On the matter of twitter, I consider myself a philosophical sceptic with an unfortunate personal compulsion; I feel roughly the way about ‘social media experts’ that Bill Hicks did about people who work in advertising, but this doesn’t mean I don’t also throw my stream of consciousness into the public void.
Tweeting through conferences is getting increasingly popular, and Thomas Söderqvist encouraged it at this week’s European Association of Museums of the History of Medical Science workshop. It was, I think, a qualified kind of success.
On the negative side conference-tweeting tends to be personally distracting (and possibly insulting to a speaker forced to regard an audience gazing deep into their phones and laptops); susceptible to triteness and glib summation rather than reflective thought; and elitist: it excludes from a conversation those without the appropriate technology or ability to cope with distraction.
On the positive side, it provides a kind of collective note-taking, accessible even to those not involved; it provides for an additional, multiplicitous and open conversation, not directed through a chair; and sometimes allows for people not present at the conference but connected to its participants, to join in the conversation and bring new information and perspectives to it.
Despite the fact that only four of us tweeted throughout the conference, and that for half of it there was no wifi available, we did a not not bad job, and towards the end of the conference did indeed begin to get others chipping in, asking what ‘the problem of the medical museum’ was, and questioning our assertions about the situatedness of art.
Thomas has posted a link to the tweets via twitter itself, but twitter’s long-term archive is reputedly flaky. For the record, here is something like a complete transcript [pdf] of all the tweets on #EAMHMS over the course of three days. They were far from the best thing about the workshop, but if you can read in tweets they give an interesting, if inconsistent, overview.