Academics Doing it Differently: Wooing, Hooking up and Spinning Stories

Main Article Content

Narelle Lemon Megan McPherson Kylie Budge


Wooing, hooking up and spinning stories are not the usual behaviours to describe academics and the ways they make connections with other scholars. These behaviours are now how some academics build relations for research, support and professional development as a part of the way they work in and across academia with social media use. How academics reveal facets of their identity online and use social media speak to ideas about identity and agency in the contemporary university. Academics are using social media in the university and this has risks to both the academy and the academic. Academics are taking on these risks in different ways, publically representing their academic selves and their research, building networks of connections with other scholars and using Twitter to be (non) strategic to benefit their research interests and inquiries. In this paper, we focus on how academics use Twitter to make connections and relations with others. The paper draws on preliminary findings from a study of academics using Twitter that used a modified snowball recruitment method to garner participants. Informal interviews were used to discuss how the academics used Twitter, what images they used to represent and describe themselves. How their academic identity was represented online as branding, strategic or not, and their various relations was a starting point in this analysis. We examine the themes of academics branding and being (non) strategic by the stories they told of relationship building on Twitter. That is wooing, or having conversations on specific topics to make a connection and demonstrate relevance, hooking up, or networking, and spinning stories, or rather enacting professional dialogues. We argue that these behaviours demonstrate how some academics are an example of a new type of 21st century academic and conclude by suggesting that in doing so they are examples of new ways of being and becoming an academic context.

Article Details

Original Research


Atkinson, L., & Flint, J. (n.d.). Access to hidden and hard to reach populations: Snowball research techniques. Social Research Update, 33. Retrieved from

Bain, A. (2005). Constructing an artistic identity. Work, Employment & Society, 19(1), 25–46. doi:

Barnett, R. (2000). Realizing the university in an age of supercomplexity. Ballmoor, Buks: The Society for Research into Higher Education and OUP.

Boeije, H. (2010). Analysis in qualitative research. London, England: Sage.

boyd, d., Golder, S., & Lotan, G. (2010). Tweet, tweet, retweet: Conversational aspects of retweeting on Twitter. HICSS-43. IEEE: Kauai, HI, January 6.

Coffey, A., & Atkinson, P. (1996). Making sense of qualitative data. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2008). Strategies of qualitative inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Fransman, J. (2013). Researching academic literacy practices around Twitter: Performative methods and their onto-ethical implications. In R. Goodfellow & M. R. Lea (Eds.), Literacy in the digital university: Learning as social practice in a digital world. Research into Higher Education (pp. 27–41). London: Routledge.

Junco, R., Heiberger, G., & Loken, E. (2010). The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(2), 119–132.

Lang, C., & Lemon, N. (2014). Embracing social media to advance knowledge creation and transfer in the modernized university: Management of the space, the tool and the message. In T. Fitzgerald (Ed.), Advancing knowledge in higher education: Universities in turbulent time (pp.112–131). Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA: IGI Global.

Lea, S. J., & Callaghan, L. (2012). Teaching in an age of ‘supercomplexity’: Lecturer conceptions in context. In P. Trowler, M. Saunders, & V. Bamber (Eds.). Reconceptualising tribes and territories in higher education: Practices in the 21st century. (pp. 208–219). London: Routledge.

Lemon, N. (2013). @Twitter is always wondering what’s happening: Learning with and through social networks in higher education. In B. Patrut, M. Patrut, & C. Cmeciu (Eds.), Social media in higher education: Teaching in Web 2.0. (pp. 237–261). Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA: IGI Global.

Lemon, N. (2014). Confidence to tweet: Pre-service teachers engaging with Twitter as a professional online learning environment. In R. Wright (Ed.), Student-teacher interaction in online learning environments. Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA: IGI Global.

Lupton, D. (2014). Feeling better connected: Academics’ use of social media. Canberra: News & Media Research Centre, University of Canberra.

Mason, J. (2011). Qualitative researching (2nd ed.). London, England: Sage.

Mewburn, I., & Thomson, P. (2013). Why do academics blog? An analysis of audiences, purposes and challenges. Studies in Higher Education, 38(8), 1105–1111.

Mollett, A., Moran, D., & Dunleavy, P. (2011). Using Twitter in university research, teaching and impact activities. Impact of social sciences: Maximizing the impact of academic research. London, UK: LSE Public Policy Group, London School of Economics and Political Science.

McKenna, C., & Hughes, J. (2013). Values, digital texts, and open practices – a changing scholarly landscape in higher education (pp.15–26). In R. Goodfellow & M. R. Lea (Eds.), Literacy in the digital university: Learning as social practice in a digital world. Research into Higher Education. London: Routledge.

McLuhan, M. (1960). The medium is the message (Unbound 17). Corte Madeira, CA: Gingko Press.

Neuman, W. L. (2000). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Pearce, N., Weller, M., Scanlon E., & Kinsley, S. (2010). Digital scholarship considered: How new technologies could transform academic work. In Education, 16(1).

Pestridge, S. (2014). A focus on students’ use of Twitter – their interactions with each other, content and interface. Active Learning in Higher Education, 15, 101–115.

Priem, J., Costello, K., & Dzuba, T. (2012). Prevalence and use of Twitter. Retrieved from

Richards, L. (2010). Handling qualitative data. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Rinaldo, S. B., Tapp, S., & Laverie, D. A. (2011). Learning by tweeting: Using Twitter as a pedagogical tool. Journal of Marketing Education, 33(2), 193–203.

Stevens, K. (2014). Twitter exec reports that educators dominate the Twitter-sphere. Retrieved from

Stewart, B. (2014). Academic influence on Twitter: The findings. Retrieved from

Trowler, P., Saunders, M., & Bamber, V. (2012). Tribes and territories in the 21st Century: Rethinking the significance of disciplines in higher education. London: Routledge.

Weller, M. (2011). The digital scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice. Basingstoke: Bloomsbury Academic.