The Historian’s Toolbox: Twitter

On the first day of class, I encouraged anyone interested in learning more about digital history to create a Twitter account.

To be sure, as Whitney (and Tim Gunn) reminded us today, Twitter alone does not a digital humanist make. But if not everyone on Twitter is a digital humanist, many digital humanists are on Twitter. As Ryan Cordell (@ryancordell) explains in How to Start Tweeting (and Why You Might Want To), “Twitter can help academics make and maintain connections with people in their fields, find out about interesting projects and research, or crowdsource questions and technical problems.” This is especially true in the field of digital humanities.

Consider opening a Twitter account for the purposes of this Masterclass, even if you decide to delete the account at the end of the year. Doing so can be valuable even if you don’t actually tweet. One of the medium’s advantages, as Natalie Houston (@nmhouston) recently put it, is the fact that you can follow conversations even without jumping in.

Here are a few things you can do to make Twitter an effective tool for this course:

  • Follow individual historians. I’m at @wcaleb, and all of our speakers are also on Twitter. (See the schedule for their Twitter handles.) From time to time on this blog I will also mention digital humanists who are on Twitter, as I have in this post and in an earlier one about Cameron Blevins, who is at @historying. Checking the sidebar on this page will introduce you to the accounts of people who are in this class. You can also find historians on Twitter by browsing through this ever-growing list. Once you’ve created an account, you can also look at lists like these that others have created, or you can click on the “Discover” tab, choose “Browse categories,” and then enter “digitalhumanities” in the search box.
  • Follow hashtags. A hashtag is just a keyword preceded by the pound sign, which people put into individual tweets to connect them to larger conversations. So, for this course, follow the hashtag #ricedh. Another good one to try is #twitterstorians.
  • Tweet or retweet interesting finds. If you find an article or a conversation that seems relevant to something from our course, try tweeting or retweeting it, adding the hashtag #ricedh when you do so. That way the tweet will show up on this homepage’s sidebar, and others following our hashtag will see it as well.

If you have questions about Twitter, you’re probably not alone. Just put them in the comments!

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