(It's up at the top, to the right — check it out!)
So, you're thinking about joining Twitter. It's low stakes — there's not a lot of pressure to be eloquent in 140 characters, and you're not restricted to discussing only academic matters. It's also fairly low-risk in that other people can't go back and access your entire Twitterstream — so it's a good tool to learn with. In short, it's one of the easiest ways of testing the waters of DH social activity — and learning to be social as an academic is a skill in itself. So — here are a few things that might help you think about how you identify yourself. And even if you're not planning to get a Twitter account, thinking about the issues below is a good idea if you're planning to develop any social media presence at all.
1. The Twitter handle is just what people use to message and refer to you. Your name (or whatever phrase you choose to put in the name box) will also appear with every tweet you send. Here's an example.
2. Twitter's gimmick is that you only have 140 characters to work with in each Tweet. This means that if people are replying to you, they need to use up x number of characters typing your name. Thus, if your Twitter handle is @SheWalksInBeautyLikeTheNight, then when people reply to you, their replies may be quite short.
3. Have you decided to be very public about your academic social media presence? Or would you prefer that it stay in the background, for now? If you're worried that potential employers won't appreciate your Twitter savvy, it might be better to have your Twitter ID be something other than your name. This means that you can detach your real name by leaving it out of the name space (and adding a pseudonym) — and though it may take a month or so, Google's search records won't return your Twitter account whenever someone googles your name as listed on your CV. The question of Google searches is actually a big issue — and a topic about which you'll hear more from us soon.
4. Your Twitter name doesn't need to be terribly witty, but it helps if it's simple enough that people can remember it. Some Twitter interfaces will start suggesting names as soon as you type in the start of someone's ID — but not all. For this reason, if your Twitter handle is a complex combo of underscores and numbers, i.e. @_paige_c18-c19, you may not get all your replies, because people left out one of your underscores.
5. That said, if you've got an idea for a witty ID, then by all means, snap it up. Just think about how easy or obscure it'll be for others to figure out. Will it be recognizable only to other people in your particular niche? Recognizable to people in your discipline? To non-academics? It doesn't have to be recognizable to everyone — but it's good to be actively aware of how you're presenting yourself.
6. Once you have a Twitter handle, it's a good idea to upload a user picture quickly. It doesn't have to be a fancy headshot — in fact, it doesn't have to be a photo of you at all. Maybe you'd like to use a photo of one of the Lewis Chessmen, or the Bayeux tapestry. Uploading any photo at all helps to distinguish you from spam accounts, or 'bot accounts that auto-reply. (TweetBots are accounts that auto-reply, depending on the content of your tweet — say, if you mention Marmite, or say “Beetlejuice” three times.
7. You can change your Twitter handle; and Twitter will automatically update the lists of people who follow you. If people are linking to your Twitter stream from elsewhere, however — like in blogs or Facebook, then they may reach dead ends. (Twitter is one of the only platforms that makes name changes easy — others, like Blogger and WordPress, are more permanent).
On Wednesday night, I took part in the Twitter #fycchat (First-Year Composition Chat). It’s an hour-long weekly gathering for people to discuss various subjects related to teaching first-year composition. It’s accessed through the hashtag #fycchat — clicking on it, or searching for it pulls back all of the tweets tagged with it.
You can see an archive of the hour here – at first, it’ll appear as a tiny, barely visible stripe on the left side of the screen — but just click on it to bring it up to full size. I’ve written a bit more about my impressions below, since I’d never attended this chat before.
Last week, the topic was to be tech policies in classrooms. I’d never taken part in a chat like this before, so in advance, I was wondering:
- Will I know any of the people who are there? Will it matter if I don’t know any of them?
- I don’t usually use Twitter for holding a sustained conversation with a group of people over the course of an hour — will the way I interact with people on Twitter work?
- Will the discussions of tech policies be applicable to the classrooms in which I teach?
- Will the chat be useful?
As it happened, I knew a couple of the people involved very slightly — and the rest were new to me. But it felt perfectly natural — I didn’t feel as though I was the only new person — and there was no sense of cliqueishness. Teaching was common ground enough.
Participating in the chat was a lot like having a conversation. One person started, others replied. As replies appeared, I read them — and sometimes responded, or marked the tweet as a favorite to save it so that I could easily find it later. We seemed to be able to move between topics naturally. One of the questions that came up was how to keep students focused on class content when teaching in a lab classroom. I offered my own solution for that (having the students put their mouses on top of the computer, or turn their screens off); other people explained how they handled it. (Solutions ranged from ejecting a student from a classroom, after repeatedly distracting behavior, to ignoring the behavior and letting the student face the consequences of not paying attention).
The discussion wasn’t just about enforcing student behavior — we also discussed how we presented the use of technology in the classroom — what strategies worked for introducing students to tools; and how we navigated the use of Wikipedia as a research source. The tone was very informal — not much different from conversations I’ve had over a beer or in the departmental lounge or copier room — and in fact, I was participating via my iPad while having a burger and a beer at Blue Moon Burgers in Fremont.
So, was it useful? I thought so: as a source for new small strategies (teaching from the back of the room so that students have to look at you, rather than their laptops), and as a place for me to think about how I present tech use in the classroom, and hear other instructors’ reactions. One of the other chat participants suggested that one of my ideas would be interesting as a conference paper — and I’d never even considered it! So I’ve got that to think about now. Chatting with other people felt fun, and low pressure — and I can’t remember the last time I managed to chat for an hour with people in my department about teaching stuff — there’s just no time. But at 6 pm Pacific, with the option to participate from anywhere, it was easy. I don’t know yet how many of the same people show up each week, but I’d like to think that in the future, if we kept talking, that we could think about a conference presentation, or some other sort of collaboration that would be helpful. What really stood out to me, though, was that at the end of the hour, I was energized — more so than I often am at the end of a long day of writing and teaching.
Next week’s session is on visual rhetoric. I’ve already blocked out the hour on my calendar, and I’m planning on going back.
[Ed. note: material in teasers is sent to our workshop participants via email. But because we want this site to contain a full record of what we’re sending, we’re putting the teasers up as well.]
Today’s teaser is partly a reminder that this Friday at the Simpson Center, you have an opportunity to see a demo of Scalar, a platform for multimodal scholarship in production at the University of Southern California. (More info on that at the bottom of this email.
Today’s teaser comes from Fumblr: the Academic Failblog. Seeing failure as important and beneficial is one of the major differences between digital humanities and traditional humanities. And part of the learning curve for getting comfortable doing digital humanities work involves learning how, when, and where to present and discuss your failures in a way that makes them useful to others.
Because we have a wide range of people from a variety of different departments, including French & Italian Studies, History, Geography, and Library & Information Sciences as well as English, we wanted to provide a teaser that might be of interest to all of you. The introduction to the latest issue of the Journal of Digital Humanities fits the bill perfectly.