Cross posted at History Compass Exchanges
After mulling around the coffee and muffins in the reception area and feeling awkward because I didn’t know anyone at the conference, I headed into the lecture hall where I eyeballed the walls for electrical outlets. I would need a power source if I was going to type through several hours of conference proceedings. I saw another attendee settling in and plugging in her laptop, so I sat down nearby and asked if she would mind sharing the outlet (she didn’t).
@janaremy audience is assembling & positioning themselves around available power outlets (my kind of conference!) #nowcasting
After a few initial tweets I realized, through hashtag searching, that there were several other twitterers in the room. By following the other tagged tweets I discovered a website that was liveblogging the conference happenings, too. Within an hour, I found about a dozen people in the audience actively writing about the conference events as they unfolded. We were not only twittering our impressions, but we were in a dynamic conversation about issues raised by the talks. One person with a digital camera was taking occasional pictures of the presentations & posting the links. Another was sending links to the various speakers’ publications. As the conversations evolved they added more depth to the conference presentations than I gleaned from the talks themselves. In turn, I was getting to know the various personalities chattering about the conference, and by the end of the day after learning the “in-real-life” identities of my fellow twitters, we chatted at the closing reception and have since then become better acquainted via continued interactions on Twitter and Facebook.
Not every conference that I’ve attempted to liveblog or twitter has gone so smoothly. For example, my intention to post updates on the 2009 American Historical Association conference was thwarted by the high cost of wireless access at the venue (what history grad student can afford a $129 hotel room plus a $15 daily internet access fee?). A few months after that, when I tweeted the happenings at another history conference, I couldn’t find anyone else who was also doing so (hashtag searches weren’t helpful this time), which made it feel like I was simply having a conversation with myself rather than creating community with fellow attendees. For example, in one panel about digital humanities my sense of alienation was evident as I sat in a nearly-empty room in what, in my opinion, should have been the session generating the biggest buzz:
@janaremy Only 4 women in audience of Digital Humanities panel. Why? #WHA
@janaremy Wondering why they didn’t find a commenter who knows more about Digital Humanities than just Powerpoint & online syllabi (sigh) #WHA
The positive outcome from tweeting that conference came later, when my twitter feed funneled into my Facebook page status updates. Colleagues who weren’t at the conference responded to my tweets, creating an opportunity for follow-up discussion about the digital tools that are useful for scholars. Later, I also reflected on my experience with a blog posting about the panel.
My latest experiment with using twitter is in my role as the “Online Media Chairperson” for an upcoming Digital Humanities conference at Yale. Recently I created a twitter account dedicated solely to discussion of the conference, and started tying that presence to other digital humanists on twitter through “following” them, especially those users included in Dan Cohen‘s comprehensive Digital Humanities twitter list. Within 30 minutes of my launching the account Dan tweeted an announcement about our event and numerous users began following @PDP2010 or “re-tweeting” Dan’s message. I don’t exactly know yet how the twitter account will augment attendance or ongoing discussion for this conference, but I’m excited to be experimenting with this technology and to see how it might create possibilities for scholarly collaboration that begin before the two-day event and carry on for long afterward.
I’m curious, do any of you have experiences with liveblogging at conferences or advertising academic events via twitter? Or do you have any advice to offer on how to use social media for academic networking and collaboration?