One of our most popular posts last month was the Dangers of Academic Blogging. Though we’re hugely enthusiastic about academic blogging, it’s clear that this is an important conversation for the the emerging academic blogosphere. However the dangers are not restricted to academic blogging or to the unexpected career impact which it might have, as this article from Savage Minds about the abuse faced by those engaging online makes clear:
I live a lot of my professional life online. I’ve been running a personal research blog for over 5 years now, where I often post quite frank discussions of my experiences as a new academic. I have active scholarly Twitter, Youtube and Google Plus accounts. I teach my students to use Twitter, YouTube, Blogger, Google Hangouts (among other social media) in class, and I run workshops where I teach my colleagues and other professionals to use these same tools effectively in their working lives.
So not only is my own professional identity quite exposed, but I’m also engaged in training others to make their identities equally—if not more—exposed. I do this because I am very familiar with the productivity of digitally-mediated communication. These media make possible relationships, idea sharing, knowledge making and forms of epistemological change that are exceptional. And yet they can also be deeply dangerous—something that I’ve become intimately familiar with over the last two years.
In 2011, just as I was finishing my PhD, I began to receive a series of private messages focused on my sexuality and appearance sent to my email and other personal online accounts direct from professional acquaintances of mine based at various institutions around the world. These tended to be detailed, fantasy-like descriptions, sometimes accompanied by photographs. There was no debate about the inappropriateness of such messages: they were explicit, sometimes verging on the perverted, often concerned with my physique and dress, or with asking me for certain favours which ranged from ‘cuddling’ with them to baking them cakes in recompense for their paid professional contribution to my academic projects.
I was so embarrassed about these communications and so confused about how to reply that I ignored them for nearly two years. However, when the fifth professional acquaintance of mine began to do the same to me in 2012, but this time on a more aggressive and persistent level, I responded by doing what I know best: investing in research on the topic.
I began to study other women who had been subjected to harassment via digital media. Some of these women will be familiar – Anita Sarkeesian, Mary Beard,Caroline Criado-Perez – because their harassment has been incredibly public and often quite faceless. But I, in contrast, had virtually no public visibility, and I knew all of my harassers. More than this, all of my experiences had happened privately – through direct messaging – so the content was witnessable only to me.