Social Media: An Exercise in Collaborative Learning

It’s an accepted fact these days that social media is here to stay. The web is bustling with sites that let us connect to each other in a way we couldn’t have imagined before. In 2012, a staggering 56% of the population using some form of social media. Facebook alone has 1.06 billion users, compared to Twitter’s admirable 500 million. So what on earth are we doing, spending all our time of these sites?

map of the netSpace-age Spirograph anyone? Na, it’s just a map of the Internet!


The online revolution, the development of a user friendly, connected and corroborative web 2.0, has meant that we can post status’s, links, Tweets, Pins etc, at any time of the day, and have them shared, ‘liked’, ‘retweeted’ and commented on from people across the globe that we haven’t met, may never meet and, in many a case, may never want to meet. In many ways, this hyper-connectivity can be seen as a bad thing. Like the Internet itself, Social Media has been decried by skeptics as dangerous, disruptive and reeking of liberalism. Dear god no! But what about the positives?

Social Media and History.

I know from (probably too much) time spent on social media sites, especially Twitter and Facebook, that there is a plethora of stories, comments, jokes, cartoons, videos and all manner of other information about archaeology, being spread via social media.

In most circumstances, these come from professional archaeologists, or at least companies that employ professional archaeologists. And that’s fine. On Twitter, at least, the majority of users are observers rather than active contributors. So the “general public” (Ha! as if there is such a thing!) can sit back and happily soak in information about the latest English Heritage event, far off excavation or Historical Honey (hurrah!) article. This is a good thing. It means people can dip their pinkies in to the exiting and slightly mad world of archaeology and history without being afraid of drowning under the weight of intellectual savvyness.

But that’s not what it all about, is it? No, I don’t think it is. I like to think of Social Media as the way in which the public can tell the academics what they want (or what to do). It’s all well and good having professionals posting long reports about their latest discovery, or catching a brief glimpse of the fascinating world of the academic conference. But aren’t we meant to be contributing to? I thought that was the point of having websites that anyone could publish on. And that’s what it is really.

Make Yourself Heard…

Social Media sites, especially Twitter, are basically micro-publishing or micro-blogging forums. The layman can put their opinion on there without being afraid of peer review.

Yes, there are such things as Internet Trolls. Those sad, angry little people, spurting venom at their computer screens. These are people who feel it is their duty to point out errors and then proceed to rip the person to teeny little shreds. This is for their amusement and should, therefore, be ignored. I highly recommend not glancing down to the bottom half of a YouTube video, or clicking on the comments of a Facebook post. They are rarely anything other than vile and vim.

internet-trollIgnore these wally’s!


But, and I’m aware I’m contradicting myself slightly here, peer-review is not all bad. It is how we improve. So, what I believe we need to do, is to encourage the “normal person” (again, like this is a type of person that actually exists!) to post, either through responses or linking articles they’ve seen online, retweeting or even just posting up their own ideas. Then we need people to ask them questions, to show them new ideas, to push the boundaries of the overall knowledge of the archaeological world, both academic and public. Wouldn’t that be a lovely world?

Why Bother With Social Media?

How can I convince you to go onto Social Media in the first place? You’re reading this website, so I assume you have some knowledge of this world already. But, how do you know where to look for archaeology worth seeing, or for history worth reading? Like all things, I think the best way of doing this is to find something funny. I’m on more social media sites than I care to admit, and I know the people that I follow, and will continue to follow, are not only the ones that make me laugh, but give me something to think about as well.

I’m going to use Twitter as my example here. Mainly because the posts that go up are necessarily short, snappy and therefore funny, but also because it’s a non-reciprocal form of Social Media. You can follow them, but they don’t have to take notice, which, for many, is a comfort. So here it is. My list of the top ten accounts to follow on Twitter (one of them has nothing to do with Archaeology or History!).

1. HRE Joseph II @Emperor _Joseph

This is the bona fide account of the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II, whose epitaph reads: ‘He failed in everything he undertook’.

2. Gabe Moshenska @GabeMoshenska

Lecturer in Public Archaeology at UCL. Interested in all manner of oddities. Co-owner of Clawed, a large tuxedo cat. All views are my own or my captors.

3. DigVentures @TheDigVentures

Its Archaeology… in your hands.

4. Homo Erectus @PlioceneBloke

 Bio not invented yet.

5. Weird History @historyweird

Oddities, weirdities, trivia and smut from the past. All tweets are drawn from historical sources. Sponsered by Alpha History.

6. History Tweets @TheHistoryBrew

Hi, I’m Martin and I Tweet about the world of History.

7. Love Archaeology @LoveArchaeology

We started as postgrads inspired by one thing – how much we Love Archaeology! We want to stay a unique subject and to do it we need your love of archaeology too!

8. Pensioner’s Tips @IvyManilow

Handy tips for fellow pensioners. Tweeting from my front room.

9. Policing the Past @PolicingthePast

‘Policing the Past: Protecting the Future’ a persona journal highlighting the impact of crime and anti-social behaviour on heritage and the historic environment.

10. Historical Honey @Historicalhoney

Of course…it goes without saying!

And, remember, it’s not just about following, it’s about making conversation, debating and generally having an opinion!

How important is social media today? Leave your comments in the box below!

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