Many of us use social media to communicate with other likeminded academics and practitioners, and attending conferences and giving presentations is a key part of what we do, but what happens when you combine the two? A Twitter Conference! As an early career researcher I am always keen to keep up to date with current events in my field, and explore avenues which help my research, practice and teaching. When the opportunity to “attend” and “present” at a virtual conference arose, I wanted to submit an abstract and explore how it worked.
My abstract for the Public Archaeology Twitter Conference (#PATC4) is related to a project which I had undertaken in my practitioner role, as part of a project with PAS and Historic Environment Scotland (HES). I worked with Dr Antonia Thomas at the University of the Highlands and Islands on a project exploring heritage crime with young people, as part of a national pilot which PAS had been commissioned to deliver on behalf of HES, connected to the launch of a national crime initiative. Orkney was one of the pilot locations I set up; working with Stromness Academy I devised a day of practical fieldwork visiting archaeological sites on the Orkney Mainland (working with Antonia to find suitable sites), and a day of in class reflection for co-designing resources relating to heritage crime. The site visits allowed the pupils to have an insight into archaeological recording techniques, and walk through a town which was familiar to them to explore it with a “heritage eye” as a town planner or heritage professional might view a space. Graffiti has long existed on Orkney archaeological sites in many forms, but caring for the sites for the future means engaging younger audiences and new audiences with the heritage management issues around that. As the project was a pilot, we were able to experiment with different workshop styles and teaching techniques, allowing the pupils to record themselves (and their findings) using digital kit as part of the reflective activities.. on day two they created amazing resources such as posters, games and presentation for different audiences including their peers, heritage professionals, primary school pupils and even cruise ship passengers.
We had up to 15 Tweets to convey our message around this project, and share an insight into our findings but for academics who are used to being a little more wordy in our communication, how did we manage that?
• Write down our key messages, then edit these down (again, if needed!)
• Take off a few Tweets for introduction, bio’s and conclusion, see how many are left
• Split the Tweets into two as we were co-authoring the paper, and write each part then share our drafts in word
• Ensure we had interesting visual content to accompany our paper (note, we had photographic consent forms from those who appear in the images- especially important when working with young people)
• Tag people in on conversations using their Twitter handle to help with engagement
• Programme Tweets in advance using Tweetdeck, to avoid quickly having to type paper content within the allocated presentation time window
• Remember to include the conference hashtag in each post
Twitter Conference Moment- screenshot extract of paper
Things I learned:
• Staying in touch with the conference organisers, and following their helpful instructions is essential (#PATC4 has a wordpress blog with information on the background of Twitter conferences)
• Composing Tweets in advance helped make a cohesive discussion and ensure we had included key points
• Tweetdeck cannot make threaded Tweets, compiling Tweets into a Twitter moment afterwards is another way to archive discussions
• One person has to Tweet on behalf of everyone presenting a joint conference paper where you require sequential numbered Tweets, but you can make it clear who says what through your text annotation
• Programme in time to respond to comments on your paper, (just like at any conference it is likely people will have questions)
• Allow yourself time to view other presentations too (especially those which relate to your conference sub theme)
• Taking part in a Twitter conference is a lot of fun! #PATC4 even had a musical accompaniment to its papers, there was a DJ and playlist who joined in – #PATC4Jams
Simplifying a paper into Tweet form certainly helps focus your mind, it is a very different format from more longform writing. It has to be eye catching and to the point, but also represent your argument and project appropriately. I have previously participated in “newer” forms of academic engagement (lightning talks, research slams, Pecha Kucha, PubPhD, Three Minute Thesis) and I feel that Twitter conferences definitely have their place alongside these and more traditional forms of presentation like posters, journal articles and in person conference presentations. Being able to communicate your research and academic interests in more than one form definitely helps the skillset of academics at any stage of their career, and the use of these techniques is also opening up a debate about democratising conferences (Twitter has no travel costs and you can either participate live, or catch up at a later time by working remotely at a time which suits you). I would highly recommend submitting a paper to a Twitter conference if you have the opportunity!
Amid rising unpopularity politicians and opinionaters increasingly seem determined to beat big media companies with a stick. But maybe there is a different way? A few words on the Internet Commission
I think it’s fair to say that the subject of my research is pretty well known – you, dear reader, have certainly heard of it: I look at Facebook. From a Foucaultian perspective, as it were, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about right now.
It is difficult to deny that large media companies wield increasing power and influence over the social lives of humans. We interact on their platforms, speak through their apps, plan our lives in their diaries. Whether good, bad, neither or both, smartphones and digital humanity seem here to stay.
In the last few years, the public and thus politicians have been baffled by the realities not just of what has happened (Cambridge Analytica, Brexit, seemingly absurd choices of leadership in various countries…), but of exactly what can be done with the resources wielded by a select few private firms. Elizabeth Warren (US) aims to split them up, Margrethe Vestager (EU) keeps fining them.
It is starting to seem as if they are the baddies and something should be done. But maybe, before we start a ‘stick-wacking’, we should just take a second to talk to them first? Because maybe, just maybe, they, like most other humans, would be quite interested in cooperating, rather than wasting time fighting?
I have joined the Internet Commission. The IC is, in brief, an initiative – a working group if you will – aimed at furthering digital responsibility. Some arguably clever people met up at the LSE a few years back to take a look at the challenges we face in a digitised world. The organisers – Ioanna Noula from Leeds Uni, and Jonny Shipp from LSE – then realised that change might need a helping hand, and the Internet Commission was founded.
At the Internet Commission we believe that progress can be made by approaching industry, not as combatant NGOs, not as worried political institutions, but on their own terms: As businesses that would want to be popular, to operate freely, and continue to attract investment.
We are developing an evaluation framework that will assess the content management process and procedures of media companies, and we offer to audit them accordingly. We offer a safe space for confidential disclosure but counsel openness; we give praise – also in public – when they exhibit good practice or vow to change for the better.
This road is, of course, wrought with ethical dilemmas. We in the delivery team have an ongoing and recurring debate over whether and, if so, how much funding we can accept from industry, not to mention particular NGO’s and political institutions. Staying avowedly neutral can be hard, if you need funds to operate! Still, we feel confident that we have managed so far – and if not, we have a fairly impressive advisory board to keep us in check.
Currently in my second year as a PhD student at CCSE, I’m now working with the Simon Community Scotland in Glasgow as part of a participatory action research project reflecting on how digital exclusion impacts on people experiencing homelessness and how organisations can provide meaningful support.
As part of my research, I’m working closely with staff in Simon Community Scotland to understand what key barriers they face in providing support around essential digital skills and working with organisations to implement change as they take on the mantle of ‘digital champions’- providing person-centred digital skills support as part of their overall support plans.
This work also takes in the expert voices of those currently experiencing homelessness, who expressed a number of key issues, including:
The impact of Universal Credit on people without reliable access to either technology or connection;
Fear around the quantity of data being collected by a range of agencies which, through necessity people experiencing homelessness are required to engage with, and also where this information will be shared;
Fear around how technology may be used to further marginalise people experiencing homelessness through negative use such as online bullying and exposure to damaging networks
The positive impact of maintaining social networks with family and friends through social media applications such as WhatsApp
The possibilities of the internet to find solutions to everyday problems – especially those related to accessing services, physical navigation and translation.
As staff in Simon Community Scotland are already working holistically with people experiencing homelessness, they are ideally placed to work with individuals in a 1:1 capacity and provide the right type of support around essential digital skills, and in the right places. Simon Community Scotland has also gone through an organisation-wide period of digital change, with G-Suite recently rolled out, and so many staff are on a journey of personal learning as they make the most of both G-Suite and portable devices in their outreach work.
It is a fantastic opportunity to work together and share knowledge, and to hopefully reduce some of the barriers facing people experiencing homelessness in accessing the benefits of the internet.
The research is part of the overall work of Get Digital, a three year Digital Inclusion Programme hosted and managed by Simon Community Scotland, helping people affected by homelessness to improve access to the digital world.
Dr Alison McCandlish is a Lead researcher at the Centre for Culture, Sport and Events, this post offers a short insight into her work and is part of a series of research profiles on key staff and associates at the Centre.
Dr Alison McCandlish
Alison is a practitioner-researcher, with an academic background in Creative Media Practice, European Urban Conservation, Education and Town Planning and her main research interests lie in heritage, culture and creative community engagement techniques. At the Centre, Alison contributes to research across the Centre themes, developed the centre visual identity and digital presence, and assists with event management at CCSE symposiums and events.
Alison recently completed her practice-based PhD, “Bidding for City of Culture status: revealing hidden heritage through creative research methods and the role of digital cultural asset mapping” examining the idea that every area contains a wide range of cultural assets which deserve to be recognised and celebrated and that by involving community groups who may be traditionally under-represented in cultural participation, a more complete picture can be mapped and developed which more accurately reveals the hidden cultural assets of an area.
The research discusses the meaning of cultural assets, and proposes an original scale of meaning to attribute five ascending levels of significance to these assets, recognising that one venue can take on many strands of meaning whether or not it is of statutory importance. This, together with conclusions on the importance of multi-use assets, places of self-care and everyday interaction provides a step towards addressing issues around local engagement with culture and heritage (Mydland and Grahn, 2012, Schofield, 2014), contributing towards knowledge within the cultural policy and heritage engagement fields.
Since completing her PhD Alison has been appointed as a research assistant at the Centre, has been working on consultancy projects with Historic Environment Scotland, PAS and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation and acts as an Associate Tutor with University College of Estate Management.
Three PhD students aligned to the Centre for Culture Sport and Events are undertaking research which is linked to the collaborative aims of the University of the West of Scotland and Renfrewshire Council. This post offers a short insight into their work, and is the first of a series of research profiles on key staff and associates at the Centre.
Economy and Cultural Regeneration- Niclas Hell
Niclas’s PhD explores the direct and indirect contribution of developing the creative industries, culture sector and events as a core part of Paisley’s economy and a means to develop inclusive economic growth in Paisley and the surrounding area
Poverty, Health and Action Research in Cultural Regeneration- Lan Pham
Lan’s PhD is in the area of Art & Health, particularly its inclusiveness and contribution to regeneration, addressing health inequalities and poverty. She comes from a background in economic development and empowering citizens and consumers through advice. Her interests are in improving individual and community health and wellbeing through provision of a platform to those who are ‘less heard,’ helping them to be heard in evidence, policy and society and encouraging participation and engagement with activities, events and services.
Image and Media- Conor Wilson
Conor’s PhD project explores the role of the media within culture-led regeneration. More specifically, his research focuses on the roles of traditional and social media in creating and circulating messages about Paisley and its social, economic and cultural history, and assesses the impact that this has in terms of place impressions. As such, the overarching aim is to explore the extent to which the Paisley 2021 UK Capital of Culture bid’s media campaigns impacted on both internal and external perceptions of Paisley.
Find out more about our PhD students and CCSE Director, Lead Researchers and CCSE Renfrewshire Council Cultural Regeneration team here.