To Twitter or not to Twitter

I thought I would have a go at tweeting when I attended the BSA (British Shakespeare Association) conference at King’s College London and the Globe Theatre in September.  I found it an interesting experience which raised some issues for me, particularly about the usefulness of Twitter.  Twitter is a micro blogging social network which presents an opportunity to post tweets of 140 characters to ‘Friends’.  Friends are not necessarily my friends, but other tweeters who follow me and read my tweets.  Some of  my ‘Friends’ I know and  I’ve met, some are organisations and others I may never ever meet in real life.

A Twitter convention is to use a hash tag (#) and theme the posts.  The obvious thing to do was to include #BSA in tweets, but this was also the tag used by the British Scouting Association.  This meant that there were an interesting mix of tweets from me on the conference and those tweeting about the boy scouts for those looking up #BSA.  Though it feels like a shared Twitter language, there are no ‘official’ rules, and an emerging self regulated etiquette, which makes tweeting a new and sometimes exciting experience, but can also be confusing for the recipient of a tweet.  The test is to use the 140 characters well.  This means that sometimes tweets might not mean as much to an external audience as they might to  the tweeter such as my tweet on the first day,  “Three good papers at start of #BSA conference”, which conveyed no more than my own view on the opening session.

You need to connect to a network or though GPS on mobile equipment, but if a signal can’t be found at a particular moment, a tweet can appear much later than the event on the timeline such as my tweet, ” #BSAThought provoking paper by Rustom Bharucha. Now Shakespeare on Film & TV” which appeared over two hours after the moment it was relevant.  There’s also that sense of doing something quickly so that I could get on with the business of concentrating on the papers at the conference.   This can lead to errors in spelling and grammar.   I notice that a couple of times session lost an ‘s’. 

And I felt conscious of the fact, I was using a mobile phone in a lecture space.  Taking notes with a pen and paper is often read as being engaged, whilst using a mobile phone for note taking or tweeting felt like bad manners, and I felt my activity might be read as being distracted or not interested in what was happening. 

Whilst tweeting, I considered why I was doing this.  What was the function of little posts through a three day event?  Sometimes it felt self indulgent.  I wasn’t sure that I was actually adding to my ‘Freinds’ knowledge of the conference.  However, I felt that it was one way for me to engage in what was happening.  To think about what the conference meant to me at each point I tweeted.  I have a micro blog record of the conference on my own timeline.  The need for me to tweet, rather than others to read my tweets, was probably my rationale.  It was very personal.  Indeed, no one had asked for my tweets or for me to tweet from the BSA conference.  In many ways the experience of tweeting felt far from social but extremely insular.

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