Professors are beginning to use Twitter at academic conferences to share proceedings with absent colleagues and to create an online “backchannel” for attendees, but the tool can also be distracting and detract from face-to-face communication at events.
Those were the basic findings of a survey of academics at five recent conferences, in research presented this month at the annual EduMedia Conference in Salzburg, Austria. The paper is titled “How People Are Using Twitter During Conferences.”
Though the findings may not surprise anyone who’s seen Twitter in action at recent scholarly events, the paper does provide a good overview and looks at the implications of microblogging for scholarly communication. Though the study’s sample size was small — just 41 people — one of them raised a word of caution not seen in many excited blog posts about the promise of Twitter. “Twitter can be distracting,” the respondent wrote. “For people actually there, they maybe spend more time with their computer or phone than talking to people.” —Jeffrey R. Young