Why Philosophers of Science (and others) Should Use Twitter

Janet Stemwedel, professor of philosophy at San Jose State University, created a poster for the recent meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association (PSA) laying out reasons philosophers of science might want to use Twitter, along with some basics for getting started. 

Most of the reasons and advice generalize to other subfields of philosophy, so I thought it might be useful to share her poster here,(particularly in light of some .

In an email about her presentation, she wrote:

People who chatted with me during the session had a number of questions along the lines of:

  • How does one get started on Twitter? How do you get people to read you on Twitter?
  • How important is it to compartmentalize as you enter the Twittersphere? (Should one only tweet about philosophy of science work & events? Or is it OK to let other facets of you peek through?)
  • Is tweeting something one’s Dean will be OK with?
  • Is tweeting now something that’s *expected* of academics? Does it “count”? Is it one more thing we have to find time for?
  • Can you *really* have conversations on Twitter, or is this all shouting into the void?
  • Could you get the same mileage out of other social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram? Could you accomplish some of the same things without social media?

The morning after the forum, it feels like I spent a lot of time in these discussions emphasizing that Twitter isn’t magic—unless you’re already a celebrity, it takes time and effort after launching a Twitter account to build your follower count, and to build trust with your followers. It’s not obvious that Twitter is unique among social media platforms in its potential to cultivate productive networks in your discipline (or across disciplines) or to reach broader audiences; it just happens to be the social media platform I’m best at.

But, there are some features of Twitter that add something useful to our toolbox. If you want to get your work (or the ideas that are driving your work) in front of scientists, for example, there are lots of scientists (across geographic regions, disciplines, and career stages) already on Twitter. The two-way nature of communication of Twitter can help you get rapid feedback on arguments or intuitions. If you want to try your hand at explaining why your work matters to a general audience, Twitter can help you connect with general audiences of various sorts. If you want practice expressing your philosophical claims concisely, and in plain language, Twitter’s character limit and the audience of non-experts it affords can do wonders for your communication skills. 

Trying other presentation modes that haven’t been as central to our training as philosophers—like conference poster presentations, for example—strikes me as generally beneficial to our communication skills, at least if we’re reflective about our attempts and how they’re received. Tweeting can certainly be part of that, especially for those of us who didn’t grow up on Twitter.

You can follow Professor Stemwedel on Twitter here.

Relatedly, there’s a new feature at TrueSciPhi: a map of the Twitter connections between philosophers and physicists with over 10,000 followers. Click on the image below to be taken to it. TrueSciPhi is on Twitter here.

Related: Daily Nous on Twitter; Some Philosophers Are Leaving Twitter.

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