Professionalism in vivo: Graduate students on Facebook

This study describes how doctoral students make use of Facebook as a professional academic tool rather than just a social network. A social networking site (SNS) primarily seen either as a plaything or a cultural cesspit—better for sharing pictures with grandma or biased news articles with friends—Facebook also opens up opportunities for graduate students to access networks of scholars, learn to inhabit academic roles, and gain entrance to professional communities. These activities are part of the students’ professionalization: the process by which young or pre-professionals learn to adopt values, norms, and skills as they join professional communities. Much more than on-the-job training and learning where the best parking is or when to pick up the tab, professionalization is a normative process whereby individuals learn to understand work beyond particular job duties in a single institution—it is engaging with and behaving as a member of a culture. The methods and practices involved in this kind of “enculturation of the individual into a system of practice” (Polin, 2010, p. 164) has long been a topic in writing studies (Miller, Brueggemann, Blue, & Shepherd, 1997; Ebest, 1999; McNabb, 2001), but researchers are only just beginning to examine the role of social media in the professionalization process.

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About the author

Christopher Andrews is an Assistant Professor of English at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, where he teaches technical communication, web writing, editing, and postcritical digital rhetorics. His research explores how philosophies of technology, writing, and agency inform disciplinary, institutional, and professional practices. His collaborative work has been published in the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication and Kairos, A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy.