It’s been a week and I still haven’t gotten my own reflections written about ScienceOnline2011 – what author Scott Huler called “the South by Southwest of science communications conferences” (News & Observer, 16th Jan 2011).
One goal of the conference was to be as inclusive as possible by livestreaming several of the sessions online and encouraging liberal use of the Twitter hashtag, #scio11, for meeting commentary and follow-up discussions. For me, a local who attended but missed parts of the meeting owing to work and family commitments, the hashtag was helpful. In fact, the tweets that continue are also useful in thinking not only about next year’s conference but also in now implementing ideas and skills we all learned.
However, there is a certain sense of exclusion in going on and on about the meeting for those not in attendance – a feeling I used to get after missing an episode of Saturday Night Live in high school and coming into class on Monday feeling totally out of the loop as my friends carried on about the best skits (this was the 1970s and early 1980s with most of the original cast). So, I understand when my dear friend and colleague DrugMonkey wrote:
(DM also wins my prize for coining “pre-charounds” to describe the anticipatory discussions ongoing with the #scio12 hashtag.)
While Brother Drug has been quite active in using Twitter at scholarly society meetings such as the Society for Neuroscience, his co-blogger, PhysioProf, abhors Twitter – this was his response when someone signed him up for Twitter.
PP recently wrote a very thoughtful post on the general topic at his own blog entitled, “Twitter and Scholarly Discourse.” Therein, Comrade PhysioProf discusses a post at Roxie’s World on the use of Twitter at the recent MLA meeting where 3,000 (43%) of the 7,000 tweets were dominated by just ten users.
For comparison, What The Hashtag?! tells us that the #scio11 hashtag counts 5,800 tweets as of this morning with about 1,400 (24%) from the top 10 users. However, 467 (8% of total) of these were from the Blogfather, Bora Zivkovic. Therefore, I conclude from these data and additional information at WTH that Twitter use was far more widespread among attendees and included substantial discussion outside of those present: the #scio11 hashtag was used by 1,009 accounts but only 300 people were at the meeting.
Nevertheless, PhysioProf holds forth in his inimitable manner about how Twitter is a threat to contemplation:
First, I believe that it–like Facebook–is deeply destructive of the mental operation of contemplation. The entire intrinsic structure of the medium is 100% oriented towards MORE, FASTER, BRIEFER, SUPERFICIALER communication. It is about collecting: friends, links, retweets, followers, hashtags, etc, and not about describing, explaining, or contemplating. It is about avoiding deep thought, not embracing it.
Indeed, I agree that the immediacy of the medium does sometimes detract from my comprehension and contemplation in some ways. While I’m not among the top 10 users of the hashtag, I did intentionally shut off Tweetdeck during some of the meeting to just simply experience it. I had my flipcam with me for all activities but took no videos, even of those friends I have longed to meet. I have a total of perhaps 30 photographs. In fact, I’ve recently taken to just leaving the gadgets at home – most recently leaving my camera at home during a snorkling trip to Key West with PharmKid and PharmGirl, MD – simply because I wanted to be mindful and in the moment of the experience with them.
But, then again, the real-time tweeting helped me keep tabs on concurrent sessions and see what others found were important points in the session that I was attending. The continued tweeting has also been valuable to view subsequent contemplative blogposts from others about the sessions (something I need to do once I get some work stuff out of my way).
I know that many of our readers here at PLoS Blogs were not in attendance at ScienceOnline2011. But whether you were at the conference or not, how do you feel about use of the #scio11 hashtag – during the meeting and/or now in the wake of the conference?
As for me, I’ll be tweeting the link to this post as soon as I press, “Publish.”