Sunday, September 7, 2014

Tweeting for Healthier Social-Ecological Systems: Introducing #SocEcoSys

By Kai Chan
Can Twitter be a useful teaching tool? Can it advance social-ecological systems thinking, research, and practice? I think so (as I argued in "3 Ways Tweeting Will Improve Your Reach & Impact—In Any Communication"), but I'm about to put the question to the test.
We use the term 'social-ecological systems' to refer to interacting
social and ecological subsystems, but pinning down how such
systems behave can be harder than it might seem.

This semester, I'm teaching a graduate course called 'Towards Social-Ecological Systems' (RMES 510; 'towards' in that I'm not assuming that the systems view or the current SES literature captures all important dynamics). For the first time ever, I'm assigning grades based on student tweets. In so doing, I'm advancing one strong social-media trend, and fighting against another.

The continued advance is intentionally using Twitter for scholarship purposes, and making this scholarship 'actionable'. As far as I can tell, there's no hashtag for Social-Ecological Systems research and practice. Given that virtually no sustainability issue can be properly understood without a social-ecological lens, this is a tremendous shame. Accordingly, I hereby introduce #SocEcoSys, the hashtag for social-ecological systems research and practice.

The fight is against the trend that social media is only for what's new, even if what's old is far more important and insightful. RMES 510 students will be tweeting also with two additional hashtags: #OBG for oldie but goodie (already in use, but used in conjunction with #SocEcoSys to refer to classic papers illuminating key social-ecological dynamics); and #hiddengem for papers and other resources that seem to have gone unnoticed or unappreciated in SES thinking.

Have you used Twitter in courses? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

At the end of the semester (December) we'll take stock with a frank assessment of the educational value, and the vitality of the new conversation about social-ecological systems. Stay tuned!

P.S. If you see the value in #SocEcoSys, and in unearthing classic articles and key contributions (via #OBG and #hiddengem), please share this post using the social media buttons below.