Building a Medieval Studies Community on Twitter: A List

When research I conducted last November on “Social Media Adoption by Medievalists” (slides here) showed that only 18% of scholars who adopted a public social media platform used Twitter, I was a bit surprised. There obviously are many more scholars on Twitter than the 18 people (out of a sample of 146) I discovered. I wanted to find these people and bring them together so I could engage and so others can have a go-to place for seeing what’s happening in the field on Twitter. So, how to accomplish this?

Inspired by Dan Cohen‘s use of his “Digital Humanities” Twitter List as a foundational tool* for the Digital Humanities Now platform for crowdsourcing news and scholarship in that field, I decided to try something similar with Medieval Studies.

I have therefore created a public list called “Medieval Studies” and included (at the time of writing) 524 759 801 Twitter handles.

Who are these Twitter handles??

I have included a mixture of faculty, researchers, graduate students, professional associations, centers and institutes. This is not a list of scholars strictly defined as “faculty” or as “people who publish”: it is academic in focus and intentionally inclusive.

What’s the point?

  1. Anyone interested in seeing what Medievalists are saying on Twitter can simply visit the list website and take a look. It’s available even if you don’t have a Twitter account, so it can be a no-stakes introduction to the platform.
  2. Anyone who has an account can subscribe to the list and keep an eye on it from within their account without having to Follow anyone on it (also, low-stakes).
  3. Both of the above points advocate for the List as a way to “lurk” around the conversation of Medievalists on Twitter. That’s valuable in and of itself. BUT the list can also be a great starting place for participating in conversations with scholars, institutes, and people.

Lurk around at will, but remember that this is meant to be a community-building tool, fueled by connections and conversation.

Here is a screenshot and link to the List:

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 1.10.32 PM

How? From where?

The List was built by looking at THE go-to Medieval Studies association – The Medieval Academy – and looking through all the existing Twitter Lists that included @MedievalAcademy. I then looked at all the other Twitter handles included in the same Lists as @MedievalAcademy and made manual decisions about who to include in my List. These decisions involved scanning descriptions of each handle, occasionally visiting a handle’s feed, and seeing if they were followed by anyone else I followed.

Through this strategy, I built on the work of the approximately 80 people who had created Twitter Lists of varying lengths at some point. To them: Thank You! A special thanks to the @Mittelalterblog Twitter List, of Medievalists, which provided an important supplement (over 200 names!).

I happened to be compiling this List during the annual Medieval Academy meeting, so I also added anyone who tweeted using its hashtag. Since the List has been running, I keep a column of it open in my Tweetdeck and occasionally add a handle that someone on the List retweets if as appropriate. I hope to add more people during the upcoming conference in Kalamazoo. [Update 5/13/14: I kept a column in Tweetdeck open for #kzoo2014 and the ill-fated #kzoo14 and tried to add as many relevant people tweeting from Kalamazoo as possible to the list.]

This is not the most scientific of approaches, and it required a significant amount of manual searching and snap decision making, but it has yielded a substantial list that I hope can grow and be useful to more people than myself.

Please feel free to leave comments or get in touch with me @kmapesy if you want to be added to (or removed from) the List. If anyone knows of a similar endeavor being done elsewhere, please let me know! I don’t expect to be the only one with this idea, and I’d love to collaborate to develop it.

*Dan Cohen’s Digital Humanities Twitter List isn’t used to source content for DHNow any longer, but it served as a point of inspiration in the creation and development of DHNow in 2009. For an explanation of DHNow’s launch, see this post.

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