Presenting at a Conference in the Social Media Age

Conference sign stating name of conferenceIn many respects the format of academic conferences has not changed much over the years. There will be some plenary sessions with keynote lectures but the hive of the conference is the parallel sessions where many presenters stand up, read their paper and answer a few questions afterwards. Once upon a time presenters may have used overhead transparencies. These have been replaced by powerpoint presentations which in the hands of most presenters are little different to the old technology.

But social media has introduced a profound change to the dynamics of conferences. The soundscape of plenary sessions at the Global Digital Humanities conference did not simply comprise the tones of the person speaking on stage. There was also the soft sounds of hundreds of fingers tapping on keyboards, reporting the conference to the world via Twitter.

Over several conferences I have been observing presenters and thinking about how best to present a paper in the Social Media Age. At the Australian Historical Association conference a few weeks ago I had a chance to put some ideas into practice.

Firstly I made sure I put my name and my Twitter handle on the bottom of every powerpoint slide. The best way of giving attribution on Twitter is to use the presenter’s Twitter handle but too often the people tweeting a paper are not aware that the presenter is on Twitter. The presenter misses out on a higher profile online and the possibility of connecting to more colleagues online. Likewise the audience misses out on an opportunity to expand their professional networks. Continue reading

Digital History at #OzHA2015? There was some

Screenshot of the home page of the website.

The Prosecution Project from Griffith University is examining the history of criminal trials in Australia between 1850 and 1960.

There are good reasons to attend conferences. I treat them as my CPD (professional parlance for Continuing Professional Development). At a productive conference I learn a great deal from being immersed in a learning environment for several days. The breaks are as productive as a session because they are good opportunities to chat with others in the field about their work and further discuss what we have learned. These blog posts I am writing are a further opportunity for me to think through new ideas and approaches as well as to pass the learning on.

The Global Digital Humanities Conference was a week before the Australian Historical Association Conference. As I said in previous posts, Australian historians Peter Read, Julia Torpey and Tim Sherratt featured at those conferences. It was a rare opportunity for Australian historians interested in Digital History to learn from leading digital humanities practitioners.

It is very difficult for one person to attend two conferences in one fortnight, so it was understandable that digital history was not a big focus at the Australian Historical Association Conference. There were no sessions titled ‘digital history’ or something similar that would convey that the papers were about the use of technology in history.

Yet digital history was there. My paper was about digital history as was Janette Pelosi’s paper about the State Records NSW digitisation project, ‘Sentenced Beyond the Seas‘ which she presented in the same session.

With low expectations I have searched through the 2015 conference abstracts for papers featuring the words, digital, data, website, internet, social media, Facebook, Twitter. To my surprise I found thirteen papers which could be regarded as digital history. This was more than I expected. Continue reading

Big Questions in History: History’s Relevance in Contemporary Society

Family history is an important entrée into wider historical interests for many people in our society. But historian Anna Clark asks if connecting to the past through personal experience shuts out other personal experiences?

Anna Clark from University of Technology, Sydney was one of five historians who spoke at the popular ‘Big Questions in History’ panel at the recent conference of the Australian Historical Association. This plenary session is devoted to a critical discussion about the connections between historians and Australian society. It has been held at every conference I have attended since 2012 and is a dynamic, thought-provoking session.

Anna Clark

Anna Clark

Clark’s question is pertinent. While we are absorbed in our own family history research are we alert to the lives of others who lived in the same community as our ancestors? We may have built a fascinating story about our ancestor but embellishments and silences handed down over the generations may be exposed when we look at the stories of others. The stories of others, unrelated to us, are important to understand too. How can we understand current affairs without some knowledge of the Stolen Generations and the Mabo High Court Case?

“In the midst of this popular flowering of history”, Clark said, “there is a concern that we don’t know enough about the past”.

It is a classic example of the more we know, the more we know we don’t know.

Ann Curthoys reflected on her personal history as a participant in the original Australian Freedom Rides which exposed horrible discrimination against Aboriginal people in Australian country towns. A few years ago she wrote about her experience in Freedom Rides: A freedom rider remembers, and her diary is held by AIATSIC and is available online. Continue reading

International Researchers Value Work of Australian Libraries and Archives

Trove logoParticipants at the recent Global Digital Humanities conference will remember the prominent contributions of Australian historians, Tim Sherratt, Julia Torpey and Peter Read. But I also want to highlight the more low profile but no less important contribution of Australian cultural institutions in bringing Australian historical records to world attention.

Australian governments and other funding bodies have shown international leadership by funding significant digitisation programs that have are freely accessible to the people of the world. This contribution to the world’s bank of knowledge is inestimable. As I listened to the papers presented at the Global Digital Humanities Conference I was struck by just how significant digitised Australian historical sources are for researchers around the world.

The Trove website is the flagship of Australia’s digitisation programs. Led by the National Library of Australia, with significant contributions from Australia’s state libraries, it is truly a treasure trove of all sorts of digitised items, including its famed digitised newspapers as well as the catalogue records of hundreds of cultural institutions around Australia. It is a massive online resource.

We would expect Australian researchers to embrace this resource, as they do, but researchers from other countries are also using Trove’s resources in cutting edge work.  Every day we researchers presented papers which referred to Trove. Every day one of these papers was presented by researchers who worked for universities or cultural institutions outside Australia.

These papers, like all papers at the conference, demonstrate world class research in the field of digital humanities. As the conference proceeded it became clear that Trove has made an important contribution to leading international research. Continue reading

Australian Historian Captivates International Audience

The work of Australian historians, librarians and archivists is highly valued internationally. In my last post I highlighted the work of Australian historians Julia Torpey and Peter Read which featured in a plenary panel at the recent Global Digital Humanities Conference. But they were not the only Australian historians who featured.

Sherratt behind a podium

Tim Sherratt

On the last day of the conference we were treated to an insightful keynote address by Tim Sherratt, Associate Professor of Digital Heritage, Manager of Trove Australia and inventor of many innovative digital tools. Tim Sherratt is an historian who is blazing a trail for thoughtful and innovative use of technology in the research and presentation of history.

Sherratt captivated his audience from around the world with his talk, ‘Unremembering the forgotten’. Delving back into twentieth century Australian history, Sherratt questioned the nature of our access to government archives. He argued that  “access is a process of control rather than liberation”.

Sherratt is working to reveal the lives of people who are not remembered in our histories. In his keynote address he argued that the lives of these ‘forgotten’ people are often recorded in archival documents but these people have been ‘unremembered’. They are hidden from our view because of the way the catalogue search has been structured. Tim Sherratt demonstrated that when we take charge of our search for information by building our own digital tools we can retrieve the stories of the forgotten, but likewise the digital tools we use every day when searching websites can shut out the memories of the forgotten. Continue reading

Aboriginal Digital Knowledge Takes Centre Stage at International Conference

 

The couches came out at #dh2015 for the Indigenous Digital Knowledge panel. Photo by Bruce B Janz via Twitter.

The couches came out at #dh2015 for the Indigenous Digital Knowledge panel. Photo by Bruce B Janz via Twitter.

Ground breaking use of technology by Australian Aboriginal people was featured at the recent Global Digital Humanities Conference held at the University of Western Sydney. In a session that captivated the attention of academics from around the world the Indigenous Digital Knowledge plenary panel demonstrated that Aboriginal people are innovative in their embrace of technology.

Unlike so many conferences which non-indigenous people lead the discussion about indigenous issues, three of the four academics on this panel are Aboriginal people. As many Aboriginal people have observed, they are probably the most studied populations on earth, but it is the non-indigenous researchers who get credited in our society for their knowledge about Aboriginal people.  It was refreshing to hear from Aboriginal people who are experts in their fields of technology and the humanities tell a non-indigenous audience how it is for Aboriginal people. Continue reading

Women and History at the #OzHA2015 History Conference

The history profession in Australia appears to be a healthy profession for women judging from the proceedings of the annual conference of the Australian Historical Association held in Sydney this week. The prominent keynote sessions were dominated by women and a majority of presenters in the parallel sessions were women.

It is not hard to find highly qualified women historians who lead the profession in Australia as the conference organisers demonstrated. While the conference opened with a keynote presentation by Cambridge University’s Professor Peter Mandler, it was a woman historian, Professor Penny Russell, who welcomed the participants to the conference in the opening session. Russell is the chair of History Department at the University of Sydney which hosted the conference. The History Department is the largest in Australia. The chair of the organising committee was Associate Professor Kirsten McKenzie who spent the whole conference chugging in the background organising a productive event.

Head and shoulders of Ann Curthoys

Professor Ann Curthoys delivered the high profile public lecture at the conference.

Professor Ann Curthoys delivered the highest profile event of the conference. Her public lecture was recorded by the ABC for later broadcast as part of Radio National’s Big Ideas program. Curthoys has written and co-written a slew of articles and books on race relations in Australia, Aboriginal history and feminist history.

Professor Shurlee Swain who gave the keynote lecture for the Religious History Association conference stream has taken a leading role in research into the history of welfare, children and adoption. Most recently Swain has written reports surrounding the history of child protection for Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Professor Jill Matthews delivered the keynote for the Australian Women’s History Network (AWHN) conference stream. Professor Jill Matthews wrote what has been described as a “path-breaking” feminist history in 1984 titled, Good and Mad Women: The historical construction of femininity in twentieth century Australia. Since then she has researched women’s history, cultural history and popular culture.

The two plenary panels of the conference also featured women. Two of the three panelists on the topic of Historicising International Law were women. The prominent plenary panel ‘Big Questions in History’ panel, which is a highlight of every conference, featured four women amongst the seven speakers. Continue reading