Last Wednesday I was made aware of some departmental money that was to go towards something relating to PhDs, events and conferences (holding and/or attending one) so between my supervisor and I, we’ve knocked up a proposal for a one day event in June time with the working title “Social Media: Uses and Abuses” – with mega emphasis on using social media at the event itself. Yes, we need money for housekeeping (catering + travel expenses, for example) but I if we get the funding, I am keen to hand back a fair chunk of the money at the end, almost as proof that we should be doing more grassroots, creative events along these lines.
On return from Liverpool a few weeks ago, I made some notes based on my own experience of using social media at an event. The decision to live-blog using twitter came naturally, and it was good to see that others were tweeting (and using the hashtag) – I kind of slipped into the role of tweeting information constantly, mainly as a form of taking open, searchable conference notes that could be used by myself and others – but more importantly, invite discussion from those who also using twitter at the event and to direct the conversation out with the room and to those who couldn’t be there and/or had stumbled across the the discussion by accident. Finally, it acted as a very powerful demonstration, for those who were wavering on using Twitter, of one of the many useful functions that Twitter has to offer as a platform.
In relation to my constant tweeting at whatdoyougetif; it was inspired by those who genuinely interested in engaging with the discussion and were even spreading the word by retweeting towards their networks and, in turn, drew my attention to others who were interested in similar topics of discussion and wanted to contribute and/or just listen to and engage with what was being said.
Another nice touch is the effect that face to face events (aka meeting people in real life/offline – however ye’d call it..) has on the quality of your twitter network. When I attended Amplifed 08 back in November, I got to chat to a selection of really interesting people, the sort of people that weren’t quite on my twitter list yet, but it was like tapping into London’s “twitterati” and getting first hand experience of what was going on- there were swapping on business cards and sharing of twitter identities and off we went. That evening, the focus of my network shifted away from just Ayr, Leicester and reptiles, it was now facing directly into London and now within my direct vision, there was a whole new wave of connections linked to London and its social media scene.
A similar thing happened in Liverpool. Yes, there were causalities from constant event tweeting (I lost about 20 followers – some of which were people I had met in London and had enjoyed following myself) however, I had gained about 30, a third of which were people I had met at FACT. This minor network shift potentially distilled my network, pointing me in the direction of information that was/is relevant for me in that particular context.
I’ve always struggled to maintain relationships on sites such as myspace/facebook – there is about 30 percent of people there that probably wouldn’t stop for a conversation in the street (however if I remove them, it goes without question that it would be potentially more awkward because of who knows who – joys of a small town upbringing unfortunately) – so such interactions and fluidity of relationships on twitter is certainly a positive thing when it comes to using it as a tool during conferences and other “professional” networking events – add, remove, add, remove without angst and/or guilt – everything is public anyway so it is a free for all in terms of making sense of the data.
I am hoping to demonstrate this at our event in June by briefing the PhD students before, finding those who are using it currently and attempting to aggregate the content together to present to our head of department that this is something the department and the University should be investing in (even if the word “investment” just means “giving it a chance and approaching it with an open mind”) We’ll see, fingers crossed before I get given the go ahead to go mad and be a creative as possible. Right now I feel like suggesting I make the sandwiches and scotch eggs if it will just get the PhD community to start talking and working together…