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With the recent acquisition of microblogging giant, Twitter, by the apartheid-emerald-mine heir, over one million users have fled the platform and hundreds of thousands of people have started joining Mastodon. Being a tied into various online academic circles, I’ve been seeing discourse about moving the academic conversations that happen(ed) on Twitter to Mastodon, and how universities and scholarly groups can leverage the new platform. It’s neat that these conversations are happening, and people are moving away from corporate-owned walled gardens, but the proposed use-cases look so much to me like trying to squeeze a square peg through a round hole. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and I’m here to show you some different tools you can use.

This blog post is an extension to a short thread I made on Mastodon inspired by some of the more… interesting… ideas for how academics and academic institutions can use the platform.

In the first section of this post, I’m give give a lay-overview of how web-based communication works, how megacorporations have segemented the internet, how Mastodon and other federated social media platforms work, and how they’re different from current social media. In section 2, I discuss the reasons behind choosing specific internet publishing channels, including whether you really need two-way communication, whether you need to chase virality on a public platform, and the merits of creating more intentional communities. In the third section, I propose some solutions for leveraging these technologies especially for scholars conducting academic work, including maintaining an online presence, hosting conferences with equitable access in mind, and organizing communities of scholars to support the people excluded from and exploited by professional academia. Finally, I conclude with a summary and call to action. I encourage and challenge you to stick with it and learn a bit more about the affordances and restrictions of these different platforms.

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When I started this blog, I imagined it as a professional space for me to write about what I’m doing in terms of teaching and research. I have deactivated the majority of my social media accounts in response to the disgustingly shady practices of these for-profit tech companies which mine and sell our data to influence elections at worst and bombard us with ads at best. As a result, I curate this site as my main web presence, and recent events in my personal life made me feel the need to blog like it’s 2002 and I’m on LiveJournal.

This past week and a half has been exceptionally rough on my wife and me, and I’m still honestly not sure when this emotional tumult will be over. Robin, one of our ferrets, took a terrible turn in health. The long and short of it is that my wife and I spent about three days cycling through the various stages of grief, and decided that it was probably time for Robin to “cross the rainbow bridge”. I have a tendency to write a lot, and plan on cataloguing Robin’s life here, so I won’t hold you in suspense: as you’ll see by the end of this post, dear readers, Robin is still with us, and she’s feeling much better than before.

Before I get into her present state, let me establish a bit of background:

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While the field of linguistics suffers from a lack of awareness among the general public, it also doesn’t seem to hold much ground in the hearts of many language educators–the people who could benefit the most from the scientific pursuit of how people learn and use languages. I’ve spoken with teachers of both modern and classical languages, in public schools and private schools, from the primary level to university. The apathy, ignorance, or even disdain of professional language instructors towards a discipline with the goal of making their jobs easier boggles the mind.

Clearly, I am biased, as a trained linguist who now conducts second language acquisition research. If you’re on the fence about what linguistics can do for you, I merely ask you to read my argumentation. I fully understand and empathize how the daily lives of teachers, especially those in American K-12 public schools, have so many competing demands that it sometimes takes all of your energy not to collapse on the couch when you get home. I also recognize that many colleges and universities in the US do not offer training specific to language teachers, but rather group all prospective teachers, regardless their fields, into the same “education” pathway.

In this post, I’ll be discussing the following topics, with each on its own page: (1) a broad (read: brief and noncomprehensive) description of language study in the US; (2) what the study of linguistics entails and what it does not, along with its usefulness to both learners and teachers; and (3) a general overview of the field of Second Language Acquisition, with some sources for further reading.

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