The 2015 Summer Meeting of the American Sociological Association was held this past weekend in Chicago. It’s a conference primarily dedicated to members of the organization. But, reporters, editors, all manner of professionals in the publishing industry, and more are there as well. For the last few years, I’ve been watching the meetings happen digitally while they occur in “real” time and space as well. Friday through Monday had the most action on twitter.
But, the digital ASA isn’t just about tweet volume. Twitter also has a wealth of data on relationships between various Twitter users. Below, I produced a network diagram that illustrates all of the tweets that used the #ASA15 hashtag during the conference. I colored the nodes to illustrate groupings of Twitter users and scaled nodes (and labels) for size based on how important a given node was within the network. This allows us to see not just who tweeted, but whose tweets were most interacted with.
Others have produced diagrams like these and I’ve always found them captivating. But, some elements are lost in them as well. For instance, we can’t tell time order. The tweets sort of appear to have happened simultaneously in the diagram above. It’s a post-game analysis. And the big players stand out – see below. (Spoiler: I’m not one of them).
But even this doesn’t actually allow us to see how this complex network emerged in real time. The timelapse map below shows the tweet volume we see on the graph at the top and also georeferences the tweets to tell us where the Twitter users were when they were tweeting. You can see the tweeting die down at night and start up again the next day as well.
It is fascinating to see just how much national and international participation there was. Initially, I imagined that folks might start out in different corners of U.S. and abroad, but that most of that activity would collapse into Chicago during the weekend of the conference. But, there’s a lot of digital participation from folks who didn’t attend. I only live tweeted one session. But I was thanked by a few folks who were listening in from far away. I’ve never thought of Twitter as public scholarship in this way before. But, part of what we are doing when we tweet at conferences is helping to open up those ideas and networks to others (scholars unable to attend, students, journalists, and more). I’m still getting used to using Twitter at conferences. But, I’m newly convinced that it’s worth the effort.