#DH2018 and #DH2019 Twitter Archive Counts. A Comparison

Background

My interest in documenting the scholarly activity on Twitter using conference hashtags is not new; for the digital humanities I have been looking into it since 2010. Searching on this blog or googling related keywords may throw some results to those interested in background. I have been archiving conference hashtag archives for a while now, often depositing them as part of the scholarly record, blogging and giving workshops about my objectives and methdologies, etc.

I like sharing results in real time while conferences are taking place or shortly after. Therefore any results shared are always-already provisional, perfectible, and unfinished. I have always believed that a signal is better than no signal or having to wait 3 years for one, therefore I insist in sharing any quick insights that I can get rather than not sharing them at all or having to wait until I miraculously find the time to do it differently (which I am not likely to, so I’d rather take any opportunity I have to share something). Hopefully someone finds it helpful in some way.

Once again I have also been critical of the metrication of scholarly activitiy so the fact that I share quantitative data from the archives collected does not mean I think this metrication is always-already something to aspire to or that it means anything in particular. I see it as an ethnographic means to document the existence of scholarly activity on Twitter around academic conferences in specific fields, and perhaps as an entry point to assess academic and public engagement on Twitter with academic hashtags and the events they represent, and/or possibly any increase or decrease or transformations in this type of activity on Twitter. For example, it is possible to gain insights of Twitter user settings preferences, as in the case of the language users have set up, as I looked into this post on user_lang in #DH2018 tweets.

The Methods

The metrics compared here are the result of a double method of collection as a means to ensure the validity of the collected data. I used a Python script to collect both archives, and then set the parameters as those for archives I collected using TAGS (see Priego 2018). Even if the collected data still needs to be refined, when the counts are the same or very semilar I get a degree of certainty the data collected via TAGS from the Twitter Search API is close to being as reliable as it could be.

For 2018 and 2019 I managed to get the settings and timings right to achieve what looks like a complete set of #DH2018 and #DH2019 tweets. Below I share a comparative table where the main metrics can be compared. As indicated in the table, it must be noted that there are important differences in mainly a) the number of days before and after the conference days included in the archive and b) the number of days each conference was held on according to their respective web pages / programmes (I seem to remember the Mexico City conference had activities at least one day prior to the date indicated on the main web site but I may be misremembering- need to check).

The Basic Counts

Needless to say most interesting or useful insights from looking at these archives would be qualitative data and not necessarily quantitative data as the one presented here. The RTs and @ replies stats can give an indication of the level of interaction in between accounts, and the number of accounts tweeting with each hashtag each year could be seen as an indication of the interest in the conference or hashtag (this indication may be misguiding due to spamming or confusion due to hashtag overlap, and of course one would need to know which accounts are included and not included in each one).

There is a series of analyses that can be run with the full data collected and I hope that now that I have a more solid longitudinal dataset of yearly archives I may be able to do that with more roubstness soon. In the meanwhile then, for what they are worth here are the main archive stats compared for last year and this year.

 

#DH2018 #DH2019 Notes
First conference day according to programme 26/06/2018 08/07/2019
Last conference day according to programme 29/06/2019 12/07/2019
First Tweet Collected in Archive 24/06/2018 06:19 29/06/2019 02:13 Local conference time zone
Last Tweet Collected in Archive 30/06/2018 06:17 14/07/2019 22:56 Local conference time zone
Days collected 6 days 16 days
Number of collected tweets (includes RTs) 13858 14101 Data might require refining and deduplication
In Reply Ids 564 1091
In Reply @s 747 812
Number of links 4312 9061
Number of RTs 8656 8650 Estimate on occurrence of RTs
Number of unique accounts 2329 2157
Conference location Mexico City, Mexico Utrecht, the Netherlands
Priego, E. (2019): #DH2018 and #DH2019 Twitter Archive Counts. Summary Comparative Data Table. figshare. Dataset. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.8918810

 

Insights

Even if I collected #DH2019 during a longer period (ten days more than the #DH2018 archive), there were fewer unique user accounts using #DH2019 than #DH2018. And taking into account the #DH2019 archive included more collection days and therefore more opportunity for interactions, the #DH2019 archive showed more replies, mentions and links than the #DH2018 one. The number of tweets and RTs in both archives (again, taking into account the differences in collection days) remained very close. It could be argued the Twitter activity does not indicate an increment nor reduction in engagement (as manifested through tweets or RTs) with the conference hashtag, while showing that this year fewer accounts participated. What follows is refining and deduplicating the data if required, in order to limit the archives to the same data collection timings, revise the initial insights, and then perform qualitative text and account analysis in order to determine amongst other things if any differences in unique accounts using the hashtag were relevant to the field, or were simply bots or other unrelated accounts like spam bots. That qualitative refining could give us greater certainty about any changes in the demographic engaging with the conference hashtags over the years. This needs to be done carefully and following ethical standards.

A Polite Request

If you are interested in this same topic and you read this please do not disregard this output only because it’s not been published in a peer-reviewed journal. If you get any type of inspiration or value or motivation from this post, my tweets about it or any other blog posts about Twitter archiving, please do cite these outputs- not only is it good academic practice but a way for us to know about other responses to the same issues and to continue building knowledge together.

References

Priego, E. (2018) Archiving Small Twitter Datasets for Text Analysis: A Workshop Tutorial for Beginners. figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.6686798
Priego, E. (2019): #DH2018 and #DH2019 Twitter Archive Counts. Summary Comparative Data Table. figshare. Dataset. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.8918810

 

#DHDiversity: A Searchable Archive and a Quick Comment from Afar

The Digital Humanities 2016 conference is taking place in Kraków, Poland, between Sunday 11 July and Saturday 16 July 2016. #DH2016 is the conference official hashtag.

Today from 11:30am to 1:00pm local time the panel titled “Quality Matters: Diversity and the Digital Humanities in 2016” was chaired by Amy Earhart and included presentations by Alex Gil, Roopika Risam, Barbara Bordalejo, Isabel Galina, Lorna Hughes, and Melissa Terras.

After the lunch break second Diversity panel, titled “Boundary Land: Diversity as a defining feature of the Digital Humanities”, took place from 2:30 to 4:00 pm. It was chaired by Isabel Galina RussellBarbara Bordalejo, Padmini Murray Ray, Gimena del Rio and Elena González-Blanco.

These sessions were discussed on Twitter with the additional #dhdiversity hashtag (as with hashtags so far, case not sensitive).

As I’ve been doing since 2010 I have been following the backchannel closely and collecting some of the Twitter data around the conference.

If you are interested I have already shared an archive of #dh2016 tweets from Sunday 10, Monday 11 and Tuesday 12 July 2016. This dataset is likely to require deduplication, refining etc. https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.3484817.v1.

I have also been collecting, separately, tweets tagged with #dhdiversity. I have shared a live searchable archive of all #dhdiversity tweets, enabled by Martin Hawksey’s TAGS, here: http://goo.gl/P1i7Ii.

Screenshots of #dhdiversity archive visualisations taken as the second panel was ongoing show a lively activity:

#DHDiversity as of 2016-07-13 at 14.58.45 GMT.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 15.16.30

The stream of #dhdiversity tweets reflects important points regarding ‘diversity’ and representation that many of us in fields interconnected with the digital humanities have been raising for a while, informally with colleagues but also in committees and Special Interest Groups, in blog posts and tweets, in listservs, articles and conference presentations.

I wanted to add a quick personal note here. First of all I wanted to say that my own personal experience within digital humanities has been that of an inclusive, open-minded, respectful field. I think it is a field/set of scholarly communities that consciously reflects on the ethical, political, economic, intellectual challenges of representation and diversity. As in most other areas of public life, however, minorities remain clearly minorities, being the exception rather than the rule. In many cases, ‘minorities’ are not minorities: it just depends on who is doing the gazing.

I would like to add that I am also aware that my own experience won’t be that of other colleagues. (I am male, and relatively pale for a Mexican -or the idea that non-Mexicans may have of all Mexicans- and I live and work in London, UK, and I am aware of the set of privileges that this has granted me, explicitly or implicitly). For more context, please bear in mind I have been mostly ‘periphereal’ to DH. I have had a great interest in the topics, approaches, methodologies and debates within the field since I was a PhD student (and maybe earlier; I am completely indebted to Isabel Galina for introducing me to digital scholarship in the humanities in 2001). In my professional life I have taught about DH and have employed some ‘light’ DH methods in my own work, I have served in ADHO/ACH committees and contributed to DH projects, but the thing is I would not say I am “a digital humanist”. At least not yet. My current role does not mention the term nor do I have any funding with the term DH in it. (Some colleagues might be exhausted of the question “what does it take to call yourself a digital humanist?”; I find it still interesting, but that’s a question for another time).

I have no idea if who I am in terms of ethnicity and English language ability has played a role in my inability to be more fully immersed in DH, and I have no idea if I would be now employed in DH if I were not who I am (e.g. in this case if I were not a Spanish native speaker originally from Mexico City). I know that I understand well the structural conditions that I have faced, and that often I have wished I had had more time, more peace of mind, and yes, considerably more money to play my game better, or more effectively, or just less anxiously and less guided by pressing material needs.

Secondly I wanted to say that many of us non-white scholars who are not English native speakers do not want to become tokens. This is my case but I know that other colleagues would also agree. Just because we are considered ‘minorities’ in some contexts it does not mean we have to de facto become identified and labeled, primarily, as such. If our presence is important for example in steering committees it is because we can make an important contribution because our backgrounds, skillsets, political and scholarly experiences might be different and that difference is what life is like. Fields without difference cannot become stronger, more effective, more ethical, more representative of the world beyond the privileged circumscribed environs of developed-world academia. Why should non-white scholars have to make an extra effort to ‘prove their worth’?  Why should non-whiteness, non-Anglo-ness be the reason to stand-out as an academic?

I have served in committees and I would hate to think the only reason I was invited to contribute is because my name is non-anglo. Academics without Hispanic names do teach in Spanish and Latin American departments, produce academic outputs about Spanish and Hispanic cultures: why do we then expect non-anglo scholars to work on non-Anglo topics? Why are we still surprised to see non-anglo academics in international DH conferences? (I think I know some of the answers to these questions, but I am asking rhetorically). Having a non-anglo name does not mean we are de facto experts in diversity, widening participation and equality. Just because we are non-white scholars that does not mean our only contribution to committees for example can be about diversity. Real diversity would mean that non-white scholars are seen as  merely scholars and that those scholars do not feel like they are exceptional.  What I am trying to say is that the equality many of us around digital humanities and other fields in today’s scholarly circles are working hard to build has to go beyond tokenism and well beyond good intentions. I don’t want my colleagues to make pledges to be kind to us and take us into consideration. At the same time there are several strategies we can implement to ensure there is less exclusion. Revealing unconscious bias, making conferences multilingual and more affordable, denouncing conflicts of interest, offering more substantial grants etc. are some of the steps that can have and already have positive effects.

‘Minority’ scholars are scholars like everyone else. Sometimes our ‘difference’ may mean we have faced obstacles, challenges that perhaps other more privileged colleagues could only imagine. But it may also not be the case. Just because we are ‘here’ speaking out in a particular language and vocabulary in specific networks marks us down as relatively privileged. I agree with colleagues like Padmini Murray that this implies a responsibility. We come from non-anglo backgrounds and we have managed to learn to speak and to be, sometimes, heard. Becoming a minority  needs to be seen, by the way, as a positive experience: one of the only times you can really become aware of your privilege. This does not mean we can fully ever represent others though. We can speak for ourselves and we hope that our experiences and our work can empower others and show that it can be done even though it is not always easy and even though no one will ever have the same experience even when they share similar backgrounds, or ethnicities, or nationalities, or degrees.

So I feel empowered and uplifted by the Diversity panels at the conference. I am grateful to my colleagues who continuously work towards ensuring greater inclusivity and diversity within it. I know ‘Diversity’ means different things to different people and here I am merely refering to diversity of ethnic and national backgrounds. I am also fully aware that the terms ‘Diversity’, ‘Inclusivity’ etc. are contentious, and like most buzzwords they can mean very little or nothing. In my case I would like to stress that as a non-white, no-anglo scholar I believe my ethnicity, my native language, my cultural background matter because they made me who I am, but at the same time I don’t want that to be necessarily what defines me in the eyes of other colleagues.

When I think of non-‘PoC’ colleagues I am not thinking all they time about their ethnicity or their native language. I am fully aware that there is no such thing as not seeing race, etc. but at the same time I have often hoped we can develop cultures where both recognition of difference and appreciation of people in spite of  what may make us different is possible. Diversity is important not necessarily because of what makes us  different. In the words of  Jo Cox, “we have far more in common than that which divides us”. In the words of my colleague Natalia Pérez, “there is nothing in us, essentially, that makes us a minority. It is the majority and colonial gaze that turns us into minorities.”

N.B. I have written this very quickly so typos may remain and syntax is likely to be wonky. Thank you for reading.