Twitter was born ten years ago this month, and this extraordinary political season has been a showcase of the new role of social media in our national discourse. Last night’s convention made history (and #herstory); even how candidates use social media is an issue.  In fact, how we use social media – even how we use email, which we’ve seen inadvertently turn “social” – is one of the unavoidable personal, professional, and civic tests of our awareness, insight, judgment, and agility. Some say Instagram is the next big thinTwitter_bird_logo_2012g and an important topic for new social media research.  Here at the library we’re looking at trends in our social media last year (Facebook down, Twitter and Instagram up), and thinking about where we want to take it next year (with a goal of renewing our social media strategy).  Meanwhile if you haven’t seen the library’s Instagram account lately,  it’s a lot of fun (thanks social media team!): check out Transformation Tuesday, Throwback Thursday (look at those hats), the making of the Living Library (the movie)  and the latest in student-designed swag  for brand new Cal Poly students joining us this fall.

One flavor of social media is the social media profile:  think LinkedIn or Facebook.  For that matter, every personal web page or ‘about’ page on a blog is a profile; but social media-flavored profiles add something different: networking.  Social media profiles make it easy for us to compare and contrast different profiles – the way a school uniformuniform.jpg becomes a way of expressing not only common identity, but self.  Of course there’s much more to social profile networking – machine-generated matching of people with each other, the ability to express connections through friending and likes, endorsements, shared affiliations; and to build connections through feeds and updates. And then there are academic profiles, geared to crafting and expressing intellectual and academic connections and reputations.  Over the last few weeks we’ve been looking into the issue of whether to continue to provide Cal Poly branded Selected Works faculty profiles – an add-on service of our incredibly successful Digital Commons repository.  We’ll be sharing our decision soon, and our reasoning, which comes down to this:  faculty like to choose from many profile options (like ORCID, ResearcherID,, and manage their own profiles themselves.  There’s very interesting data on this point  (thanks to Adriana for sharing it with us).

One of the things to pay attention to with social media is who owns it. At the conference I attended last month Kentaro Toyama showed a slide comparing Facebook to the Matrix (and not in a good way), and quoted the widespread canard (credited to a lot of different people!) “if it’s free, you’re the product.”  Academic information sharing is a serious business – it’s the lifeblood of academic work.  So when free academic networking tools and services have been sold to giant corporations, it’s been a shock to the system.  It’s one thing to be in a coop where free.jpegyour mutual good is the “product”; but do you become an Elsevier product now that they own Mendeley? (The New Yorker article described it as “the Rebel Alliance” selling out.) Yet somehow the news last month that the (not free, but not commercial) Social Science Research Network (SSRN) was sold – also to Elsevier – was a total surprise to me. The “Rebel Alliance” surged forward (coincidentally), announcing the release of free and open SocArXiv.

Have a great weekend,