Networked scholars: reflections on light and dark

This is the last week of George Veletsianos’ open course – Networked Scholars. I have not been as engaged as I had hoped, mainly because my offline or backchannel/closed, more personal networks, have been more important to me over the past few weeks than interacting openly online.

I have also been increasingly aware this year and particularly over the past few weeks of ‘the dark’ side of working openly online, to the extent that I am now reflecting on how much I want to work openly online. It did seem that the Networked Scholars course focused quite a bit on the negatives of working openly online. We started off positively with Michael Barbour sharing his practice on visibility, presence and branding in the first week, but in the second week the focus was on Challenges and Tensions, with some troubling case studies to consider, although the expert chat with Royce Kimmons was excellent. In week three the focus was on caring and vulnerability and Bonnie Stewart shared her perspectives in the Google Hangout session. A need to consider vulnerability indicates the challenges that some academics may have working openly online. This week we have been asked to reflect on our experience and draw a concept map, but me and concept maps don’t go together, so I am going to tackle it from a more personal viewpoint.

I can’t be objective because I haven’t read all the readings, or even followed all the discussion, but subjectively the course has compounded my feelings that there is a ‘dark side’ to all this online sharing and interaction, in the name of being a networked scholar, which currently I don’t feel comfortable with. Of course I know it is the accumulation of a whole range of life and work experiences and not down to the course itself.

But this week I noticed this wonderful image on a Twitter post and felt compelled to follow it up.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 15.55.25

This was shown in lighting architect Rogier van der Heide’s Ted Talk  about ‘Why light needs darkness’. There are a number of beautiful images in this talk, all of which illustrate how we can get a new perspective on the world by appreciating the role of darkness in revealing the light.

So it occurred to me that perhaps the ‘dark side’ of the internet allows us to more clearly see the light and the light paths that we would like to follow. Both light and dark define the space.

In the introduction to the Networked Scholars course, George wrote:

By the end of the course I hope that you will be better informed about the role of social media in the lives of knowledge workers and academics, be able to have an informed conversation about this topic with your colleagues, and decide whether and to what extent you personally might use social media for academic purposes.

I think I could answer ‘Yes’ to all three points, but mostly I think I am clearer about what I am not prepared to do in the name of open networked scholarship; I am clearer about the light and dark spaces.