Impact Round Up 16 November: Faculty leadership, Martin Buber in the academy, and social media’s Panopticon effect.


Managing Editor Sierra Williams presents a round up of popular stories from around the web on higher education, academic impact, and trends in scholarly communication.

The first recommended read for this week comes from Cathy Davidson of Duke University who presents the case for faculty-driven leadership, but calls for a considerable shift in the valuation of service within the academic reward system in a piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education titled Down With Service Up With Leadership:

What if instead of recognizing “service” we evaluated “institutional leadership”? Service implies obeisance to an institution fixed in its requirements. Is that really a value we support? Or don’t we want to recognize and reward, instead, genuine participation in the shaping of our institutions? This is not just a change in name, but a genuine rethinking of how we should recognize contributions to the democratic process informing leadership within institutions and our profession.

In recognising and promoting faculty efforts already engaged in decisive and responsible leadership roles, universities will be better equipped to engage in successful transformation.

The New York Times Bits blog covered the announcement of a new partnership between New York University, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Washington set to launch a 5-year project to reinvigorate data science across universities. By bringing together academics from different disciplines, the programme seeks to address the silos which can stymie academic developments in data analysis and data management techniques.

Regular contributor to the Impact blog, Pat Thomson, had a piece in the Guardian Higher Education Network on the process of PhD supervision and the sadness that comes with the end of the three-year pedagogical relationship. This emotional side of caring for, not just about, the intellectual and personal well-being of doctoral students is often overlooked. The philosophical work of Martin Buber and Nell Noddings is mentioned as a way to understand a more holistic view of the pedagogical relationship:

A supervisor might care in general, but conduct the actual supervision as if it were an instrumental interaction, marked by unspoken power relationships and structured heavily by institutional demands.

Noddings sees care as an ethical practice, and one which occurs through encounter. She drew on Martin Buber’s notion of encounter, which argued that encounter occurs when we meet as people (I-thou), not as person and object (I-it). The ideal encounter is one that embodies person-person interactions, practices and ethos.

Pat Thomson, PhD supervisor sadness: the empty nest

The final recommendation this week is by Dr Tim Rayner on Why Facebook and Twitter are the virtual Panopticons of our time. The article focuses on the psychological and anthropological understandings of gift economies and how this can be applied to our understanding of social media behaviour. He writes,

Just as prisoners in a Panopticon assume that they are being watched and tailor their behaviour accordingly, users of social media proceed on the assumption that they are being watched and judged on the basis of the content they share, and select and frame content with a view to pleasing and/or impressing a certain crowd.

This ‘Panopticon effect’ shapes the identities that we craft on social media. At an extreme, it can lead us to play out an identity that we think will impress our followers, passing it off as the impromptu expression of our authentic self.

And on that note, have an authentic weekend!