January 9, 2012

Lessons from Live-Tweeting the AIA

As an experiment, I decided to live-tweet all the papers I attended at the Archaeological Institute of America conference this past weekend.  Tweeting of conferences has become more popular recently, and several people tweeted from last April's AAPA meeting and the 2010 AAA meeting I attended.  I was surprised, then, that so few people at the AIA/APA - which had record-breaking attendance, with over 3,200 people there - were tweeting.

So what does live-tweeting a paper look like?  Here's a Storify link to my tweeting of the paper on lead burials at Gabii:

Cool, huh?  You obviously don't get to see the pictures I did while in the audience, but the highlights of the paper are all there, and you can search for the Gabii Project and find out more.

But live-tweeting wasn't easy.  The main barrier to live-tweeting was internet access.  Since I had free wifi access in my room, the lobby, and hallway/common areas of the conference hotel, I thought it would be simple to tweet from my laptop.  The Marriott's setup, though, was to have a completely different - and blocked - wireless network for the meeting rooms than for the rest of the hotel, and the AIA did not pay to give us all access.  This meant that I could get on the hallway wifi in only one meeting room, so for the majority of the talks, I was tweeting on my not-very-smart phone with a Twitter app that doesn't even count the number of characters I've typed.

Another problem was that, even though the AIA has a Twitter account (@Archaeology_AIA), it was only broadcasting announcements that could be found in the program, not engaging in any sort of interaction with its followers and not re-tweeting those of us who were discussing papers or encouraging people to follow us.  While it's totally fair to use Twitter as a one-to-many broadcast system, that use pattern doesn't harness the full potential of the platform.

At the outset, only four of us were tweeting papers: me (@BoneGirlPhD), Darius Arya (@SaveRome), Tom Elliott (@Paregorios), and Francesca Tronchin (@Tronchin).  After we started tweeting in earnest, we were joined by others like Tim Phin (@TimothyPhin), @Austin_Hoya, and Sylvia Deskaj (@SylviaDeskaj), and the occasional tweets by others in attendance.  Even if we estimate that a dozen people contributed at least one #aiaapa-hashtagged tweet, that's still not even close to 0.5% of the conference attendees interacting through Twitter!

After a day of tweeting, I met up with Tom and Darius and we discussed ways the AIA could encourage tweeting in the future.  We also had online conversations about this with the Rogue Classicist (@RogueClassicist), and we were thanked repeatedly by people who couldn't attend the conference but still wanted to keep up on the latest developments in their field:

So this is just a quick post and a couple quick Storify links, but I wanted to point out to the AIA and others that:

  1. people who can't come to the conference appreciate the information they are getting from attendees;
  2. many of those people will come to the conference next year;
  3. a greater dialogue has been created not just between me and others in my field, but among presenters, attendees, and those who couldn't come; and
  4. the openness of Twitter means that information is being disseminated to researchers outside the field of classical archaeology and to the general public.  
These are all good things.

Please make wifi available to all conference attendees next year, AIA/APA, and encourage all classicists to engage in outreach with a larger audience through Twitter, blogs, and other forms of social media.


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