A few Tweets away – connecting, listening, sharing, participating and creating

'Connecting' by Narelle Lemon (2010)

It seems fitting that my first blog post for Chat with Rellypops is about the online community of Twitter and the possibilities  that are generated for connecting, listening, sharing, participating and creating. I was flicking through theTwiiter feed of Rellypops, as one does on the iphone device, and what struck me was a series of tweets from @Notaphdthesis. What followed was a succession of interactions over several hours. Previously I had followered, and enjoyed the reflective posing of questions and inquiry into research, research topics, and collaborative emergings with other academics and researchers.   But as @Rellypops I hadn’t responded nor commented, with perhaps a handful of favorite stars marking interesting ideas and a few retweets. Not unusual Twitter behavior.

Perhaps a connection in my thinking, and projects I’m currently working on, but the particular tweet by @Notaphdthesis caught my attention:

I can count my real friends on one hand. That’s still same number of tweeps whom I converse.

I began to think about Twitter participation and the online community. How do we connect through Twitter? Why does microblogging seem to enable connections to be made easier? How do we promote ourselves on Twitter?

Participation in Twitter can be seen as a learning opportunities and the richness that can be attained between the distinction of active and passive members is varied (Wenger, White & Smith, 2009). The appeal of Twitter as an academic, and learner, is the level of participation that can be enacted with the dimensions of the connectivity that supports the work we do in learning and teaching, research, and scholarship.  In all these areas, the level, type of, and the how, can be varied with no one way to be connected or generate connections.  My Twitter connections with @Notaphdthesis are a contrast to other relationships I have, say with @researchwhisper, @thesiswhisperer, and @teachingtomtom who would be regarded as regular connections and contacts that I engage with. None-the-less, all these connections and everything else in between and surrounding are still valid and meaningful in my Twitter community. Key is the choice. I have chosen to connect in the Twittershpere. I choose what I participate in. I choose if I respond and then how I do. I also choose what I do with this information and any subsequent interactions. I view all these interactions as a learning opportunity.

I began to engage with David Armano (2008) and his work on social networking. He discusses community in regards to the 4Cs – content, context, connectivity, and continuity. These terms resonate well with Twitter as a platform for learning. I have developed the 4Cs framework by Armano (2008) and adapted accordingly for consideration of Twitter being used for the academic environment and community.

For the academic environment consideration is required to be made of content and its connection to the community being engaged with and where one is becoming a part of. The choice of how engagement looks is present, however considerations are required in to both these areas:

Content you want to engage with – is the content relevant to your Twitter profile and focuses (consideration for multiple Twitter profiles according to content and followers in the community)?

Is the content valuable?

Who is worth connecting with on Twitter in regards to their content shared?

Who is connected with who that can extend the content accessible on your feed?

When and how are you going to read your Twitter feed and engage with the content?

Content you present – is content relevant and connectable?

Is it valuable? Where does this content come from (your sharing, ideas, connection to blog or other material, or is it a retweet?)

How will you present the context to connect to the community?

Can you maintain content output?

The context of why Twitter is beneficial for the academic and the higher education environment is a consideration closely connected to the individual. As with many digital technologies on offer, not all are right for right now. Digital technology, including social networking, embedded into practice requires careful considerations in regards to the application, skills required, and outcomes. Context in regards to one as an academic means investing time in one’s Twitter profile that is to make it personalized and appropriate for your interests and areas.

Twitter offers opportunities for multiple connections and the presentation of these connections to be in multiple forms but often in short bursts of mini interactions or microblogging. The short and concise nature allows for multiple opportunities to make contact with others but also means that the content, inquiry or questions have to be straight to the point. In some ways a conversation is made easy, One’s choice to participate is always once of choice, how often you do, and what you share is also supported by this notion. The Twitter community thrives on these types of intersection and is a strength of this platform in connecting immediately with the topic or field. The connectivity of Twitter as an academic allows for connections and relationships to be made quickly once engagement begins. In correlation with Twitter profiles –  links to profiles, publications, and research the community – does not take long to assess the content and context to allow for connectivity to be quickly made through the mini interactions. The nature of this communication style also allows for the designing of experiences that support the development of connections with fellow tweeps over time rather than in the immediate demand and commitment that is often associated to face-to-face communities. There is also the befit as an academic that connectivity can be anytime and anywhere providing opportunities for continued conversation.

The flexibility of the Twitter community for both the academic personally and for the higher education environment advocates that there is no right way to use the platform– chat, swap, explore, observe, retweet, and so on – are all valid ways of participating. The community thrives on different interactions and again is a strength of being able to build, design, and plan one’s Twitter identity to address wants and needs. There are continued connecting points to support continuity with choice underpinning connectivity, context and content. The flexible nature evolves for each Tweep while still providing a valuable and consistent user experience which can be sustained over time.

Do you view Twitter as a learning community  and how does it impact your engagement with connecting, listening, sharing, participating and creating ideas  and people? How have you experienced Twitter as a learner? 


Armano, D. (2008, November 20).Why the Four C’s of Community Require the Commitment of Many: Let Content, Context, Connectivity and Continuity Guide Your Efforts. Digital Next. Retrieved 29 December, 2011, from http://adage.com/article/digitalnext/community-require-commitment/132734/.

Wenger, E., Whte., N., & Smith, J.D. (2009). Digital Habitats: Stewarding technology for communities. Portalnd, OR, USA: CPsquare.


6 thoughts on “A few Tweets away – connecting, listening, sharing, participating and creating

  1. pravinjeya says:

    It’s interesting…when I first started the @Notaphdthesis blog, then started using Twitter, it was meant to be about my phd. What I realised was that i was more than just a phd student, so my blog became more than an academic blog. Similarly with Twitter, the phd student mentioned in my profile, feels like a facade. Content – a scan of their page – is the reason why i follow someone. But I have never thought about the context (i.e. who they are following and whose following them) – that feels like like someone for their friends rather than them as a person. But surprisingly what I’ve found is that community is what I get out of Twitter.

  2. Helen South says:

    I had to start a separate twitter account – I have one for my work (visual arts) and one for my academic self. I find aspects of self don’t alway cross over all that well, and while I enjoy a little insight into someone’s broader life, when the percentage of irrelevant-to-me tweets outweighs the relevant, I start unfollowing. So your reference to Armano’s thoughts on content is right on.

    I used to dislike twitter due to the tight character count, but the brevity, along with the aspect of choice (a twitterer is, to my mind, choosing to make themselves publicly available), encourages me to respond to people that I’d be hesitant to engage in conversation otherwise.

    Particularly noteworthy, I think, is the willingness of academics to engage with students from outside their immediate sphere and at any level, on the basis of ideas alone.

  3. Tseen Khoo says:

    Using Twitter properly and regularly (after an aborted attempt to engage with the medium in 2009) has made a huge difference to how I view professional networking and discursive opportunities. HUGE. Often, though, people don’t want to hear that; they’re always champing at the bit to dismiss microblogging and initiatives like livetweeting as trivial and only for people who are out to waste time.

    All that said, I really do need to trim the number of accounts I feed. At the moment, it’s growing rather than shrinking. I must be doing something wrong! 😉

  4. pravinjeya says:

    Just reread the title of this blog, for some reason it reminds me of the theme tune to Neighbours. I’ve got it going around in my head now. (Sorry, I now its not relevant to this topic but I just had to say it.)

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