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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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