Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

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Disciplinary Meetings, Technology and Self-Reflection

January 10, 2012

This weekend the AIA/APA Annual Meetings took place in Philadelphia.  Several other major disciplinary academic conferences take place the first weekend in January, taking advantage of the semester break (for most), including AHA 2012 in Chicago (American Historical Association) and MLA 2012 in Seattle (Modern Language Association).

I didn’t go to any of them, but I checked in on my Twitter feed periodically, and was struck by the differences in the conversations that went on around each of these three meetings.  Tweets from #aiaapa actually appeared this year – a stunning difference from the 2011 meetings in San Antonio.  (I looked for twitter messages about AIA/APA in January 2011, and there were literally fewer than 5).  This year, several doughty reporters tweeted the conference panels they attended, including Francesca Tronchin (@tronchin), Tom Elliot (@paregorios), and Kristina Killigrove (@BoneGirlPhD, who made a nice summary of her Twitter work at her blog, Powered By Osteons, and also wrote a valuable post about the Lessons from Live-Tweeting), and others I probably missed.  Many thanks to them – it’s fun and enlightening to be able to drop in on a conference remotely.

In contrast, twitter took over MLA in December 2009, and the #mla2012 and #aha2012 hashtags both ticked forward so fast one could barely follow them this weekend.  At MLA, tweeters started adding second hashtags for the session numbers, so those following along could separate the streams coming from each room and topic.  Some of the difference in volume between these three conferences can be attributed to size – AIA/APA had about 3000 registrants, while AHA had about 3700, and MLA twice that (no 2012 numbers yet, but 2011 in L.A. attracted 7745).  But much more of the difference has to do with disciplinary cultures.  (And it’s not age of the practitioners – I’m 39, the average age of a Twitter user, and Twitter is actually most popular among the 26-44 demographic, not among undergrads or early grad students.)

There weren’t just differences between AIA/APA and its sibling conferences in their use of technology for conference conversation.  There were differences in what the conversations were about, as well.  Blogs at the Chronicle of Higher Ed and Inside Higher Ed reporting on AHA and MLA tell the story that was unfolding on my twitter feed – most of the “news” was about the future of higher education, the job market for PhDs and what a dissertation should even look like, and whether or not digital humanities and/or public history will save us all.  The titles tell the story:

In contrast, I could find no reports at Inside Higher Ed or The Chronicle about what was discussed at AIA/APA, and the tweets from those on the ground were about actual archaeological, historical, or philological (I suppose, though I don’t think I saw any) content.

Does this mean AIA/APA – and by association classicists and archaeologists – are better or worse off than historians and modern language scholars?  There’s an argument that all the tweeting and blogging and navel-gazing and raging about the future of the humanities in the press are just a distraction from the actual purpose of a scholarly meeting – the dissemination of scholarship.  On the other hand, some self-reflection on the part of disciplines is healthy, no?  Especially in light of political and economic trends that threaten the values of academia generally, and the humanities in particular?  I don’t think public history or digital humanities will save us all, but I do think they are ways to engage the public – the college-attending, state-legislature-lobbying public – in the scholarly topics that matter to us all.  Is there a way to achieve the reflectivity and growth without the “anguish”?

I should note there were certainly potentially self-reflective sessions on the AIA/APA program: “Cultural Heritage Preservation in a Dangerous World,” “Presenting the Past,” “Discussions and Strategies Regarding Applying for Grants, Fellowships & Post-Docs,” “The Politics of Archaeology,” “Beyond Multiculturalism: Classica Africana…,” “Authors Meet Critics: Race and Reception,” “Intertextuality and its Discontents,” “Teaching About Classics Pedagogy in the 21st Century,” “Classics in Action: How to Engage with the Public,” and more. Maybe it’s just that nobody tweeted about them?

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On Information Management

June 1, 2010

When I started this blog a couple of months ago, and created an accompanying twitter account (which, I know, I am not using much yet, sorry), I didn’t realize I would be adding the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of Too Much Information. But in addition to remembering yet another username and password, I am now struggling with keeping up with both producing content and consuming content online.  Disentangling the private and professional online is also a bit of a mess in my head right now.   So I’m starting a blog-project on information management that I hope will help me define things a bit, and will also help me better serve the faculty and students I work with, who are probably facing many of the same problems.

Here’s where I stand as a content producer/distributor:

I have one Facebook account, that is mostly an expression of my private life (i.e. I interact(ed) socially in real life with almost all of my Facebook friends).  But since many of my ‘friends’ are current or former coworkers, or former fellow-students, I also have a dimension of my professional life on Facebook.

I have two twitter accounts (@phoebeacheson and @classicslib), and contribute to a group account (@ugalibsref).  I am most muddled about what is personal and what is professional in this arena right now.

I have three blogs: this one, a private personal one, and a public one that is rather boring unless you are deeply excited by plumbing and gardening.  I have also been invited to contribute to the Ancient World Bloggers’ Group (though have not done so yet) and I contribute to the UGA Library blog.  Here my boundaries and scopes are delightfully clear. Whew.

I also recently set up an academia.edu page, and am on Linkedin (not very actively).  I explored Connotea a couple of years ago, and my account is still there.  Did I mention I have four email addresses?

Offline, I have published one article as a librarian so far (okay, that’s online too, but the sent me paper offprints! I marveled), and just last Friday gave my first presentation at a small regional conference (Atlanta Area BIG 2010).

In terms of content consumption, I subscribe to 8 professional email list-servs (aside from ones limited to my workplace), and read around 80 work-related blogs (it’s hard to say exactly, as I only have one Google Reader account and also sometimes it’s hard to decide what is personal and what is professional – is Language Log or Uncertain Principles something I read because I enjoy them personally, because they inform my work (they don’t, directly, but do get me thinking…), or both?) I continually feel like I’m not keeping up in some areas, but I also feel like I’m devoting too much time to this sort of keeping up as it is.

I don’t do nearly as much original research as active scholars in Classics do, but I have both a RefWorks account and an EndNote library (the latter really only so I can teach it to others; I use RefWorks for my research projects) and keep meaning to do something with Zotero.

Note I haven’t mentioned non-internet methods of acquiring and distributing information, like talking to colleagues, teaching classes and one-on-one sessions, browsing the stacks of the library, and keeping up with print periodicals.  I do almost all of those, too.

Am I managing all this well?  In terms of consumption, am I finding what I need and keeping up with areas I am most interested in, while weeding out irrelevant-to-me information?  In terms of production, am I reaching my target audience (have I defined a target audience?) with the information and messages I want to convey?  Am I useful to my target audience?  How can I tell?

To further my thinking in these areas I’m going to start having a series of conversations with scholars – hopefully people of different generations who are in different places in their careers – about how they manage information related to their scholarly work and identity.  With their permission, I’ll write up accounts of our chats and post them here, in hopes that I can start answering some of these questions for myself, and help those around me solve any information management problems they may be having.

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