Reach and Engagement: social media use by artists, arts educators, academics


There is much discussion about the place of social media as a form of communication (boyd, 2009; Poore, 2012; Reuben, 2011; Solis, 2008). But what does this look like across different disciplines that may on the outside be perceived to look different but have similar underpinning actions – for example making, process sharing, seeking feedback, audience engagement, profile building, researching, resource access, relationship building, collaborations, self-organisation, portfolio of work, and using platforms as a part of ‘doing the job’.

Social media enables reach and engagement (Hanna, Rohan & Critteden, 2011) and opportunity for broad networking or fellowship (Aerni, 2014) and accessibility (Visone, 2016). From this perspective, social media can change how we do our work. Affordances, opportunities and challenges are present that can enable users to “have an audience that they can strategically maintain through ongoing communication and interaction” (Marwick & boyd, 2011, p. 121) and thus require consideration to made in regard to rituals, boundaries and labour to support the work being carried out.

Social media usage by academics, artists and art educators is on the increase, with a wide range of usage possibilities. However, many remain skeptical of the benefits and possible applications for using social media. In addition, there is limited or no support in place to understand the constantly changing platforms, privacy and security requirements, as well as support required for different levels of confidence of individuals or collectives across usage for research, profile building, engagement and impact, research, making, collaboration, seeking feedback, and learning and teaching.

This research looks deeper at understanding how different people and groups across fields perceive their use social media to unpack how identity, labour, boundaries, audience engagement, feedback, and collaborations are constructed. Specific focus of this research is to unpack further details from the following groups to look at similarities and differences in perceived practices on and with social media.

Those that work in academia and in the creative fields are individuals and collectives that create work that are presented for to public audiences. In doing so there is natural progression towards finding different ways to engage with audiences through the process of thinking through work, for feedback, and presentation of final work.

Artists and arts educators come from a field of the crit (or the critique) a part of receiving formal feedback of work made and dissemination of work via presentation usually in an exhibition, performance or publication.  While academics present their research through the processes of peer review through grants, publication and during dissemination through such performances as a conference or keynote. For those who also present their professional work via social media opportunity also exists for feedback in the public forum. This research is interested in how social media platforms both support and generate audience engagement.

Those who individually or collectively engage in these types of actions include those working in academia and creative fields such as visual or performing artists.


  1. Artists (individual)
  2. Artist groups (collective e.g.: an exhibition group)
  3. Art educators
  4. Academics (individual)
  5. Academic groups (collective e.g.: faculty profiles, discipline or research group profiles, etc)
  6. Art education groups

This research builds from past research carried out over the projects: ‘Academics who Tweet’ (2012-2016) (Budge, Lemon, & McPherson, 2016; Lemon, & McPherson, 2018; Lemon, McPherson, & Budge, 2015; McPherson, Budge & Lemon, 2015; McPherson & Lemon, 2017); ‘Cultivating capacity to share learning: social media, meaning making and museums’ (2015 – 2017); ‘MuseumEdOz’ (2015 (Lemon, 2018)); and those that looked at higher education student professional learning with social media (2012 – ongoing), patterns of engagement have been identified that are worthy of understanding further. Each of these research projects involved the collection of qualitative data that unpacked the initial reasons behind audience participation and revealed self-identified practices of engagement.

Social media for this research is seen as engagement with one or more platforms that could include Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Snapchat, Blogs, etc

This research asks the questions of:

Social media has changed how we engage with and reach our audiences, but what does this look like across disciplines that naturally require collaboration, feedback, dissemination and profile building as part of their work?

Sub-questions are:

  1. What are the self-identified patterns of use? What are the difference and similarities?
  2. What is the value in dissemination of work and engagement with targeted audiences?
  3. How is engagement with targeted audiences approached?
  4. What rituals are put in place?
  5. How is emotion addressed in regard to support, networking, feedback, collaboration, and hinderances?


The aim of this project is to understand the:

  1. Current examples of practice across varying social media platforms;
  2. Social media practices required by academics, artists and art educators;
  3. Social media norms for academics, artists and art educators;
  4. Strengths, opportunities and barriers as perceived by the identified users;
  5. Differences between individual and collective accounts; and
  6. Emotional, labour, networking, Rituals, routines and boundaries, engagement with others, dissemination, and feedback perspectives across users

Survey link

Research team

Ass/Professor Narelle Lemon (DEd MEd BMus BTeach DipMan) is currently the Deputy Chair – Learning ad Teaching in the Department of Education, Faculty of Health, Arts and Design at Swinburne University of Technology. Narelle’s overarching research area is focused on participation and engagement. She explores this through a variety of avenues including social media use for learning and professional development, creativity and arts education, and positive psychology specifically aimed at mindful practice and coping strategies. Narelle has received over $1.2 million worth of nationally competitive grants and awards. She has been successfully awarded research awards including: La Trobe University Mid Career Researcher Excellence Award (2016); La Trobe University Early Career Researcher Excellence Award (2013); Early Career Supervisor with Most Publications Award within the School of Education, RMIT University (2012); and Early Career Researcher International Travel Award from RMIT Research and Innovation (2012). She is often invited as an expert speaker and commentator in the media and for online communities on research culture and education issues.

Ms Megan McPherson is a completing PhD scholar (in examination) from Monash University, Faculty of Education. She is employed as a sessional staff member at Swinburne University. Megan’s overarching research emphasis is engagement in social and cultural production practices. She explores this focus through investigating how cultural education is provided in higher educational settings. She has project managed 2 OLT projects and co-led 4 internally funded L&T projects valued at $700,000.


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boyd, d. (2009). Living and Learning with Social Media. Penn State Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology. Retrieved from

Budge, K., Lemon, N. & McPherson, M. (2016) Academics who tweet: ‘messy’ identities in academia. Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education8(2), 210-221.

Hanna, R., Rohan, A., & Critteden, V. (2011). We’re all connected: The pwer of social media ecosystem. Business Horizons, 54(3), 265-273.

Lemon, N. (2018). Collaborating and co-curating knowledge: Social media, museums and education audiences. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, 7(1)93-106.

Lemon, N., & McPherson, M. (2018). Intersections online: Academics who tweet. In Lupton, D., Mewburn, I. & Thomson, P. (Eds.), The digital academic: critical perspectives on digital technologies in higher education (pp. 78-90). London: Routledge.

Lemon, N., McPherson, M., & Budge, K. (2015). Academics doing it differently: Wooing, hooking up and spinning stories. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 3(2), 15-25.

Marwick, A & boyd, D. (2011). I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience. New Media Society, 131(14),114-133.

McPherson, M., Budge, K., & Lemon, N. (2015). New practices in doing academic development: Twitter as an informal learning space. International Journal for Academic Development20(2), 126-136.

McPherson, M., & Lemon, N. (2017). The hook, woo and spin: Academics creating relations on social media. In Esposito, A. (Ed.). Research 2.0 and the Impact of Digital Technologies on Scholarly Inquiry (pp. 167-187). Hershey: IGI Global

Poore, M. (2012). Using social media in the classroom: A best practice guide. London: Sage Publishers.

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Visone, A. (2016). The Impact of Online and Social Media Platforms in the Art Market: A case study on Instagram. Retrieved from

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