to make use of all available media sources for sharing and discussing what we do and what we find interesting?
Response was overwhelmingly positive to the use of blogs and social media in the Museion’s daily work life, but the discussion did come with a cautionary tale. We need to be careful not to fetishize blogging, but rather see is as one of many tools with which we can communicate with the public, other academics, and each other, but only if it suits you and your individual goals and interests. Also, as we are all engaged in different research projects and report about a wide range of topics, how do we balance between individuals who blog and the Musieon’s collective ‘blog identity’? Are separate blogs for each individual, project, or exhibition the answer? If so, how can we generate both more content and interaction without losing ‘accidental’ interest if people were to visit just one specific blog, a potential risk if the distinctions are too sharp?
Whatever issues we might have with the terms ‘blog’ and ‘blogger’, we acknowledged that it does have a place here at the Museion as a means for starting, engaging with, and following in timely dialogues with the public, as well as receiving (almost) instant feedback. Personally, I see the blog format (along with other social media) as playing a central role in my academic life. I plan to use social media and online forums for my research project on type 2 diabetes and communication, looking at online diabetes networks. For me blogs (mine and others) will become one method for generating and collecting material and data (but more on that in a subsequent post – so stay tuned and keep coming back to the website).
The blog post by Murphy ends with some tips for helping ensure your blog has a wide reach and readership that are worth looking at for anyone who uses or is considering using blogging in their academic life. The last tip is perhaps the most important and worth repeating: Do it because you want to do it. Believe in what you have to say, be sincere and enjoy the experience of blogging and your audience will pick up on that and, who knows what exciting possibilities might come out of it?