Wider Audiences and New Practices in Academic Communication in the 21st Century

This month we published Digital Genres in Academic Knowledge Production and Communication by María José Luzón and Carmen Pérez-Llantada. In this post the authors explain what digital genres are and why their research is important.

The technological advances of the internet influence the ways in which academic knowledge is being produced and disseminated, offering new opportunities and facilitating new practices for scholars. Scholars are increasingly posting their research updates on their group websites, blogging about their research, launching crowdfunding proposals, promoting their research through videos, or interacting with others on Twitter or other social networking sites. These digital genres (i.e. genres which make use of the affordances of the internet to varying degrees) enable scholars to respond to new demands, such as increasing their visibility or engaging the interested public. In the 21st century scholars are expected to maximize the impact of their research both within and beyond academia and reach wider and diverse audiences, which include not only other researchers but also practitioners, policymakers and the general public.

As genres are tools for accomplishing actions or goals, the book Digital Genres for Academic Knowledge and Communication explores the diversity of digital genres (e.g. blogs, open lab notebooks, crowdfunding proposals, Twitter, academic videos) that scholars have incorporated into their genre repertoire to perform different actions. Digital genres help scholars to:

  • promote their research output, achieve local, national and international visibility and build their scholarly reputation
  • share research in progress and practices with peers and collaborate with all relevant actors
  • engage in interdisciplinary and intercultural interaction with scholars across the world, and ask for and provide feedback, help, support and advice
  • disseminate research and information that can contribute to increasing the scientific literacy of diverse audiences
  • engage the interested public in the production of academic knowledge
  • adopt more participatory and transparent practices of research evaluation

Since we ourselves are multilingual scholars, one aspect of particular interest for us is the relation between multilingualism and digital genres and the possibilities that these genres offer for multilingual scholars. The digital medium enables these scholars to draw upon two or more languages that are part of their linguistic repertoire (e.g. English and/or the languages spoken in their local communities) in order to reach and connect with international and local audiences.

The use of English as a shared language in informal digital genres (e.g. blogs, tweets, discussions in ResearchGate) can help scholars to disseminate, promote and make their research more visible internationally, and interact and collaborate with other researchers at the international level. When English is used as the shared language, scholars’ online communication has apparently become more tolerant of non-standard linguistic forms than formal academic communication. Therefore, for many multilingual scholars, using English in online exchanges probably entails less pressure than writing in English for research publication purposes.

In addition to communicating in English to reach a global audience, multilingual scholars also use their local or national languages when communicating online. The local language makes it easier for scholars to disseminate their work locally, provide access to research results to the local audiences who can apply them (e.g. practitioners in the field, policymakers), promote scientific literacy and engage the public in research. When composing some digital genres (e.g. research blogs, Twitter, crowdfunding projects) multilingual scholars may decide to use only English or only their local language, depending on their imagined audiences. However, they often draw on their multilingual repertoires to communicate simultaneously locally and internationally, adjusting their languages(s) to heterogeneous audience(s), which enables them to participate in different communities and to perform multiple identities.

In short, online multilingualism widens the possibilities for sharing knowledge with diverse audiences. However, further research is necessary on the multilingual practices of scholars when communicating online, in order to determine the extent to which multilingual scholars are participating in global academia and are connecting with various local audiences by composing digital genres.

María José Luzón and Carmen Pérez-Llantada

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Global Academic Publishing edited by Mary Jane Curry and Theresa Lillis.

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