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The Usefulness of Twitter

This is the second “official” post for HIST 479.

I begin this blog with a confession: when I first learned of twitter, my initial reaction was hardly positive.  I believe my first response was something along the lines of “why in the world should I sign up for something that is just a bunch of facebook status updates?”  Twitter seemed like one more frivolity that would serve only to eat up my time.  In many ways, I was right.  One only needs to follow a handful of celebrities to discover a bevy of tweets asking “what should I eat?” or “going to the party!”  But at the same time, I severely underestimated the usefulness of historians

Networking

Twitter has a number of uses for scholars, the first of which is networking.  Through twitter, historians from around the globe are able to communicate with other scholars they might not necessarily know through the usual route of job interviews, conferences, etc.  The History News Network has a list of historians who tweet.  Even a cursory glance of the list will bring you into contact with a number of historians in your field.  While the internet has facilitated conversation between scholars, twitter has made that communication even faster.

Live-Tweeting

As the AHA notes, live tweeting of conferences introduces new ways to experience a conference.  Certainly, many of the tweets could be construed as redundant for those attending the conference, as they might also be attending a live-tweeted panel, it allows those not at the conference to see what sorts of ideas are being promoted at the talk.  Several historians tweeted information from the New Faculty meeting earlier this week.  Because of twitter, I was able to follow the conversation even though I wasn’t attending.  While nothing can replace actual attendance, live-tweeting certainly allows you to stay better informed about key ideas and arguments being presented.

#Twitterstorians

I probably could lump this into another category, but I decided to make it a separate one.  The #twitterstorian hashtag offers many ways to use twitter for scholarly communication.  Before my first semester teaching, I made a comment on twitter about how I felt nervous.  Within a few minutes, numerous twitterstorians responded with suggestions and advice to weather the storm.  I’ve seen people try to arrange conference panels using this hashtag, note exiting articles or useful tidbits of information, or start general conversations about the discipline or the profession.

These are just three ways in which twitter can be useful for a scholar.  While I certainly think there are limits to what twitter can provide, I think it’s a worthwhile tool to use if you approach it with the right frame of mine.  Undoubtedly, many people use twitter as one more way to present random comments are tidbits about their daily activities.  140 characters can only offer up so much space to offer your ideas.  But in the end, it isn’t a completely useless tool.

In what ways have you guys use twitter?  Do you think it has merit?

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Categories: Full Post, HIST 479
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