Here's what Johnny has to say:
The Scottish moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre spoke in a lecture in Dublin in 2009 about the writing of scholarly articles in refereed journals as a regular and recognised method of disseminating one's ideas and research, and of building an academic career. (the lecture can be seen on youtube) He also drew attention to a study which showed that the average readership for a scholarly journal article is fewer than two. -And one of these average readers, MacIntyre quipped, is usually the writer's mother...
Scholarly journals, that is to say, not only compound the problems of the ivory tower, but with their exclusive and elitist protocols, and their super-refined specialisms, they have driven a hermetic agenda that seems to disregard, or even frown upon, any generalist breadth of appeal. Keeping it in the close family might not be high in the conscious intentions of the contributor to the 'Hermeneutic Review of Relational Aesthetics' –though that could perhaps be the subject of another paper published there featuring a Lacanian Oedipal analysis –titled something like ‘Academics who see their Mother in the Mirror Stage’. But while the approval of a referees' panel is gratifying and useful for research exercise purposes, the researcher’s dilemma of finding a route to a broader readership without watering down the strength of the work is an everpresent.
In the eighteenth century David Hume considered that the writing of an essay could solve such a dilemma, as for him the essay writer performed the role of an ‘ambassador from the dominions of learning to those of conversation’. The problem nowadays of course, is where would one publish such a piece of academic diplomacy? –The gulf between the journalistic mainstream press and the specialist academic publications has grown wider, and there seems to be no medium for debate which sits between their respective positions. The blogosphere, is of course, an easily accessible and multidisciplinary - not to say anarchic – forum, but again there, the pressure in the competitive online atmosphere to entertain, or to make the quick and easy point can all too easily override the comprehensive statement of a thesis, or rehearsal of an argument.
That is why I’d recommend the use of Twitter as method to disseminate full and unabridged versions of research work. It may seem paradoxical that having already dismissed blogging and the mainstream press for not giving enough physical or intellectual space, I recommend the social medium which can transmit only a minimal size of message -140 characters! But it is precisely its brevity which paradoxically makes Twitter suitable as the bearer of such a complex and uncompromised message as a full scholarly piece of work to a broad audience. This is so because of the indexical quality of its use. The typical – and for me, most successful and interesting short tweet will contain reference to a much more vast hinterland of information via the citing of a url which links to an academic essay. The url will be an internet address that is obtained by uploading the academic essay to a research repository -the publically accessible digital archive of a University staff’s published work. (At Glasgow School of Art that research repository is RADAR)
The twitter message itself will give a short introduction to, or description of what is to be found at that cited url address. A successful tweet can then be shared amongst thousands of users (and tens of thousands if it is in turn retweeted by those users) in seconds. Clearly all the people who view the tweet will not click on and go immediately to the cited url and read the article. Most of those who are interested will favourite or otherwise mark the article, and if it is an engaging academic article of interest to them then they will come back to read it in their own quiet time. Even if only a small percentage of tweeters actually read the article , it still has a relatively broad dissemination, and often dialogue will begin with other tweeters and then spread to email and personal contacts, such that a significant social engagement is made by the work in question. Thus the real efficacy of twitter as a mode of building readership and ‘impact’ lies in its indexical versatility: a lot of potential readers can be pointed in one direction in a very quick and simple manner –but don’t tell your mother, for as all good scholars should know, it’s rude to point.
Thankyou Johnny for a great comment on the use of Twitter. If you want to see more of Johnny's work and research, please view his outputs in RADAR here.