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The academic web profile as a genre of “self-making”

Helena Francke (Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lunds Universitet, Lund, Sweden) (Swedish School of Library and Information Science, Högskolan i Borås, Boras, Sweden)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 2 April 2019

Issue publication date: 3 September 2019




The activities of academic researchers are increasingly regulated by neo-liberal ideals, including expectations that researchers are visible online and actively promote their output. The purpose of this paper is to explore how researchers take on this responsibility. It uses the concepts of genre, authorship and self-writing in order to understand how the story of an academic life is constructed on academic web profiles.


A qualitative content analysis was conducted of material on 64 profiles belonging to 20 researchers on institutional and personal websites, as well as on ResearchGate, and Google Scholar.


The study shows that while institutional websites primarily contain researcher-produced material, content on commercial platforms is often co-constructed through distributed authorship by the researcher, the platform and other platform users. Nine different ways in which the profile of an “academic self” may be said to highlight the particular strengths of a researcher are identified. These include both metrics-based strengths and qualitative forms of information about the academic life, such as experience, the importance of their research and good teaching.

Social implications

This study of academic web profiles contributes to a better understanding of how researchers self-govern the story of their academic self, or resist such governance, in online environments.


The study furthers the knowledge of how researchers make use of and respond to digital tools for online visibility opportunities and how the story of the “academic self” is “made” for such public presentation.



This research was funded by Vetenskapsrådet 2012-20681-97949-46. The project has been carried out as part of the Swedish Research Council Framework Grant “Knowledge in a Digital World: Trust, Credibility and Relevance on the Web” (2013-2017), Grant No. 2012-20681-97949-46. The paper has been presented at research seminars at Lund University and the University of Borås as well as at the Working with Indicators Symposium arranged by Björn Hammarfelt and Fredrik Åström. The author is grateful to all participants at these seminars and to the two anonymous reviewers for suggestions and constructive comments.


Francke, H. (2019), "The academic web profile as a genre of “self-making”", Online Information Review, Vol. 43 No. 5, pp. 760-774.



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