Jul 302012
 

Here’s the not-so-pretty truth that I’m sure you already are starting to know.

    1. It’s NOT about whether your idea is new and innovative.
    2. It’s about how you communicate it,
      1. 2.1 how it looks, and
        2.2 how it makes people feel

Now about #1, this is not just about the internet and social media etc. In the social sciences we do not have a functioning cumulative resource. Physics, math, and computer sciences have The Archive, where all researchers regardless of status post their latest work immediately. The journals can add their imprimatur and reprint as they will, but everything is in one place, regardless of where or when it was or will be published. The lack of such a resource makes social studies far less scientific than it ought to be, and means that relevant research is only known to our most diligent peers.

What social media has done is make knowledge and reflection more popular, and this is something we should applaud and learn to participate in. Doing so requires new skills, but the main barrier is the sense of overwhelm, not the actual difficulty of using some new tools.

The first thing to do is join Academia.com, which is an attempt to copy The Archive for the rest of us. Go ahead and put versions of all your papers up there. You will promptly find a following from people in places who can’t afford academic journals. It’s very cool. You can see which countries people are downloading your papers from. You can also connect with people you don’t already know by topic, and subscribe to notifications on your areas of interest. Best of all, academia.com makes contacts without any participation on your part (after the uploading and setup). You’ll log in every couple of months and find your work has a bunch of new fans.

About #2, when there is a lot to deal with, pieces that are easier to read, well typeset, and convenient to access will get more attention. We know this. The internet takes it a bit further. Websites make our work even more accessible and readable, and by more people. Keep track of websites whose style works for you and use these as a model for your own communication.

If we want people to take action on ideas, we need to pay attention to where people are and what will make them feel empowered to take action. Danielle LaPorte is a my favorite example of writing that creates relationship and action by giving something to the reader.