Monday, January 11, 2010

Twitter and the Higher

You know how everyone says that you shouldn't post anything online that you would not want to see published in a national newspaper? Well, I do try to keep that handy advice in mind, but it works both ways. There are times when you might want to post something online in order to get it into the papers.

Last week, a short article appeared in the Times Higher which was the result of a conversation on Twitter. The conversation occurred during a paper session at the Society for Research on Higher Education's annual conference in December. Professor Leathwood was presenting a paper in which she showed examples of photographs used by the Times Higher to illustrate their stories. She effectively argued that photographs of young, pretty, female students are more noticeable than pictures of academic women looking authoritative and, well, academic.

A very lively discussion ensued in which the audience members largely agreed that the Times Higher might pay more attention to how they portray women (especially after they published that awful piece on 'Lust' by Terence Kealey). During this discussion I sent a 'tweet' to the Times Higher, knowing that they are keen Twitter users and would be interested to hear that we were discussing them. They engaged in a brief conversation with me and as this all occurred during the paper session I was able to feed back to the audience their comments.

Much laughter was generated by the following tweet from @timeshighered:

@kellycoate: can you tell us what you think a serious authoritative academic woman looks like? The editor is happy to give you comments

It was fun engaging with the paper this way (and fortunate that they were game) but it also helped attune many conference attendees to the potential uses of Twitter. Two of the audience members in the session were keynote speakers at the conference, and they were sufficiently impressed to mention the tweeting as a highlight of the conference during a final panel session. I had been hoping that the resulting article would at least mention the Twitter conversation, but maybe the Times Higher is saving that for their big feature story on the uses of Twitter in academic conferences. I must just go tweet @timeshighered my ideas for that story . . .

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