I wake up and instead of logging into Facebook or opening my email, first I open Twitter. I immediately click on “connect” which to me is the most powerful aspect of Twitter.

The serendipitous discoveries of “hey s/he knows hir” are the best part of Twitter, and indeed yesterday I learned that the always entertaining @janniaragon (who I found through the ever insightful and mad-networking @adelinekoh who encouraged me to write this post, who I found via who knows who maybe @KarenAlexander? but is connected to a chain of other tweeps I knew from IRL including @MargoHThompson ) tweeted a link to @awsamuel, who coincidentally wrote the introduction to an anthology I edited. While I slept into the conversation jumped @AnnDouglas and now I’m following and being followed by someone I’d never have met IRL.

“Connecting the dots” is not only affirming (the entire time I edited that book I wondered if it would ever get read) but also profoundly important to understanding how academia works in the 21st century. Panels get formed, books promoted, and job ads spread. #PhdChat and #gradtalk create huge support networks, and mentoring occurs, and not just for grad students either. Check out the upcoming #femlead chat as well, sponsored by the wonderful @UVenus [n.b. if you are in grad school and don’t tweet, START. I’ve been shocked to stumble upon conference papers that looked interesting, only to check twitter to find NADA from the author!]

Most significant for my introduction to the digital humanities, however, is the way ideas get fleshed out via Twitter. As a neophyte digital humanities person, the influence of tweeps has been the single greatest factor in developing my thoughts on how to “do” digital humanities (and digital history, as I teach both history and in an interdisciplinary Women’s and Gender Studies program). I read, RT, and follow, absorbing ideas, pondering their implications for my work and teaching and then eventually write a blog post about it. My recent @Connect is full of people who have graciously favorited or RT a recent blog post I wrote about the concept of curation in the digital humanities.  The fabulous @ErnestoPriego has, as usual, drawn my attention to something I’ve missed, in this case an event about DJ as curators that I’ve integrated into my original.

I’m still struggling to figure out how to acknowledge this process, as revealed by this tweet the other day.

I know how to leave a footnote footprint that traces the sources that influenced by writing, but twitter comes in way earlier, in the formation of the ideas that make it on to paper.

So for example, @triproftri, who always has something FAB to say, posted about “big data” from a feminist perspective. I’d already become aware that I’m too small to reinvent the wheel and need to leverage an existing source. Having already worked with Women and Social Movements, and encouraged by @Jmcclurken, whose work I always admire, to try text mining, I’m now trying to figure out if there is a way for me and my students to learn using WASM already-digitized texts.

As I’ve been wondering how I can “do digital” someplace small, I’ve made connections with scholars at colleges in the @SEPCHE1 consortium. @Docmcgrain and I are discussing how we might be able to collaborate using Philadelphia as our “text.”  I also follow a range of Philadelphia area scholars and institutions that provide me with a virtual network of colleagues to supplement the very small faculty at my home institution (@rosemontcollege).

Just looking at the last 24 hours of my @connects reveals the myriad ways Twitter is facilitating my life as a scholar. I’ve thanked @AnnaPerez, far off in my home town of Los Angeles, who while tweeting recently from NACCS reminded me of an art historian I met while lecturing in California this fall. Her conference paper topic overlapped with something I’m writing now, so I emailed it off to her to get comments. Without @AnnaPerez tweeting I’d never have known about her most recent work. The backchannel at scholarly conferences is particularly useful to someone like me who doesn’t have the $ or time to attend. I’ve a recent tweet from @Americasstudies, a fellow scholar of Chicana art far off in Ireland, who I’m looking forward to exchanging ideas and work with. Archives, @artist_space @AHAhistorians, and other institutions have replied to my tweets as well.

I’ve still got much to learn about the digital humanities and digital history, and I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of tools like hypercities and omeka, but so far it has all been a fabulous ride. As a “mid-level” scholar I’d encourage others to jump on in. It is well worth the short steep learning curve to participate!

* of course it isn’t all work I’ve got funny interaction from my students, who primarily keep in touch during this sabbatical year via twitter, tons of updates from my activists students, lot of information about feminist events and art world happenings which are scholarly/personal interests.

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