Known knowns and known unknowns in my engagement with social media

I had an interesting conversation yesterday about the research that exists on career, professionalism, social media and the digital environment. All in all we agreed that there were hell of a lot of “known unknowns”, and also that there were a lot of “we think we knows, but no one has ever really proved it” floating about.

I try and keep some sort of a track of the literature in this area on my citeulike using the social media tag. However, my reading of a lot of this literature is that it is pretty fragmentary with lots of people carving out little corners to research but little systematic work. In terms of forming my own theories about the role of social media I have been strongly influenced by Clay Shirky’s work, particularly in Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus, but these books only skirt round the edges of the issues of education and employment that I’m primarily interested in.

Elsewhere on this blog I’ve looked to see what other people are advising in terms of how to manage your career online. However, these books are generally pretty limited and pretty clearly focused on how to use particular tools.

In my own work I’ve looked at various different issues: how do students use social media at university; what is the value of social media for career guidance (also with respect to policy in this area and specifically in relation to blogging); how can researchers use social media for their professional development (and for social research). I’ve also looked at how we can support students to develop their digital career literacy, written up little experiments that I’ve tried on this and tried to pull together all my thinking on the internet and career.  Hopefully this body of work (combined with my regular outpourings on this blog filed under socialmedia or social media) provides some useful starting points.  However, I’d be the first to admit that it has been developed in a rather oportunistic fashion.

So what I would like to propose is three research questions that I would really like to know the answer to. If people think that these have already been answered then please direct me to the relevant literature. If not then please direct me to the relevant pile of research funding.

  1. How do the internet and social technologies in particular change individuals experience of the education system? How are educators and educational institutions using these technologies and perhaps more interestingly how are learners using technologies in unofficial and unsanctioned ways to support their learning?
  2. How do the internet and social technologies in particular change individuals experience of transitioning from education to work? How can we use the opportunities provided by new technologies to support this process of transition?
  3. How are people using the internet and social technologies in particular to pursue their careers and develop their professionalism? What are the dangers and opportunities that this presents and how do these interface with organisational issues.

OK, so those are three fairly big issues. I don’t expect to answer all of them myself, but they represent an attempt to define a clearer research agenda in this area.

Any thoughts?

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One comment

  1. Hi,
    I left a brief response to this on Twitter – as I was finding that the students I work with are not using technology for their career development in the ways I was expecting eg – not using LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. Also reluctant to see how they could ‘brand’ themselves, as there is still a general perception that employers will not search them on google.

    For further reading can I suggest the work of Julian Sefton-Green http://www.julianseftongreen.net/?page_id=3

    and this edited book is also good – http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0262013363/apophenia-20

    If you haven’t read them all ready. I am really interested in this area and look forward to hearing more of your thoughts!

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