Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A User's Guide to Live-Tweeting the International Medieval Congress

Image: The word "Live" in red
stamped over the word "tweet." 
This weekend around three thousand medievalists - scholars and fans alike - will descend on the 50th Annual International Medieval Congress, a massive, interdisciplinary and relatively egalitarian academic gathering. It features a whopping 567 sessions, an outstanding book exhibit with new and used books from trade, university, and specialty used book stores, and many opportunities to network, socialize, and otherwise perform acts of conclave.
lovely campus of Western Michigan University. This is the 50th annual conference and I'm very much looking forward to it.

I will be in session 115 in Schneider 1140 (Thursday 3:30)
The Public Medievalist: A Roundtable on Engaging the Public with the Middle Ages 
Sponsor: Medieval Academy Graduate Student Committee
Organizer: Richard Barrett, Indiana Univ.–Bloomington
Presider: Stephanie Marie Rushe Chapman, Univ. of Missouri–Columbia
 A roundtable discussion with Bruce Holsinger, Univ. of Virginia; David Perry, Dominican Univ.; Susan Morrison, Texas State Univ.–San Marcos; Sandra Alvares, medievalists.net; and Paul Sturtevant, Smithsonian Institution
My remarks will, in a form, be published as part of a forum with postmedieval, at which point I will have more to say about that. I'm going to talk about the public/private register, what it means when you place yourself in the public one, and the obligation not to force people out of the private without permission.

I will be live-tweeting at least some of the time, and expect others of the medieval twitterati to do likewise. Live-tweeting is still a somewhat contested activity, I think because it changes a conference paper - a medium-stakes activity - into something with a more public and permanent register (the subject of my remarks, too). To defend against inadvertently doing this, I think the live-tweeter needs to limit himself/herself to relaying content, linking to relevant other material, perhaps asking questions, but not assessing the quality of talks on Twitter.

Here's Dorothy Kim from In the Middle - "A person live-tweeting a talk is...not your enemy." Please read it if you are going to Tweet (and her related The Rules of Twitter.) I also recommend reading it if you are concerned about other people Tweeting your talk.

One of the things I like about Kim's first piece, especially, is this:
The peculiar thing is, DH-style, intense live-tweeting reminds me most of medieval commentary practice. As a manuscript specialist, I spend a lot of time looking, reading, transcribing, and thinking about the physical manuscript medium. I am obsessed with the marginal and interlinear glosses and commentary as I am with the main text in a manuscript. If the medieval manuscript is a recording medium that allows scholar now to see the conversations and connected marginal glosses of individual readers, then twitter is the digital medium that replicates this practice the most but with comments all the time and in real time for individual thinkers. And like the medieval manuscripts that many of us work with (though we clearly don’t put in our own marginal commentaries anymore), twitter also records our short, marginal thoughts. Twitter as a medium also allows us to archive and record these conversations (vis-à-vis storify, etc.). For all these reasons, I adore twitter.
I like thinking of a live-tweet as a kind of first-take gloss. But remember that it is just a first take. If you really don't like the paper, if you think the paper is being delivered badly, if things seem disorganized, either close your laptop/ipad/phone or sit on your hands. If you can't tweet something nice (about a conference paper in this specific context), don't tweet anything at all.

And be mindful of power. The worst thing you could do is shame a graduate student or someone on the job market, making your off-the-cuff snark part of their permanent online record.
  • Tweet content: Person says ... 
  • Do not Tweet your personal critiques or make ad hominem remarks
  • Do link/raise questions that might lead off from the talk
  • Do not check your email or read facebook or whatever (it distracts your neighbors, just like students doing the same in your class)
  • For Kzoo, always use con-hashtag and session hashtag. I.e. mine is #kzoo2015 #s115 (this was a mess last year)
See you at the 'zoo!

1 comment:

meg said...

[apologies if this is a repeated post -- the first one vanished when I tried to log in]

I'd add a couple more bullet points:

• Use quotation marks when tweeting direct speech (esp. for lovely phrases that deserve praise).

• Be sure to distinguish the speaker's claims from the questions/ideas that you see arising from them. (I use "me:..." but there are other ways to make this clear.)

• Don't read FB/email/etc., but do watch the session hashtag, and retweet when someone else has said it better than you were about to.

I don't quite agree with the "If you can't say anything nice" dictum. For me, it's more complicated than that. How about this instead:
• Assume that speakers will read your tweets. Don't tweet any critique or commentary that you wouldn't say to them in person.