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Friday, March 11, 2011

Social Networks

My sccholarly / social network is quite extensive. It includes several overlapping groups.

*My own departmental colleagues.
*Colleagues in other departments in my university. Poet-friends in town who aren't academics or who teach at other Universities.
*American poets and specialists in American poetry.
*Poets and critics in Spain.
*Colleagues from other universities (Hispanists). Some in my own field, others in related fields. Former graduate students.
*Bloggers, people I went to Graduate school with, miscellaneous face-book friends...

A chain can be weakest at its weakest link, but a network like this is weakest where it doesn't matter much, at the periphery. Obviously not every person in my network is a close friend. I might be counted by someone else as part of that person's network, but also very much at the periphery in some cases.

Looking at this part of my scholarly base, I see some areas of weakness. For example, I should know more Hispanists in my own subfield than I do, or have them like me more than they might. I don't get to see my friends from Spain all that often. But I imagine other people's networks are similarly uneven in their distribution.

Intellectual exchanges can be very rewarding. The network is a part of the scholarly base that is easy to overlook. The base is not just what you know, but who you know. The point is not that I am constantly calling in favors, but that I can ask someone a question when i need to, or perhaps help out someone else.


Clarissa said...

I don't have a network. And I realize that I probably never will. Do you think that one can be successful in our profession without it? That one can compensate for it by a huge scholarly base and a very active research agenda?

Jonathan said...

You don't have graduate school professors, people you went to school with? Who do ask for a recommendation letter for a grant?

I'm not saying you can't make it without one, but it is useful to have at least a small one and build it out from there. Right now, I'd say you have at least The Stupid Motivational Writing Group as part of your network. That's more than you had a week ago.

It would be useful to have a few people who know who you are when you are up for tenure, because people are more likely to write for you if they know you personally. I'd send offprints of your articles to scholars in your field, at the very least. Not everyone is as nasty as Noel V.

Clarissa said...

Most of the people I wend to grad school with have left academia. We graduated in the most difficult 2 years when there were simply no jobs at all.

You are right about the Writing group, though. I haven't thought about it this way.

Jonathan said...

You also have people who follow your twitter, your blog, etc...

Clarissa said...

This is, in fact, extremely motivating. I feel very good about myself right now. :-)