After hearing Jeffrey Cohen’s talk on “Blogging and Social Media” in which he referred to blogging as “so 2005,” I initially felt a little foolish about just beginning one for this class. I had not thought myself to be old and out of touch, but was I so unforgivably behind in the times that I could never break into the seemingly overwhelming “digital humanities”? I myself, having little knowledge of the many acronyms used during the symposium, could have felt that DH was a field that I could never break into.
Though of course technology was a thread in all of the symposium panels, the themes that emerged most strongly for me were those of pedagogy, collaboration, and community. Without working within the false dichotomy of “analog or digital,” nearly all of the presenters stressed the importance of digital technology as a tool in addition to the “traditional” modes of scholarship. In panels like “Digital Pedagogy” and “Joint Enterprises,” the beginnings for digital projects were formed at traditional conferences, one of which being the fairly conventional Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo. This realization of being able to integrate digital technologies into my somewhat analog existence was incredibly comforting and exciting for my future in this field, and confirmed for me that the project I have been considering doing for this class would be a lovely entree into the digital humanities.
However, there was one aspect of the conference (and a potential aspect of DH) that I was slightly troubled by and would love to discuss further: the live Twitter feed. While I understand the premise of live tweeting and its benefits for moment-to-moment conversation and the generating of ideas, I was a bit concerned by some of the tweets that I saw on the live feed. This was the first conference that I had attended following the Twitter feed and taking part in it myself (my “handle” is @maebemollyfunke if you are interested!).
While most tweets were fairly innocuous (providing play-by-plays) or thinking through possibilities raised during a particular talk, there were some tweets that seemed very critical of the current presenter speaking. By bringing this up, I suppose what I am wondering is if the digital medium of tweeting is perhaps one that needs to be revisited and explored, particularly during conferences. How fair is it to the speaker presenting if those in the audiences are seemingly having a separate conversation about the issues of their paper? Does that inhibit the seeming purpose of live tweeting, to promote community and lively discussion that the conference perhaps does not have room for? If a tweet is 140 characters or less, do authors of tweets unwittingly become harsh critics? While musing on these ideas after the conference, I saw this article (perhaps ironically) via Twitter and Prof Hacker by Ryan Cordell that I think might be helpful to our discussion. Certainly something that might be helpful for the future, if nothing else!