Your Digital Life in 140 Characters

I just recently hopped on Twitter for the first time as part of a conference through UVA’s Institute for the Humanities and Global Cultures. It was a bit rough for the first five or six tweets as I worked out the kinks. Here are some thoughts that came out of the experience.

I am hooked on tweeting conference presentations. I was a bit worried that tweeting would be too distracting during a talk, but I actually found that it made me a better listener. I was forced to listen hard to find discernible takeaways, which helped me to digest the information being thrown at me. Also, it gave me a way to occupy my wandering attention in a productive way. Tweeting also seems like a good way to extend the life of the conference after the proceedings are complete.

On that same note, the SLab crew has had a few conversations about how Twitter interacts with intellectual property. I felt obligated to assign many tweets I made to a particular person, assuming that I was giving credit where it was due. If our labor is intellectual, I wanted to do my best to make sure that I didn’t obscure the architect of a particular idea. I wonder, though, if conference attendees would rather not be held permanently accountable for comments they make during a question and answer session. Is Twitter in this form a form of publishing? Do you need someone’s permission to post their thoughts in the Twitterverse?

I also find Twitter interesting for the amount of access it gives you to people and groups that you might not otherwise be able reach. Tweeting can put you in touch with so many people that would be otherwise inaccessible. It’s really quite incredible – I’ve heard several stories now of people who got jobs or made industry contacts that were completely unexpected simply by shooting some messages out into the ether. I don’t have an personal experience like this just yet, but I will keep you posted.

A question: what is tweeting etiquette – more generally but also in the context of tweeting conference presentations? How many tweets are appropriate? I was averaging five or six tweets per talk, but I noticed that other people tweeting the conference were doing far fewer. I could not help but feel that my loyal followers (all four of you) were being bombarded by my messages about global cultures.

It remains to be seen how much I will tweet in my everyday life, but I think I will use it for conferences from now on. Follow me – @walshbr

Brandon is a 2012-2013 Praxis Fellow and a Ph.D. student in the Department of English. His research focuses on modern and contemporary fiction, especially on Anglophone modernisms and the novel in relation to sound studies and musicology.

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