Finding Scholarship and Scholarship Finding Us

Melissa Terras has a great post up about what happens when you tweet an open access paper. Seriously, go read it. The details are interesting, but the main point is that 535 people who wouldn’t have seen her paper at least went through the trouble of downloading it. Now aside from the fact that more downloads = more people seeing your paper I think Melissa’s example is all the more important because of the kind of diffuse way those people came to find her work.

How would one find Melissa’s article?

I would suggest that there are a few different ways that someone would find Melissa’s article. Her article, “Digital Curiosities: Resource Creation Via Amateur Digitisation” (PDF) was published in Literary and Linguistic Computing (LLC) in 2009. I would suggest that, before tweeting the open access link, there were two primary modes in which people came across her paper.

  1. You see LLC as an important journal in your field and you have been involved in the field since before 2009. So, whenever a new issue of the journal comes out you read over the table of contents and consider skimming the articles. In this case you know about Melissa’s article because you are ambiently aware of what is going on in the community that LLC represents.
  2. You have decided to write a paper that is in some way related to amateur digitization or some other keyword that is associated with her paper, so you either sought out and got into the Oxford journals website or found the article as part of an explicit search process . In this case you likely already have a research question in mind. Heck, lets face it, you may well already have the whole study put together and you are just working on making sure that you have covered information that is related to the project. Unlike the first, there is a good chance that you might not even identify with the LLC community. That is, being a part of the search results in any kind of research aggregation thing is that your research is discovered by people outside your field.

Tweeting the Paper is Important Because of Who Those Readers Were

What is particularly important about the 535 readers who found downloaded the Open Access copy is that they found that paper as part of an ambient awareness, like what the table of contents in the journal did in 2009, but unlike the table of contents, the somewhat more heterogeneous community of people who follow Melissa on Twitter are the ones who get that ambient information. In short, the tweet contributes to an interdisciplinary ambiant awareness.
Now beyond this, as Melissa can at any moment tweet about this paper again she has the added ability to interject a link to her paper on twitter, or in any other place in the public sphere and get it back into part of the ambient awareness on any number of other topics.