Last night I picked up a few tweets in my stream from people who had gone along to the #media140 event in Glasgow which was organised by the lovely @markofrespect. I find it quite hard to follow an event when not there, even with live blogging and hashtags, I think one of the biggest dangers is that you miss the point, miss sarcasm or context and risk barking up completely the wrong tree.
Photo by dicktay2000
“Why don’t other industries keep a journal of failure, like scientists do, for others to learn from?”
Well I think lots of people do…maybe not all industries, and maybe people aren’t always comfortable talking about failures but they’re one of the best sources of reflection, thoughts and new solutions or knowledge. I’d argue that the vast majority of academic research, in any discipline, is done to find new knowledge and most research reports and dissertations report what happened, good and bad, for people to learn from.
My rambling thoughts on the matter are that on the whole the media, including social media, has a lot to be held responsible for in this regard. There is little encouragement for people to offer what went wrong, even for the sake of learning and the development of new responses, if they are likely to be pulled a part by the media. The recent decision by the new government to publish Serious Case Reviews in full leaves me feeling very anxious as to what is to be gained by the process; I suspect that the reality is likely to lead to yet more trial by media for people working in the already impossibly difficult role of trying to protect vulnerable children and I’m rather doubtful as to what the learning will be for other agencies, partners or workers.
So I guess my reflection, if there is one, is that learning from failure and mistakes is really important but also very difficult. So if anyone has any ideas for how best to do that give me a shout.
The second tweet that got my attention, and if I’m honest raised my blood pressure a little was a statement about peer review! Steve said, again remember I don’t have the context – it could have been ironic – to some extent I’m really hoping it was, anyway he said:
“Social Media is peer reviewed on an almost instanaeous basis”
Eeek. I really, really wish I could agree with this statement but I think it’s overly simplistic and dangerous if people believe it. I have real concerns about the potential influence of social media, the fact that people appear able to build their credentials based on nothing more than repeated use of the retweet feature. Increasingly I see people tweeting other people’s thoughts and views with few, or tenuous links to the original source; I see people who know little about a topic (and I’d include myself in here in some situations) being bandied around twitter as people who know something about it; more and more often I see people billed as ‘experts’ on X, Y or Z but the reality is they may be enthusiasts but there is a big distance between enthusiasm and expertise.
So to some extent, yes, there is an immediate avenue for people to question or debate anything, and the increasing access to social media tools has made it easier than ever; however I think it’s worth acknowledging that it takes a lot to do that in some situations. I suspect that people equate followers with popularity or wisdom (both gross delusional mistakes to make methinks) but the reality is that you’d be foolish to pick a debate with someone unless you knew you were right and/or had nothing to lose.
Peer review works on the basis that people with expertise in an area or profession pass judgement about the credibility of statements, papers or work (at least that’s my understanding of it) – social media is missing (a lot) of rigour, the time and the space, the impartiality and objectivity, and nearly always the anonymity that is sometimes required to peer review effectively.
I’d really love to hear from someone who was at the event, to hear what the context was for the discussion. I’d especially appreciate someone leaving a comment and letting me know if I am currently barking up a very large, scottish tree 😉 ps Thanks to those who were there for tweeting it.