Twitter Tools

Social media are increasingly becoming interesting tools to use personally and academically, as a subject of research, as a classroom tool, a networking tool, and even as a presentation tool. Here we focus on some articles about and tools designed for using Twitter as an academic. These links, and more, can be accessed at the SSRC’s bookmark page on here:

re/cite: twitter

Storify is a tool that can be used to collect publicly available posts from a variety of social media sites into one interactive timeline to tell a story. Storify is helpful if you want to to recap a conference session, follow a conversation, reactions to a news story, explore a meme, or collect social media information together in one place for presentation. You can embed your story on your website or blog as well.

Donahue is an app that is currently being developed to support an interactive, Twitter-based presentation at a conference. Instead of slides, the app uses “points” which are essentially tweets, though they appear in the projector view as pithy titles/phrases which can be accompanied by images. Each point is published from the presenter’s Twitter account at the same time that they are projected on the screen, with a shortened url pointing to an image, if there is one, and the hashtag for the presentation. The audience (both in the room and elsewhere) can comment on Twitter using the same hashtag, starting a conversation around the presentation that is collected by the app next to the presentation. Here is an example: Donahue is still in development, but you can contact its creators if you’d like to use it in a talk, or sign up for updates either via email or by following @donahueapp on Twitter.

Hootcourse is a tool for creating an “online classroom” using Facebook and Twitter (the latter collected using hashtags). Students and teacher interact using status updates. Tweets can be hidden from your regular Twitter stream, though it’s unclear if the same is true of Facebook posts. Classes can be kept private using a secret URL. An example #Hoot101 is here:

In this article, the authors use Twitter both as a research tool (to query an admittedly non-random sample of Twitter users) and as an object of study. Asking their followers a series of questions about how they use Twitter and who they imagine their audience to be, the authors gain some interesting insights into the different ways that users approach Twitter as a platform, and how they view their audience.

The Archivist allows you to collect and study the results of twitter searches. Unfortunately, the Twitter Terms of Service do not allow you to export the tweets you collect, and if you are studying something hugely popular, you may not get every single relevant tweet. Another downside: The Archivist only collects tweets starting from the 500 most recent posts, so there is no retrospective completeness either.

In April 2010, Twitter donated its archives of public tweets to the Library of Congress for preservation. This blog post from the LOC gives some background information. As of May 2011, no process was in place to provide access to researchers.

Twitterfall allows you to create a search for tweets about a particular subject, or even from a certain area, and tweet from the same page. Highly modifiable, it allows you to preview links, view conversations, and get information on trends. Twitterfall also includes a presentation mode that allows you to display tweets in realtime (say, for a conference session’s hashtag).

Katie Myers, writing a guest post for the column “ProfHacker” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, details the ways that social media tools can be used to enhance a conference experience. Myers introduces the idea of using QR Codes (codes that can be read by some smart phones to send the user to a website for more information) in a poster, using the Twitter “backchannel” before, during, and after the conference for networking and to get a fuller view of the conference proceedings. Though brief and rather perfunctory, this is a good place to start if you’re not sure whether or how social media tools like Twitter are relevant to academic work.


Author: Jessica Speer

As the Research Specialist at SSRC, Jessica edits re/search, consults with faculty, and conducts SSRC research projects. She is interested in questions of information management, preservation, communication, and dissemination.

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