Networks of digital humanities scholars: The informational and social uses and gratifications of Twitter

Authors : Anabel Quan-Haase, Kim Martin, Lori McCay-Peet

Big Data research is currently split on whether and to what extent Twitter can be characterized as an informational or social network. We contribute to this line of inquiry through an investigation of digital humanities (DH) scholars’ uses and gratifications of Twitter.

We conducted a thematic analysis of 25 semi-structured interview transcripts to learn about these scholars’ professional use of Twitter.

Our findings show that Twitter is considered a critical tool for informal communication within DH invisible colleges, functioning at varying levels as both an information network (learning to ‘Twitter’ and maintaining awareness) and a social network (imagining audiences and engaging other digital humanists).

We find that Twitter follow relationships reflect common academic interests and are closely tied to scholars’ pre-existing social ties and conference or event co-attendance. The concept of the invisible college continues to be relevant but requires revisiting.

The invisible college formed on Twitter is messy, consisting of overlapping social contexts (professional, personal and public), scholars with different habits of engagement, and both formal and informal ties.

Our research illustrates the value of using multiple methods to explore the complex questions arising from Big Data studies and points toward future research that could implement Big Data techniques on a small scale, focusing on subtopics or emerging fields, to expose the nature of scholars’ invisible colleges made visible on Twitter.



Are there birds in the library? The extent of Twitter adoption and use by Canadian academic libraries


“Twitter, only eight years old, has emerged as an ever-present component of our everyday, online lives. This phenomenon is apparent in academic libraries as well, with a growing body of published reports on how libraries use Twitter, and other social networking tools, to engage with users. The extent of this adoption by libraries, however, is assumed rather than known, leading to the question: is it really a phenomenon? How many academic libraries are actually currently tweeting? In this paper, we report an investigation of Twitter adoption by Canadian academic libraries. We found that less than half of the main libraries currently tweet, with adoption peaking in 2009. While tweeting is not as ubiquitous as may be assumed and recent adoption has declined, findings do show that tweeting remains consistent and active for those libraries with established Twitter accounts.”


Academics and their online networks: Exploring the role of academic social networking sites


“The rapid rise in popularity of online social networking has been followed by a slew of services aimed at an academic audience. This project sought to explore network structure in these sites, and to explore trends in network structure by surveying participants about their use of sites and motivations for making connections. Social network analysis revealed that discipline was influential in defining community structure, while academic seniority was linked to the position of nodes within the network. The survey revealed a contradiction between academics use of the sites and their position within the networks the sites foster. Junior academics were found to be more active users of the sites, agreeing to a greater extent with the perceived benefits, yet having fewer connections and occupying a more peripheral position in the network.”


L’offre de réseaux socio numériques pour les scientifiques : services et stratégies d’acteurs

Auteur/Author : Emma Bester

Aux côtés des services généralistes et professionnels de sites de réseaux socio numériques (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn), se développe une offre pléthorique dédiée spécifiquement aux chercheurs (, ResearchGate, etc.). Nous nous interrogeons dans cet article sur la valeur ajoutée de ces services pour la communication scientifique.

L’analyse fonctionnelle portée sur un échantillon de dix sites de réseaux socio numériques dédiés aux scientifiques permet dans un premier temps d’en distinguer les caractéristiques structurelles et les caractéristiques spécifiques. La discussion aborde dans un second temps la logique d’acteurs à l’œuvre dans l’économie numérique pour l’information scientifique, en distinguant les intérêts propres des porteurs des offres des enjeux auxquels la communauté scientifique s’affronte aujourd’hui, en regard notamment du mouvement pour le libre accès.


Tweets & science

Le temps passé sur les réseaux sociaux augmente régulièrement (en 2012, 18% du temps online). Si le temps moyen des visites sur Twitter est encore faible (21min/mois) au regard de facebook (6, 75h/mois) ou plus généralement du web, il faut observer une croissance de l’ordre de 300% de l’usage de Twitter et des pratiques croisées de plus en plus fréquentes avec des médias plus anciens comme la télévision.

Avec ces pratiques ” généralistes “, des pratiques professionnelles se dessinent…. C’est dans ce cadre des pratiques croisées généralistes et professionnelles que nous observons l’usage de Twitter dans le contexte de la publication scientifique.


Use of blogs, Twitter and Facebook by PhD Students for Scholarly Communication: A UK study

This study explores scholarly use of social media by PhD researchers through mix-methods of qualitative interviews, participant observation and content analysis of a case study #phdchat.

We found that blogs, Twitter and Facebook are among the most popular social media tools being used by researchers. They can be used by PhD students and early career researchers to benefit their scholarly communication practice, promote their professional profiles, disseminate their work to a wider audience quickly, and gain feedbacks and support from peers across the globe.

There are also difficulties and potential problems such as the lack of standards and incentives, the risks of idea being pinched and plagiarism, lack of knowledge of how to start and maintain using social media tool and the potential huge amount of time and effort needed to invest.

We found that respondents link different social media tools together to maximise the impact of the content disseminated, as well as to create a personal learning network (PLN) connected with people across the globe.

For privacy issue, the participants use different identities on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is usually set as private with access for friends only and Twitter is public and used for professional purposes.

However, Facebook page and groups can be public which are used to build a community and disseminate information without revealing much content from individual member’s personal profile.”


Beyond Citations: Scholars’ Visibility on the Social Web

Traditionally, scholarly impact and visibility have been measured by counting publications and citations in the scholarly literature. However, increasingly scholars are also visible on the Web, establishing presences in a growing variety of social ecosystems.

But how wide and established is this presence, and how do measures of social Web impact relate to their more traditional counterparts? To answer this, we sampled 57 presenters from the 2010 Leiden STI Conference, gathering publication and citations counts as well as data from the presenters’ Web “footprints.”

We found Web presence widespread and diverse: 84% of scholars had homepages, 70% were on LinkedIn, 23% had public Google Scholar profiles, and 16% were on Twitter. For sampled scholars’ publications, social reference manager bookmarks were compared to Scopus and Web of Science citations; we found that Mendeley covers more than 80% of sampled articles, and that Mendeley bookmarks are significantly correlated (r=.45) to Scopus citation counts.”