Today I created my first Twitter account in the middle of reading a course assignment, http://webwriting.trincoll.edu/engagement/wright-2013/. During the setup, I picked a few accounts to follow, but quickly ‘unfollowed’ them. WTMJ4 must tweet ten times per second! The two entertainment personalities tweeted nonsense. All that’s left is a few people I know personally, my professor, and some theater and tourism sites in the Milwaukee area.
The author of the article provided some good examples for using this tool to teach journalism students. The more interesting examples centered around the students tweeting individually with a shared hashtag, which turned it into a group event. The students all attended the same basketball game, commenting and responding to each others’ commentary. As journalism students, their education focuses on observing events around them and documenting them in real time. I can see how Twitter helps with that.
How does Twitter help historians? The author suggests using Twitter to assign a research topic to history students and then asking them to tweet their findings. Another idea was to review a historical debate conducted on Twitter and use that discussion to support an argument. I’m not so sure a debate in the cloud provides strong argument of much, other than their are strong differences of opinion in interpreting a particular topic.
How useful is this for historians aspiring to pursue their profession outside of academia? I’m curious if any of my classmates can see value in Twitter for Public Historians? Although I can see it as a way to ‘market’ museum events, my imagination fails me beyond this.
What is Twitter? Who is the audience? What are the behavior’s of the audience? What is the motivation to find and follow tweets produced by historians? Is it more useful as a group activity, engaging people in something that is event-related with some time limits, such as the basketball game example? Is it a way for people to stay informed about organization or topics that interest them? Do people want to get lots of tweets every day on the same topic? Do people spend a lot of time on Twitter? How do they find the tweets that matter?I haven’t used it and I don’t have a sense for how or why people become engaged in this digital tool.
I use and enjoy Facebook, but I’m having trouble ‘getting’ Twitter. If you use and like Twitter, please let me know how you find it useful for students and teachers of history and other history professionals. I want to have an open mind on this, but I’m not sold yet.