The #twitterstorians archives and the OHA

The main part of the proposal I submitted to the Open Humanities Awards went something like this:

Since late 2011 I have been archiving tweets containing a range of hashtags used by historians on Twitter. (Some are accessible online at The largest hashtag archives are #twitterstorians (c.30,000 tweets) and #histsci (c.20,000), alongside smaller ongoing collections such as #earlymodern and #OzHst, and archives for conferences and events (eg, both #AHA2012 and #AHA2013). These archives represent important data about the work and experiences of historians in the digital age, and this project will help to further humanities research in two ways.

Firstly, it will analyse and visualise the archives, exploring the ways in which historians have been using Twitter to connect among themselves and to engage with public audiences; and, secondly, it will create a ‘toolkit’ which will provide resources for using, researching and teaching with Twitter.

Research questions will include:
*who is using the hashtags and for what purposes. What does the #twitterstorians’ network look like? What are they talking about?
*how use varies between hashtags (eg, #twitterstorians might contain a high proportion of questions and conversations, while #histsci or #earlymodern might be more link-focused), and ways in which different hashtags are combined
*the use of ‘live tweeting’ at conferences and how it opens up discussion around previously quite closed academic spaces

The research will be blogged on the site as well as written up for more formal academic presentations.

The toolkit will include:
*a collaborative resource for information on collecting and analysing Twitter data, focusing on open source tools and options which are likely to be particularly useful for humanities researchers (this may be in a wiki format, a discussion/Q&A forum, or a mix of both)
*search and visualisation tools for the hashtag archives on the website

I hope that some of this will happen over the next year or so, whatever happens with the OHA. I’m particularly interested in analysing the #twitterstorians archive to find out more about how it’s being used as an informal social network, and looking more closely at the conference archives in the hope that they will provide useful evidence about the real benefits of live-tweeting events and whether there’s any basis for the anxieties that this activity seems to generate.

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