Use of Social Networking Sites for Scholarly Communication by Emergent Social Scientists

An Affordances Approach


  • Alejandra Manco



Social Networking Sites (SNSs); Brazil; Early career social science researchers; Social sciences PhD students; Science communication; Scholarly communication; Affordances


Objectives — This study aims to explore how early career social sciences researchers and PhD social science students use social networking sites for science communication in Brazil. The central research question is what are the motives and rationale of the researchers for using social networking sites for academic communication. Two sub-questions arise from here: How do these reasons relate to scientific practices and the academic system of Brazil? And which are the main affordances perceived by researchers?
Methods — This study is empirically oriented, building upon case studies in Brazil. It makes use of a review of affordances of social media platforms, applying the review to the study of social media as a theoretical foundation. The methodological approach is qualitative, using both interviews and netnography as research methods.
Results — The primary motivations for using different Social Networking Sites (SNSs) are all related to connectivity: communication with peers—and, to a lesser degree, to the public and the research participants, updating themselves about their research interests, dissemination of research, checking availability of papers, self-branding, and participation in interest groups. These motivations translate into cross-posting practices and integrated communication strategies—combining online and offline elements—on the different platforms. The main affordances perceived by researchers in this study were related to social affordances or, in other words, social capital processes: availability, scalability, visibility, and multimediality.
Conclusions — SNSs have not yet replaced traditional communication channels in the case of early career social science researchers because the academic evaluation systems do yet not include them. The use of SNSs changes according to the affordances early career social sciences researchers see (or fail to see) for each platform. This study identified observable differences according to a researcher’s field of expertise and level of comfort with particular platforms.