Through socially optimized research available through the digital age, engaging in literary scholarship is more meaningful and practical than ever before. One of the foundational practices of literary study is to engage in what we frequently call "the conversation." This literary conversation is more accessible and meaningful through digital resources such as social media, blogging, user-generated content, and curation tools, to name a few.
This is not say that traditional scholarship should be done away with. That would be utterly absurd. The beneficial part of socially optimized research is that it continues to include traditional scholarship. However, socially optimized research allows for students to connect with others that can provide essential information and perspective in regards to their topics.
The social center of this research process requires students to make the transition from amateur to professional. As students receive social feedback online, especially from enthusiasts and professionals, students are able to enter communities that treat their topics seriously. Such communities require students to produce higher quality work while gaining direct feedback from legitimate persons.
Additionally, socially optimized research gives students a goal for their work. When interacting socially with a variety of enthusiasts and experts, a clear purpose for their projects take shape. Online communities often refer to venues and events where students can submit papers, abstracts, and guest blog posts.
When students submit their work to legitimate organizations, they are able to cater their writing to the relevant interests of the professional audience. Therefore, students' work becomes directly relevant to the intended topic in the "real world".
I have personally experienced the beneficial effects of socially optimized research. Through social media, I was able to tell others about my interest in this topic and I got extremely positive feedback that gave me confidence that my topic was interesting and worth pursuing. My Digital DIY/Maker Movement project, I reached out to the Makers, hackers, engineers & artists community to better understand the online communities surrounding the movement. I was able to use one of the members' specific project to legitimize my understanding of Maker culture. Additionally, I was able to add to my project through researching traditional scholarship from one of the top names in digital manufacturing, Chris Anderson.
I think that University-level literary studies would greatly benefit from engaging students in socially optimized research. The connections made through such social research can lead to legitimate publishing opportunities for individual students. I believe that such opportunities will also reflect well on the University as the students engage in more well-rounded learning through digital resources.