Australian History Conference Generates Record Twitter Stream

The Twitter stream from the 2017 annual Australian Historical Association conference at the University of Newcastle last week broke the records. The conference’s #OzHA2017 Twitter stream had more tweets and more participants than in the previous five years.

During the five days of this year’s conference at the University of Newcastle sent over four thousand tweets. This online reporting of the conference enables interested people from around the world to follow the latest work of historians living in Australia.

Bar graph

Number of tweets sent using the #OzHA hashtag during the annual Australian Historical Association conferences.
^ Includes RTs and duplicate tweets

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Blogging the 2016 Australian Historical Association Conference

A mural on yellow background with red woman and black hair holding a yellow 7 pointed star. Ballarat with large black letters and "The past is history" in red underneath.

The History Council of Victoria tweeted: “New mural in Ballarat – ‘The past is history’ – a farewell message for #OzHA2016 perhaps? Thx for a good conference!”

Social media has transformed conferences. No longer are conferences a private experience which might be shared months or years later when some papers are published. Live reporting of conferences on Twitter has gone a long way to enlarging the audience of a conference to interested people around the world. Where conference attendees are particularly engaged on Twitter the conversation on the back channel can add another dimension to the discussion in the conference venue.

Yet, as I noted in my last post about the Twitter stream from the recent conference of the Australian Historical Association, the immediate and abbreviated nature of the tweet severely limits the depth of reporting through that platform. Twitter also uses an abbreviated form of language that can be tricky for the uninitiated to understand. Longer-form reporting in the form of blog posts is indispensable for the comprehensive coverage of the conference.

Good blogging is not easy and it is particularly difficult to do during a conference. Ideally a blogger will attend sessions during the day, then in the evening write an accurate and fair post ready to publish before the start of sessions the next day. It is not easy. I have blogged several conferences and usually finish writing some time after midnight. By the end of a week-long conference a blogger will be quite sleep deprived. Usually I book an extra night in my accommodation and spend the next day reading in bed to recover.

We were fortunate that the highly regarded history blogger, Janine Rizzetti attended the Australian Historical Association conference in Ballarat. Rizzetti has been blogging at The Resident Judge of Port Phillip for eight years. She has been a prolific blogger throughout her PhD (she is now Dr Rizzetti) and has blogged several conferences including the 2013 Australian Historical Association conference in Wollongong. Continue reading

Tweeting the 2016 Australian Historical Association Conference

Street lamp in foreground with powerlines and buildings behind it obscured by a blanket of fog. The sun is a bright ball peeking weakly through the fog.

Conference tweeps shared a lot of photos and comments about the bleak Ballarat weather…
@AuthorClaireG tweeted about a conference excursion, “Off to the Springdallah goldfields on a very foggy morning!” The weather was drab in Ballarat last week, but this week it snowed.

Last week there was a flurry of Australian history tweeting emanating from Ballarat in Victoria. The 2016 annual conference of the Australian Historical Association was held in the old gold city and over three hundred presenters from universities, galleries, libraries, archives, museums and small businesses talked all things history.

I have attended the last four conferences, but not this year. I was one of those who following the conference twitter stream from afar. At times it was too easy to get drawn into the twitter stream and distracted from what I was supposed to be doing!

In previous years I have given an overview of the conference Twitter stream. I was particularly enthusiastic last year with three posts: the numbers and people in 2015, Twitter themes in 2015, top retweets in 2015. Also see the social media overview for 2013. So how was the 2016 conference reported on Twitter?

This year over two hundred people and organisations sent tweets using the conference hashtag, #OzHA2016. This is great. The more people tweeting the more likely we are to get a good coverage of the conference and a diversity of views. The list of people tweeting using the conference hashtag naturally includes a few people who only tweeted once or twice. I noted last year that the 2015 conference twitter stream was dominated by eleven voices contributing 76% of the tweets. This was in line with the conference twitter stream in 2013. I was delighted to see that this year a lot more people were responsible for this percentage of tweets. Thirty-nine people/organisations contributed 77% of the conference tweets.

It is in this context that we should consider the total number of conference tweets. This year saw fewer tweets than the conference last year. Between the conference start on Monday 4th July and the conference end on Friday there were 1,724 tweets sent compared to 2,625 tweets last year. There was some confusion at the beginning of the conference about the conference hashtag which would have led to some conference tweets not being counted, but I would argue that the fact that the top eleven tweeters were not dominating the tweets anywhere near as much as last year made this year’s conference hashtag a valuable one for people following afar. Continue reading

Heritage Leads First Day of #OzHA2016 Conference Papers

It is on again! One of the largest annual history conferences in Australia is being held all this week in Ballarat at Federation University of Australia. Over three hundred historians and associated professionals from galleries, libraries, archives, museums (GLAM) sector will present papers about the ‘Boom and Bust’ of history.

I have attended the last four conferences but not this year. I will be following the proceedings from afar via the #OzHA2016 hashtag on Twitter. So this post relies on information provided by people at the conference via tweets, the conference program and other material available online. I will be interested in comments from conference participants about whether I have conveyed it correctly.

Head and shoulders of Adam Wilkinson

Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage.

This morning the day started with a provocative plenary session by the Director of Edinburgh World Heritage, Adam Wilkinson. ‘The Death of the Moral Prerogative: Why Bother with Urban Conservation’ he asked? I have copied some of his comments as reported by historians listening to the presentation.

Firstly Wilkinson critiqued ‘heritage’ as it has been practised over past decades:

Then Wilkinson talked about a new approach to heritage:

Wilkinson said heritage is all about community:

And a new acronym I learned today – HUL:

You can read more about the Historic Urban Landscape approach on the UNESCO website. There is also a website for the Historic Urban Landscape of Ballarat which you can explore.

As I am writing this I am getting distracted by the subsequent sessions about heritage. There are many papers on urban and regional histories at the conference and it sounds like there is a big effort in the heritage sector to engage many more people in the community in heritage matters. Hopefully this will lead to heritage being part of the living present, not just a mausoleum of the past. The Gold Museum at Ballarat reported that around six thousand people were involved in recent heritage consultations in Ballarat.

Tomorrow afternoon there will be a plenary on urban and regional history, titled ‘Centering the City: Spaces of Practice in Australian Urban and Regional History’. In the late morning of Thursday another plenary session will look at museums. ‘The changing nature of museums: booming, busting, or what?’ should be an interesting session. With the help of presenters from the GLAM sector and other historians, some of the issues surrounding public history are a feature of this year’s conference. Continue reading

The Loud Sounds of Many Fingers Typing

Lush garden in front, deciduous tree in centre in front of 2 storey old building

My favourite, quiet courtyard at University of Sydney

This series of posts has largely celebrated the tweeting of this year’s Australian Historical Association Conference. Overall we did well at sharing the news of the conference online. But while we should celebrate our achievements, we should at the same time keep a sense of proportion on all this. Twitter is not everything and neither is social media. The vast majority of conference attendees did not send a tweet and are probably not on Twitter at all. However, as I wrote in my last post, historians who are not on Twitter also benefit from tweeting.

But for at least one attendee, the use of computers during conference sessions detracted from their conference experience. After the conference they shared their less than ideal experience with me. They noted that I had referred to “soft tapping of numerous keyboards” from people tweeting at the Global Digital Humanities Conference in an earlier post. This historian said that in their view the sounds of people typing was not ‘soft’ but so loud that they found it quite distracting. They said that they didn’t feel comfortable raising this during the comfortable as they didn’t want to upset people or cause the issue to mushroom into a controversy. Continue reading