Tweeting at academic conferences
I’ve been following the “#twittergate” debate about tweeting at academic conferences (blogged about here by Tressie McMillan Cottom, here by Steve Kolwich and storified here) and have been reading through Ernesto Priego’s ‘10 rules of thumb‘ from the Guardian’s Higher Education network website (and they are a good list of guidelines), and wondering about how that relates to the live-tweeting that goes on at the professional events that I go to, which are mainly library-related, or educational technology related.
Library and technology conferences
It is one of the things I’ve found most notable of the HE library sector, and that is the amount of social media activity, particularly twitter but also things like lanyrd that surrounds these type of events. It is something that I think adds to the value of those events but I know that there are some people who find that it is distracting. I’ve been at conferences where the organisers have displayed conference tweets on screen live (twitterwall or tweetwall) but after a while taken them down during the conference. One of the benefits of tweeting is that is does allow interaction and sharing with people who aren’t at the conference or event, which sometimes throws up interesting stuff, but I wonder whether there’s an element of resentment almost, from people who are attending towards people who aren’t attending getting to ‘share’ in some aspects of the conference?
I think that in some ways library and technology conferences are quite different in nature to academic conferences, even if they are ‘academic’ library conferences or about technology as it applies to the HE sector. Many of the comments in #twittergate seemed to me to be about academics talking at conferences about their latest research at a stage prior to formal publication. Academic library and technology conferences also have people talking about work they have been doing, often in advance of publication of that work.
But I think there’s a critical difference, and that is at least partly about academic reputation, and academics having a more pressing need to build and maintain their reputation, for reasons like REF, and for progression reasons. As much of this is still based around ‘traditional’ notions of publication in formal channels as evidence of scholarship rather than the concepts of digital scholarship as described by experts such as Martin Weller For librarians this is generally much less of a priority although not I suppose entirely absent. As a librarian you’re not dependent on your publication record and it may be that simply speaking at the event is sufficiently ‘reputation-enhancing’.
I think there’s also another factor in that in most cases at a library conference you are looking to share your work or results widely. Not just with a narrow group of experts who can almost act as part of a ‘peer review’ (although I think there is an element of that at play for librarians too). At the stage that you want to talk about something at a conference it is part of your ‘dissemination’ plan more often than not. Tweeting your presentation is a good way of pushing knowledge about it out to a wider audience, and it seems like most people speaking at these type of events buy in to that idea.
When not to tweet
I think that the nearest equivalent to academic conferences in the library world may be those project groups and discussions that take place as part of sector wide projects, Steering Groups, Collaboration Groups etc where I’m always more mindful that the discussions aren’t in the public domain and shouldn’t be tweeted.
One thing, though, does amuse me, which is the term ‘live-tweet’. I know it is meant to parallel ‘live-blogging’. But I tend to wonder, well, what other type of tweeting is there?