Past Event details

Academic identity in the digital university: current trends and future challenges

Friday, 25 September 2015

The professional work of academics has radically transformed over the last two decades through digitisation. These changes have engendered different kinds of practices of knowledge production, distribution, and, more broadly, academic identity formation. As academic professional success is often measured against these practices, exploring the challenges faced by new and established researchers is key to understanding what the ‘digital university’ portends for the academic workforce and for scholarly work.
This one-day event will bring together a group of scholars to discuss the impact of digitisation on academic working life and academic identity, including PhD students and early career researchers. The three speakers draw from their own, uniquely different, research contexts to offer new and critical perspectives on this current topic, with plenty of opportunities for participants to join in the discussions. 
The event will run from 11.00 to 16.00, and lunch will be provided between 1-2pm.
Session 1: Dr. Antonella Esposito

Hanging out in social media for scholarly purposes provides PhD researchers with opportunities for getting a taste of open and networked scholarship practices as well as coping with the practices of researcher as ‘self-entrepreneur’. In the former, an exploratory stance can complement and/or expand the shaping effort of what being a ‘digital academic’ might be for the individual researcher in formation. In the latter, the emphasis on quantified self as an academic is linked to the idea of an accelerated shaping of an academic branding. 

This talk draws from recent qualitative research on individual Italian and UK-based PhD researchers self-organizing their digital engagement through social media, and discusses the extent to which they 'act upon' or are 'being acted upon' through their social media practices. The interviewed PhD researchers in fact reveal oscillations between the individual attitudes of disclosing or undisclosing their own online academic presence, weaving or splitting their personal/professional/academic identities and emulating or keeping distance from real examples of successful academic presence across digital networks. These varying attitudes are understood as emergent trajectories depicting the PhD researchers’ digital engagement.

The performance of academic identities arising from the data is inflected according to six interrelated dimensions: space, time, digital identity, socialization, stance, and tensions. The discussion of the negotiations of technology and practices through the lenses of these dimensions helps to identify four main forms of resilience on the part of PhD researchers toward the competing pressures arising from scholarly engagement online: staying afloat, pursuing convenience, embedding the digital and researcher as bricoleur.

Dr Antonella Esposito obtained her PhD (European Doctorate) in Education and ICT at the Open University of Catalonia, and MRes in Educational and Social Research from the Institute of Education (University of London). She has also worked at the University of Milan, where she was director of the local e-learning centre for seven years. Her current research interests are the emerging learning ecologies of doctoral researchers, digital and open scholarship practices, and research ethics in online settings. She is contracted by IGI Global to publish in 2016 an edited book entitled “Research 2.0 and the impact of digital technologies on scholarly inquiry”. Her recent publications are available at:

Session 2: Dr. Mark Carrigan (University of Warwick)
In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to the stress and anxiety of academic life. This developing discourse has an ambivalent relationship to digital technology: it has been facilitated by the uptake of blogging and micro-blogging amongst academics, yet social media and other digital technologies are involved in many of the facets of academic life that are seen as sources of stress and anxiety. This talk uses the notion of ‘social acceleration’ to address the changes taking place within higher education, as well as the role of digital technology in their emergence and the difficulties they create for academics. It considers the significance of digital scholarship within this context, arguing that its institutionalisation will profoundly shape the conditions under which people aspire to be academics and to do academic work. I make the case that there is an emancipatory possibility inherent in the uptake of digital scholarship by academics but that this risks being lost, as a narrower managerialist conception of digital scholarship begins to take root within higher education.
Dr. Mark Carrigan is a Digital Sociologist and Social Media Consultant. He works at the Centre for Social Ontology and The Sociological Review. He tweets at @mark_carrigan and blogs at

Session 3: Katy Jordan
Academic social networking sites, such as and ResearchGate, seek to bring the benefits of social networking to academics’ professional lives. But what role do they play, in relation to other social media and academic practice? What types of network structures are being fostered and how do they relate to academics’ development of an online identity? This presentation will discuss findings from a project which has used a mixed-methods social network analysis approach to analyse academics’ personal networks on, ResearchGate and Twitter, and explored the significance of network structures through co-interpretive interviews with participants. 
Katy Jordan is a PhD student based in the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University. Her research interests focus on the intersection between the Internet and Higher Education. In addition to her doctoral research on academic social networking sites, she has also published research on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and semantic web technologies for education.

Network: Digital University
Date(s): Friday, 25 September 2015
Times: 11:00 - 16:00
Location: SRHE, 73 Collier St, London N1 9BE
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Antonella Esposito presentation
Katy Jordon presentation
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