Digital Scholars: A Feeling for the Academic Game

  • Cristina Costa
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Gender and Education book series (GED)


This chapter focuses on the felt perceptions of academics engaged in digital scholarship activities, as forms of academic contributions. In so doing, it explores if and how such practices are redefining both the meaning of academia and what it feels to be (an) academic. The notion of the World Wide Web as a source of information production and dissemination for academic knowledge workers is widely evoked in the research literature, much of which is enthusiastic about technology as a tool for change and emancipation. More concretely, this rhetoric around digital work asserts that the web can, and will, revolutionise academia by placing individuals at the centre of their scholarly activity and consequently transform academic practices and professional identities in significant ways. Yet, a contrasting body of research evidence suggests that the adoption of digital scholarship practices in the neo-liberal university is not without its dilemmas and paradoxes. With digital scholarship practices being both empowering and restrictive, academics are often torn between the increased autonomy the web provides for knowledge creation and the distance it creates from the established norms that typify the academy. Drawing on empirical evidence from a study with academics engaged in digital scholarship activities, this chapter offers reflections on digital scholars’ internal conflicts regarding how they feel, perceive, and negotiate their role in academia. The analysis of the research will be supported by Bourdieu’s logic of practice and Honneth’s recognition theory to explain how academics incorporate and fight the neo-liberal university. In doing so, the research will explore both how academics feel and develop a feeling for the academic game with the purpose of contributing to literature and ideas about academic identities in a neo-liberal context.


  1. Adkins, L. (2004). Reflexivity: Freedom or habit of gender? The Sociological Review, 52, 191–210. Scholar
  2. Anderson, J., & Honneth, A. (2005). Autonomy, vulnerability, recognition, and justice. In J. Christman & J. Anderson (Eds.), Autonomy and the challenges to liberalism: New essays (pp. 127–149). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Scholar
  3. Atkinson, D. (1999). Scientific discourse in sociohistorical context: The philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1675–1975. Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  4. Baer, H. (2016). Redoing feminism: Digital activism, body politics, and neoliberalism. Feminist Media Studies, 16(1), 17–34. Scholar
  5. Beck, P. U. (1992). Risk society: Towards a new modernity. SAGE.Google Scholar
  6. Bence, V., & Oppenheim, C. (2004). The role of academic journal publications in the UK Research Assessment Exercise. Learned Publishing, 17(1), 53–68. Scholar
  7. Bonk, C. J. (2011). The world is open: How web technology is revolutionizing education. John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  8. Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Bourdieu, P. (1988). Homo academicus. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Bourdieu, P. (1990). The logic of practice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Bourdieu, P. (1998). Practical reason: On the theory of action. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  13. Bourdieu, P. (1999). Acts of resistance: Against the tyranny of the market. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
  14. Bourdieu, P., & Eagleton, T. (1992). Doxa and common life. New Left Review, 191, 111–121.Google Scholar
  15. Brown, J. S. (2000). Growing up: Digital: How the web changes work, education, and the ways people learn. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 32(2), 11–20. Scholar
  16. Bruner, J. (1991). The narrative construction of reality. Critical Inquiry, 18, 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Bruner, J. (1992). Acts of meaning (New ed.). Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Burke, P. (1999). Erasmus and the republic of letters. European Review, 7(1), 5–17. Scholar
  19. Butler, L. (2003). Modifying publication practices in response to funding formulas. Research Evaluation, 12(1), 39–46.
  20. Carpenter, J., Tanner, S., Smith, N., & Goodman, M. (2010). Researchers of tomorrow: Annual report 2010–2011. Retrieved from
  21. Choo, C. W., Detlor, B., & Turnbull, D. (2000). Web work: Information and seeking knowledge work on the World Wide Web. Springer.Google Scholar
  22. Christensen, C. M., & Eyring, H. J. (2011). The innovative university: Changing the DNA of higher education from the inside out (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  23. Clandinin, D. J. (2006). Narrative inquiry: A methodology for studying lived experience. Research Studies in Music Education, 27(1), 44–54. Scholar
  24. Clandinin, D. J., & Connelly, F. M. (2000). Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  25. Costa, C. (2014). The habitus of digital scholars. Research in Learning Technology, 21, 1–17. Scholar
  26. Costa, C. (2015a). Outcasts on the inside: Academics reinventing themselves online. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 34(2), 194–210. Scholar
  27. Costa, C. (2015b). Academics online: Fighting for a new habitus. In M. Murphy & C. Costa (Eds.), Bourdieu, habitus and social research: The art of application (pp. 151–166). London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Costa, C. (2016). Double gamers: Academics between fields. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 37(7), 993–1013. Scholar
  29. Costa, C., & Murphy, M. (Eds.). (2015). Bourdieu, habitus and social research. London; New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from Scholar
  30. Costa, C., & Murphy, M. (2016). Doxa, digital scholarship and the academy. In M. Murphy & C. Costa (Eds.), Theory as method in research: On Bourdieu, education and society (pp. 49–62). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Dillner, L. (2010, September 20). Cutting the research budget. BMJ, 341, c5128. Scholar
  32. Goldfinch, S. (2003). Investing in excellence? The performance-based research fund and its implications for political science departments in New Zealand. Political Science, 55(1), 39–53.
  33. Goldgar, A., & George, G. (1996). Impolite learning, conduct and community in the republic of letters, 1680–1750. History: Reviews of New Books, 24(4), 176–177. Scholar
  34. Goodman, D. (1996). The republic of letters: A cultural history of the French enlightenment. Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Guarria, C. I., & Wang, Z. (2011). The economic crisis and its effect on libraries. New Library World, 112(5/6), 199–214. Scholar
  36. Hall, R. (2011). Revealing the transformatory moment of learning technology: The place of critical social theory. Research in Learning Technology, 19(3), 273–284. Scholar
  37. Harley, D., Acord, S. K., Earl-Novell, S., Lawrence, S., & King, C. J. (2010). Assessing the future landscape of scholarly communication: An exploration of faculty values and needs in seven disciplines (Final report, p. 728). California: Berkeley University of California. Retrieved from
  38. Haslam, N., & Koval, P. (2010). Possible research area bias in the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) draft journal rankings. Australian Journal of Psychology, 62(2), 112–114. Scholar
  39. Honneth, A. (1995). Struggle for recognition: The moral grammar of social conflicts (New ed.). Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  40. Honneth, A. (2004). Recognition and justice: Outline of a plural theory of justice. Acta Sociologica, 47(4), 351–364. Scholar
  41. Honneth, A. (2007). Disrespect: The normative foundations of critical theory. John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  42. Huttunen, R., & Murphy, M. (2012). Discourse and recognition as normative grounds for radical pedagogy: Habermasian and Honnethian ethics in the context of education. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 31(2), 137–152. Scholar
  43. Jarrett, K. (2008). Interactivity is Evil! A critical investigation of Web 2.0. First Monday, 13(3). Retrieved from
  44. Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21 century. Program, 21(1), 72. Scholar
  45. Jiménez-Contreras, E., de Moya Anegón, F., & López-Cózar, E. D. (2003). The evolution of research activity in Spain: The impact of the National Commission for the Evaluation of Research Activity (CNEAI). Research Policy, 32(1), 123–142. Scholar
  46. Kane, C. G., Palmer, A. N., Philips, D., & Buckley, N. (2015). Strategy, not technology, drives digital transformation (pp. 1–29). MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte University Press. Retrieved from
  47. Kanter, B., Fine, A. H., & Zuckerberg, R. (2010). The networked nonprofit: Connecting with social media to drive change. John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  48. Lather, P. A. (1991). Getting smart: Feminist research and pedagogy with/in the postmodern. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  49. Lawler, S. (2002). Narrative in social research. In T. May (Ed.), Qualitative research in action (pp. 242–258). London: SAGE.Google Scholar
  50. Levy, M. (2009). WEB 2.0 implications on knowledge management. Journal of Knowledge Management, 13(1), 120–134. Scholar
  51. Lovell, T. (2000). Thinking feminism with and against Bourdieu. Feminist Theory, 1(1), 11–32. Scholar
  52. Lovell, T. (2007). (Mis)recognition, social inequality and social justice: Nancy Fraser and Pierre Bourdieu. Routledge.Google Scholar
  53. Lucas, L. (2006). The research game in academic life. McGraw-Hill International.Google Scholar
  54. McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  55. McNay, I. (2003). Assessing the assessment: An analysis of the UK Research Assessment Exercise, 2001, and its outcomes, with special reference to research in education. Science and Public Policy, 30(1), 47–54. Scholar
  56. Miller, V. (2011). Understanding digital culture. Los Angeles: SAGE.Google Scholar
  57. Murphy, M. (2010). On recognition and respect: Honneth, intersubjectivity and education. Educational Futures, 2(2), 3–11.Google Scholar
  58. Noble, G., & Lupton, D. (1998). Consuming work: Computers, subjectivity and appropriation in the university workplace. The Sociological Review, 46(4), 803–827. Scholar
  59. Northcott, D., & Linacre, S. (2010). Producing spaces for academic discourse: The impact of research assessment exercises and journal quality rankings. Australian Accounting Review, 20(1), 38–54.
  60. O’Reilly, T. (2005). What is Web 2.0. Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Retrieved from
  61. Owen-Smith, J., & Powell, W. W. (2001). Careers and contradictions: Faculty responses to the transformation of knowledge and its uses in the life sciences. Research in the Sociology of Work, 10, 109–140. Scholar
  62. Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc..Google Scholar
  63. Procter, R., Williams, R., Stewart, J., Poschen, M., Snee, H., Voss, A., et al. (2010). Adoption and use of Web 2.0 in scholarly communications. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 368(1926), 4039–4056. Scholar
  64. Riessman, C. (2003). Narrative analysis. In M. S. Lewis-Beck, A. Bryman, & T. F. Liao (Eds.), The SAGE encyclopedia of social science research methods (Illustrated ed., pp. 708–709). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  65. Sallee, M. W. (2011). The divided university: The impact of budget cuts on faculty in two disciplines. Tertiary Education and Management, 17(4), 319–335. Scholar
  66. Santos, A. C. (2014). Academia without walls? Multiple belongings and implications for feminist and LGBT/Queer political engagement. In Y. Taylor (Ed.), The entrepreneurial university: Engaging publics, intersecting impacts (pp. 9–26). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sanz-Menéndez, L. (1995). Research actors and the state: Research evaluation and evaluation of science and technology policies in Spain. Research Evaluation, 5(1), 79–88. Scholar
  68. Selwyn, N. (2014). Digital technology and the contemporary university: Degrees of digitization. London; New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  69. Shayne, J. (Ed.). (2015). Taking risks: Feminist activism and research in the Americas. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  70. Sheridan, V. (2010). A holistic approach to international students, institutional habitus and academic literacies in an Irish third level institution. Higher Education, 62(2), 129–140. Scholar
  71. Smith, N. (2012). Work as a sphere of norms, paradoxes, and ideologies of recognition. In S. O’Neill & N. H. Smith (Eds.), Recognition theory as social research: Investigating the dynamics of social conflict (1st ed., pp. 87–108). London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Stella, F. (2014). Engaging with “impact” agendas? Reflections on storytelling as knowledge exchange. In Y. Taylor (Ed.), The entrepreneurial university: Engaging publics, intersecting impacts (2014 ed., pp. 105–124). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  73. Swartz, D. (1997). Culture and power: The sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  74. Talib, A. A. (2001). The continuing behavioural modification of academics since the 1992 Research Assessment Exercise. Higher Education Review, 33(3), 30–46.Google Scholar
  75. The Res-Sisters. (2016). I’m an early career feminist academic: Get me out of here? Encountering and resisting the neoliberal academy. In R. Thwaites & A. Pressland (Eds.), Being an early career feminist academic: Global perspectives, experiences and challenges (1st ed., 2017 ed., pp. 267–284). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  76. Thomas, H. G. (2001). Funding mechanism or quality assessment: Responses to the Research Assessment Exercise in English institutions. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 23(2), 171–179. Scholar
  77. Thompson, J. B. (2005). Books in the digital age: The transformation of academic and higher education publishing in Britain and the United States. Polity.Google Scholar
  78. Thwaites, R., & Pressland, A. (Eds.). (2016). Introduction: Being an early career feminist academic in a changing academy. In Being an early career feminist academic: Global perspectives, experiences and challenges (1st ed., 2017 ed., pp. 1–28). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  79. Topp, L., Barker, B., & Degenhardt, L. (2004). The external validity of results derived from ecstasy users recruited using purposive sampling strategies. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 73(1), 33–40. Scholar
  80. Townsend, A. M., DeMarie, S. M., & Hendrickson, A. R. (1998). Virtual teams: Technology and the workplace of the future. The Academy of Management Executive (1993–2005), 12(3), 17–29.Google Scholar
  81. Weller, M. (2011). The digital scholar: How technology is changing academic practice (1st ed.). London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Weller, M. (2014). The battle for open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory. London: Ubiquity Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Wellington, J., & Torgerson, C. J. (2005). Writing for publication: What counts as a ‘high status, eminent academic journal’? Journal of Further and Higher Education, 29(1), 35–48. Scholar
  84. Williams, G. (1998). Misleading, unscientific, and unjust: The United Kingdom’s research assessment exercise. BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), 316(7137), 1079–1082.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristina Costa
    • 1
  1. 1.University of StrathclydeGlasgowUK

Personalised recommendations