The Open UniversitySkip to content

Academics’ online connections: Characterising the structure of personal networks on academic social networking sites and Twitter

Jordan, Katy (2016). Academics’ online connections: Characterising the structure of personal networks on academic social networking sites and Twitter. In: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Networked Learning 2016 (Cranmer, S.; Dohn, N.B.; de Laat, M.; Ryberg, T. and Sime, J.A. eds.), pp. 414–421.

Full text available as:
PDF (Version of Record) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (221kB) | Preview
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


Academic social networking sites (SNS), such as and ResearchGate, seek to bring the benefits of online social networking to academics' professional lives. Online academic social networking offers the potential to revolutionise academic publishing, foster novel collaborations, and empower academics to develop their professional identities online. However, the role that such sites play in relation to academic practice and other social media is not well understood at present.

Arguably, the defining characteristic of academic social networking sites is the connections formed between profiles (in contrast to the traditional static academic homepage, for example). The social network of connections fostered by SNSs occupies an interesting space in relation to online identity, being both an attribute of an individual and shaped by the social context they are embedded within. As such, personal network structures may reflect an expression of identity (as "public displays of connection" (Donath & boyd, 2004) or "relational self portraits[s]" (Hogan & Wellman, 2014)), while social capital has been linked to network structures (Crossley et al., 2015). Network structure may therefore have implications for the types of roles that a network can play in professional life. What types of network structures are being fostered by academic SNS and how do they relate to academics' development of an online identity?

This presentation will discuss findings from a project which has used a mixed-methods social network analysis approach to analyse academics' personal networks online. The personal networks of 55 academics (sampled from survey participants, to reflect a range of disciplines and job positions) on both one academic SNS (either or ResearchGate) and Twitter were collected and analysed. Differences in network structure emerged according to platform, with Twitter networks being larger and less dense, while academic SNS networks were smaller and more highly clustered. There were differences between academic SNS and Twitter in the brokerage positions occupied by the participant. The results are discussed in relation to other salient studies relating network structure in online social networks to social capital, and implications for academic practice. Future work, including co-interpretive interviews to explore the significance of network structures with participants, is introduced.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item
Copyright Holders: 2016 Katy Jordan
ISBN: 1-86220-324-5, 978-1-86220-324-2
Keywords: Social networking sites; Academic networks; Social network analysis; Digital scholarship
Academic Unit/School: Institute of Educational Technology (IET)
Item ID: 46312
Depositing User: Katy Jordan
Date Deposited: 13 May 2016 10:33
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2019 15:38
Share this page:

Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU