Collegiality on the Twitter backchannel

Last week, I read the Thesis Whisperer’s latest post authored by Dr Alexandra Hogan about how to make the most from conferences. Her advice was useful for those attending academic conferences

Conferences are great opportunities to hear scholars in your area of interest, they provide opportunities for valuable face-to-face meetings, and the opportunity to ask others about their research. Conference presenters love questions about their work and research, they get a kick out of knowing that their work is making a difference to others. Moreover, conferences can trigger valuable conversations and participation in research networks.

Just this morning the annual ILTA Edtech Conference got underway  I can’t attend this year but I’m following the conference Twitterstream with envy. Twitter and other forms of social media amplify and extend the energy and critical conversations of a conference.

Lorna Campbell has presented about the amplification of academic events using social media and certainly, at  there is evidence of the messages of presenters reaching a far greater online audience than just those in the physical venue. Thanks to those tweeting Edtechers today, it was great to be in touch with proceedings from afar.

But returning to Alexandra’s points in the Thesiswhisperer post,  attendance at conferences provide opportunities to talk in more depth with other researchers and to extend networks.  Furthermore,  the online conference space is powerful for amplification of conference ideas also.   Participating or peripherally participating on social media platforms such as the Twitter conference backchannel can be beneficial in disseminating conference proceedings, establishing connections with other scholars and starting conversations.

Tips for Tweeting on the backchannel

Some advice from Alexandra’s post can also be related to the conference backchannel on Twitter:

If someone gives a great talk – let them know.However, if you just say to someone ‘I really enjoyed your talk’, they will say ‘oh, thank you’, and the conversation can stall. Instead, link your compliment to your own research.

Similarly, this advice can also be taken on board for the Twitter backchannel: Give compliments but provide reasons why the presentation or research resonated with you, ask questions of others via the backchannel. Remember, the backchannel is an opportunity to extend conference participation, Ask open questions, start conversations.

Be mindful of others on the backchannel

However, we need to bear in mind that presenting a paper is scary enough for most academics and negative tweets may be perceived as trolling.  Therefore, it is necessary to be carefully collegial in comments and questions on the backchannel. That way we build capacity, confidence, and critical thinking in the online space of the conference,  which might contribute to the initiation of trusting relationships and future collaborations.


About Muireann O'Keeffe

I am an educational developer currently working at DCU. I have a passion for researching and evaluating technology that can support and enhance learning. In the past I have taught on Masters programmes (Msc Applied elearning & Postgraduate Diploma in Third level Learning and Teaching) as well as Leadership development programmes.
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