How a young researcher can be visible on the web

These are a few thoughts presented to the Annual Seminar of the Graduate School of Human Interaction and Growth, University of Bergen, 6. June 2014.


To be effective, you need to be clear on why you want to be visible on the net. Is it to

  • get a job?
  • get citations?
  • have future research partners find you?
  • get a huge research grant?
  • be famous or influential?
  • spread your knowledge to the general public?
  • sell your book?
  • be invited to conferences and anthologies?
  • teach?
  • have fun?

When you know why, you need to find out who can make this happen. Who is it that you want to see you? And, what is important: what do they need? They are not likely to read anything just because you want them to. They will only read what is interesting to them. Your task is really to find out what your intended audience needs. The best way to find out is to talk with them.

Show who you are

If someone looks you up, what will they see? Try googling yourself (and turn off «personal results»). Can they easily find your

  • publications?
  • research interests?
  • current projects?
  • affiliation?
  • e-mail address?
  • CV?

The best place for you to start is almost certainly your English university web page. Is it up to date? Have you included everything on the list above? Thomas Pikkety has.

Open access to all your stuff

What you really really want is for people to read your stuff, right? Then put it online so everyone can find it easily and read it for free! Studies show that open access publications get more readers and more citations.

If you have published in a journal or a book that is not openly available, then at least put the preprint on the Web. (Read more about preprints at the RoMEO site, or read my short guide to open access (in Norwegian).

At least upload versions of everything to your university open access repository. That way, it is automatically included in Google Scholar.

You can also make a personal user profile in Google Scholar (like Danah Boyd’s) and/or

If you want even more control over the presentations of you work, then it is time to create a personal web page with all your works. Bruno Latour’s web page is a great example of that (although I think there are some copyright issues there).

Collin Clifford Brooke has written a longer piece on the need for a basic home page: «The Strength of Weak Media» (thanks to Jill Walker Rettberg for showing it to me).


Do you think people who search for you would like to see details of your current work? Then blog. Researchers blog in different ways. Many do it to share their thoughts during the research process. Some writers (like David Bordwell) practically write their books in their blogs! Examples:

Others write more for a general audience, communicating their insights to a larger population.

If you want to start blogging, I have tried and can recommend Tumblr or, but there are many, many other options out there. Test your tool on mobile, though. Most read on mobile devices these days.

Discussions: E-mail and social media

Of course, the best way of being seen is to hang out where the others are. Online, that means taking part in academic discussions. When you share your thoughts and your work in the ongoing debate, you become visible to where the others are. Where to discuss depends on your field.

Many fields still use e-mail lists, like the Association of Internet Researchers.

Twitter is of course a popular tool for many researchers. Lev Manovich and David Berry are active twitterers. Twitterers tend to be less focussed, tweeting all kinds of stuff that interests them. Do remember, though, that Twitter is a dialogue. Prepare to use time to talk to people — that’s the beauty of Twitter!

What about Facebook or YouTube? I haven’t seen them used much, but of course you can. Do remember, though, that these also are dialogues!

Some cool (and one over-styled, yet informative) examples of using YouTube or Vimeo to communicate research:

Be realistic

Whatever you do, start small and build up. Spreading the word takes time, and you don’t want to disappoint your users. It is no fun googling an interesting person, finding that the last piece of news was added in 2008.

Do you have other good examples? Please tell!

Phil Agre has written a long piece on networking for ph.d. students. It’s pre-web, but still relevant, I think. (Thanks to Jeremy Hunsinger for showing me this.)

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