UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Sociology is a highly esteemed field with a massive canon of literature, but according to Andrea Tapia, an associate professor at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), many sociologists are not well-versed in using social media to promote their research and activities. As a recently appointed member of the American Sociological Association’s (ASA) new Task Force on Social Media, she will have an opportunity to help other sociologists gain greater exposure by using social media as a publicity and networking tool.
“The purpose of this task force is to increase the visibility of sociological research through social media,” Tapia said. “We will consider specific ways to improve ASA’s use of existing (and new) social media tools and to develop approaches for the association to help sociologists expand their personal skills to promote their own sociological scholarship.”
Tapia, who is one of 12 to 16 members of the task force, said that the honor of being chosen is especially rewarding due to the size of the ASA. The association has more than 14,000 members and is home to 44 special interest sections with more than 21,000 members and hosts an annual meeting with more than 6,000 participants.
Tapia, who has a doctorate in sociology from the University of New Mexico, has expertise in social research methods and social theory, applying those to the study of information and communication technologies and their context of development, implementation and use. Her work has been funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense, United Nations and Penn State's Schreyer Honors College.
According to Tapia, the ASA has “worked hard to keep pace with the changes in social media” by adopting practices such as maintaining a Facebook page and working with Twitter. However, she added, many sociologists lack the experience and knowledge to fully utilize social media. While in graduate school, sociology students are required to read an extensive amount of literature that goes back hundreds of years but do not receive comparable training in using online tools.
“The purpose of the task force is to think more broadly about ways in which we can help to shine a bright light on sociology,” she said. “For example, many members are eager to promote their books. But some members don't quite know how to go about it.”
Tapia has been ahead of the curve in regards to using social media to promote her publications and build her professional network. She says she has found Twitter to be particularly useful as a backchannel at professional conferences to promote dialogue among attendees.
The Task Force on Social Media will hold its first face-to-face meeting at the ASA Annual Meeting in New York City on Aug. 10. The bulk of the task force work will be done by sub-committees operating electronically and by conference calls over the next 18 months. There will be a second face-to-face meeting in August 2014 at the ASA Annual Meeting in San Francisco.