I can see why Chris Parr (‘A lifetime’s worth of insight in 140 characters max’, 19 Feb 2015) opens with a ritual nod to popular views of Twitter as ‘a frivolous tool for procrastination’ but it would be nice if we could move on.
He moves on to discuss the value to young academics of Twitter. I want to emphasise the potential benefits for older academics such as myself. As part of my commitment to ‘Public Criminology’ I tweet as @criminology4u to 5571 followers. Only professors David Wilson and Tim Newburn have higher profiles. I once crowned David Britain’s foremost Criminologist in the THE (‘CSI: crime story interpreters’ 23 July 2009). His media output is controversial (Bring Back Borstal met with mixed reviews and many brickbats from criminologists on Twitter) but it brings undergraduate students - and their parents - to Birmingham City University. Tim’s work on the Riots and all-conquering textbook are only part of his many talents. Both tweet.
My Twitter following rests entirely on building it up over many years. I like to think I retweet colleagues generously and take issue politely and appropriately. It has lead to some invitations to events where professors proliferate and some invites to guest lecture due to pressure generated by student Twitter followers anxious to hear me. But I want to illustrate the impact this can have with an ironic tale. My published, peer-reviewed work is eclectic but includes two specifically on public criminology.
I recently found these denounced along with the work of other, better known academics. I invited the author to do shorter version for my public criminology blog. He declined and I wrote up the ‘dispute’ myself for my blog as Nic Groombridge, ‘Public Criminologist’ and ‘Master of Truth’ where I suggested he was the elitist not public criminologists. I noted that in the week of 15 November 2014 my tweets received 3,809 views, that I had 55 new followers with 74 visits to links that I had posted. My most popular tweet that week accounted for one third of those link visits; with one in ten of those viewing visiting the link to his article in Radical Criminology.
I, and he, probably got more coverage from that tweet than any amount of journal publishing which brings me back to my own frivolity and procrastination. I like to think that if I’d published more I’d be a Professor by now. But I want now to argue that such is the reach of social media it should be taken into account in selection for titles. Whilst I wait for the Academy to catch up I’m declaring myself ‘Professor of Criminology in the Twitterverse’.