Mark Dunn reports on the PHA NSW CPD event for May, Social Media for the Cautious Historian, conducted by Yvonne Perkins. This was a welcome, hand-holding guide through the world of social media and what it offers to historians, many of whom have been a bit slow on the uptake of these new means of communication. Consequently we have missed the advantages and opportunities that sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in and WordPress can offer.
A quick survey of the twelve attendees found that while about half the room was using social media in some format, no-one was overly confident they were utilising it to its full capacity. For the rest of us who weren’t on it at all, it was a case of feeling it had passed us by or wasn’t particularly relevant.
So why should historians be on social media? Isn’t it mainly for footballers to keep us up-to -date about their latest indiscretion or for teenagers to post things they will later regret?
No it’s not (as it turns out).
Social media gives us, as historians, the opportunity to connect to a new and ever-growing audience, locally, nationally and internationally. Historians are communicators and educators; we want to tell other people about our research and publicise our work and the work of our compatriots.
With this in mind, social media is now an essential tool in the communication process and a space where more historians’ voices are needed.
Of course the PHA NSW has been on board for a little while now with the PHA blog and the members’ profile sections of the website. So this is where we started. First was an opportunity for people in the room to update their profile. The website is for many, the first point of contact with us as historians so a snappy profile is professionally a good idea. If you are reading this and haven’t updated your profile through the members section of the website, get cracking!
The second session was devoted to Twitter and Facebook. Yvonne talked us through the Twittersphere and its great strengths for historians as an international web of contacts and information.
Twitter is all about the conversation. For historians this can be fantastic and with a growing number of historians in Australia and overseas getting on Twitter, the conversation gets more interesting.
There are some things to be wary of. Twitter is about support and generous acknowledgement of other people’s information and talents, so best not to talk about yourself too much, or go on about your Sunday café brunch, or get involved in tit-for-tat arguments, at least not if you are wanting to use it for professional purposes.
Workshop participants set up Twitter accounts left right and centre and tweets were flying by 3pm!
Sadly, so engrossed had we become that we ran out of time for Facebook . Never mind, we can organise another CPD to cover that later.
For those keen to explore, Yvonne has put a series of instructions, Twitter links, Facebooking historians and bloggers on the PHA website in the members section. Go to http://www.phansw.org.au/members-section/cpd-18th-may/
Thanks to Yvonne and Laila for organising the event and Paul Ashton for getting us the computer lab at UTS.