Live-Blogging The Sophisticated Social Media Use And Science #ASC2012

Edit – now features the video that was being discussed!

On the video we had short segments of video with Andrew Maynard of 20/20 Science; Alice Bell; Michelle Banks and Shane McCracken.

On stage, it’s the MC Kristen Alford, Will Grant, Kate Carruthers and Ben Harris-Roxas.

Overall, the panel is to look beyond who uses Twitter/FB socially, and who uses the platform to do different things in different ways – what’s interesting and what can be exploited?

Video “Nuanced communications”

Dr Andrew Maynard – about an informed body of people talking to the uninformed – but it builds in sophistication about how you deal with the interactions.

Shane McCraken – seeing the live chats, how interaction was done. Other voices adding to the debate. How different disciplines help the debate unfold.

When thinking about sophisticated social media – is it about dialogue?

Ben – it’s about discussion, getting beyond the broadcast mode. Getting genuine responses, his experience is that Twitter it has allowed not just response to a person, but draws in other’s interactions, a levelling.

Kate – platforms and people – it enabled a conversation to occur that would have been impossible due geography or other factors, amplify the science communicator’s reach and introduce to new ideas

Will – we’re science communicators first and social media just one of the ways we do it. Relies on a deeper engagement, listening and how we’re providing an ear. It’s vital to science communication in general!

Kristen – it’s about listening as well as building community.

Video – How do we build trust and build connections?

Michelle Banks – finding a bigger audience via social media.

Alice - eavesdropping! She’s a sociologist with occasional anthropological leanings. Learn from science writers talking to each other, bonding and communities – that would happen in conferences or the pub and not everyone has access to that. Just because you’re not at the same place, no longer a limitation.

Maynard – when someone influential becomes engaged with what I’m saying, it’s wonderful. An example of an MP, surprising when it happens and see how worthwhile and not trivial.

Michelle – connect with National Geographic! Not doing yourself a favour if not taking part.

Alice Bell – also informal, e.g Twitter. Useful to know about people far away and if worked together would be great – this allows informal, get to know what they’re thinking. Who they are, trust and relationship; broadens the scope of who could be your colleage/s.

Kristen Alford – profesional development and personal development. How have your professional or peer groups grown?

Will Grant – learned lots from ideas and what they’ve read.

Kate – can have conversations and find research and concerns in common; she has used Google docs and got four papers out via that. “That reach is enormous”.

Ben – expand and enable networks that wouldn’t exist. Does encourage an interdisciplinary approach and connect with others that you may not otherwise connect with.

Kristen – various number of tools and a certain amount of trust – what builds that?

Kate – it’s the ambient contact. Same as colleagues at work: meet them around, you get to know ongoing activities and values over time; develop that ambient info and get a pretty good picture about what they’re like

Ben – what they’re like and if you’d like to work with them!

Will – speed of new ideas you get from them too; reading their journal article is a rich feature of their new ideas – but many of us don’t read all the things. Reading a tweet builds a small level of connection.

Kristen – building a community of trusted peers – how about audiences? For example, the example of artwork; how translate trust behind individuals to lead to communicate with an audience?

Kate – what’s interesting to her is meeting people; working on informal communication of science to a broader audience – building up a picture for the audience of the human face of science. How do we put that human face and passion out there; social media is just another form of communication style.

Ben – As there’s active communication going on, people also like to listen. He’s been a part of a discussion group and an app has been developed for those not on Twitter, for a conversation that routinely has 30-40 participants.

Will – he’s mostly connecting and learning – he’s not about seeking an audience for some of what he’s done. Thinking about it now, he wants to explicitly build an audience, about connecting with others; having different accounts and a dedicated social media profile just about one aspect. Is it curatorship or promoting?

Ben – lot of it is about how the general public might not be interested, but people in a particular field might. There is that curatorial role that is increadingly important; drawing things to people’s attention thinking who is the audience, sometimes difficult to define – and who you’d LIKE to be your audience!

Kristen – one of the questions is how do you measure making a difference? How do you know? A million Facebook likes might be seen as successful, more sophisticated goes beyond stats and into impact.

Kate – depends on the social media channel. Twitter has its own set of metrics. We held an “ask the expert” about infertility session – numbers aren’t important, but favourites to links and asking questions later is usedful knowledge. How many come via FB or Twitter or YouTube to actual website and how engage from that.

Ben – broad basket of indicators: “a picture, about click-throughs and cross-format…who subscribes to the newsletter”.

Will – not about how many followers/retweets/output. Needs to be an engaged process. So, social media is one of those places where you can get in touch with the audience and assist the path through. That for him is a metric for success.

Ben – in relation to the US primaries, only 2% getting it via Twitter, but they’ve got a larger information footprint and are most engaged.

Kristen – we spend a lot of time on Twitter – a ‘directory that pushes people towards things, a hub” – Michelle puts her work through Esty and we might normally overlook it.

Kate – we had an insight, an image of cells that won a prize and it suddenly twigged that actually, some of our cell images are art – what can that mean for communication, a whole new view on fertility “stuff” and visual, that we could tap into.

Ben – Flickr – personal interest and for him, it’s his pathway into social media. became increasingly useful way to capture what the nuts and bolts of his work. It’s interesting to see how many people find the photos. Useful way of finding other platforms and does humanise you. Keeping a blog for eight years and all the other stuff channels people to the more complex ideas.

Kate – we’re creating a digital ecosystem. It works together and feeds of each other; if not supporting each other, will die off. Everything has to fit together.

Will – how would you build different bits of your identity, your professional place and how that fits in with identity. Easier for scientists communicators – the voice of the communication – how use it in a different way.

Kristen – Tweets about science will take you through the process of the lab. How a museum uses Tweets, ensure a corporate voice.

****Feedback from Questions*****

Egg avatars on Twitter are awful! First impressions count! Be deliberate about how and why – a corporate logo or an individual face, what kind of personality putting forward (as superficial as an avatar can sound). Get started and do it – and there’ll be blogposts to help.

Is okay to be wrong (is important part of learning!) and should encourage students to be out and public. If you’re learning about science communication on the web, you have to be out there and doing it. Maynard is doing projects where students do blogs and they have to respond to the comment-streams and practice by doing.

Recognise there’s a formal and informal channel – like an ecosystem. What if people left out? If an informal / formal, be clear on what’s being done and the nexus between them. Incorporate into your informal communication strategy? Recognise that there’s lots of different ways of talking to each other and that there’s different ones and there’s a right-one-for-the-right-thing. Yammer / Twitter can’t replace everything! Use them for what they do well.

The key element is SPEED – sometimes bad things happen online! “We take the attitude that we engage with the person and try to help them. People aren’t usually malicious, usually it’s a real problem at the root of it.”

The platforms we call social media will be part of the social utilities that are part of our lives, like telephones… if we come full circle, it’s about the quality of the dialogue we have with stakeholders – think about why bother and how!


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About Kylie Sturgess

Kylie Sturgess is a Philosophy teacher, media and psychology student, blogger at Patheos and podcaster at Token Skeptic. She has conducted over a hundred interviews including artists, scientists, politicians and activists, worldwide.
She’s the author of the ‘Curiouser and Curiouser‘ column at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website and travels internationally lecturing on feminism, skepticism, and science.


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