Academic twitter: effective or affective? Examining the limitations of twitter as a medium for academic impact

Year: 2018

Author: Buchanan, Rachel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Higher education policy now includes ‘impact’ as a means of evaluating the worth and value of an academic’s work. Twitter is one medium that academics can use to leverage their work to demonstrate ‘impact’. This platform offers a way of disseminating research, reaching a wider audience, communicating to a variety of stakeholders, and its analytics can easily be used to demonstrate reach. While this is not inaccurate, however, the platform itself is a problematic medium for sharing academic work. It has been described thusly: “The social-media platform is a robust ecosystem for brand-building, research-sharing, and career-ruining” (Bateman, 2017). Drawing on a content-analysis of websites that explain how to game Twitter’s algorithmic timeline, this paper explores how Twitter relies on emotional economies for its success and growth. Tweets that have an emotional impact have the most salience in this environment. Impact, in this context, can rest less on effective communication and more on the affective dimension. While the academy draws on the centuries old ideal of the rational scholar, twitter functions differently. In unpacking the tensions between the academy, the neoliberal university, and Twitter’s business model, this paper concludes with a cautious note about the uncritical acceptance of Twitter as a measure of academic impact.