As Cummings and Jarrett (2013) says: “The late-twentieth century saw a staggering growth of media that permitted people to express themselves without going through traditional gatekeepers such as editors, publishers, or record labels.” Twitter and blogs are such medias.
Twitter seems like a good tool for historians to use for promoting interesting articles, including their own, and for having conversations with other historians or people interested in the same topics as them. Conversations in which they can discuss, help and possibly challenge each other to dig deeper. I saw a lot of short conversations where people shared their knowledge and enthusiasm for different topics or where they tried helping each other with various problems.
According to Elisabeth Grant (2011), there are at least five ways for historians to use Twitter:
- Follow Organizations
- Use Hashtags
- Tweet and Retweet a Conference
- Share Resources
- Search for jobs
She raises some very valid points with everything she’s saying. Like following organizations when going on a research trip to get updates on things such as early closings, the highlights of their collection as well as ask the staff some questions. And using the hashtags to find other historians and ask them questions or to associate yourself to a group.
The third point she raises is one I think everyone can relate to. We all like being kept up to date on certain things. For me it’s television and books while for others it is historic research or something else. Using a specific hashtag for a conference is almost the same as when Comic Con is happening in San Diego and journalists use the #ComicCon or #ComicCon2015 hashtag to update other people on what is going on and what is being said. Tweeting your opinions on a conference or retweeting comments you think are interesting is also an option.
Point number four is about sharing resources in the form of some interesting articles, digitized documents and blogs through common hashtags. I’m not sure I would agree completely with point number 5 as I’m not sure Twitter is the right place to search for jobs though I’m sure you can find a few there if you look.
Elisabeth Grant is not the only one to say that social media and/or blogs should be used by historians. Dan Cohen says “Blogs are just like other forms of writing, such as books, in that there’s a whole lot of trash out there—and some gems worth reading.” I dare say that this is the same for Twitter as you have to be critical of your sources which means following the right organizations or people.
A problem with both blogs and Twitter is that there is a possibility of being anonymous. This is a problem because as historians you need to use reliable sources which you can’t be sure they are if they are anonymous.
Looking at different historians twitter profiles it seems they follow journalists, other historians and authors with some of the same interests as them. Like I mentioned earlier Twitter is a good tool to get people interested or make them aware of your topics and interests, This seems to be what most of the historians do. Posner and Croxall (2011) make a valid point when saying that the more you engage and participate productively with others the higher your profile will be. Some might also use Twitter to get some sort of peer reviews, not necessarily by professionals, though I didn’t see any historians that I found doing that. Peer reviews or commentary from people online can be a good thing as long as those people are critical and not just outright rude when stating opinions. Most people in general, not just historians, are on Twitter to share their enthusiasm of things whether it’d be tv shows, movies, comics, books (academic and fictional) or history.