I am a disability studies researcher from Germany living abroad. Since moving away from Australia in 2016, I started to work remotely for the Centre of Disability Studies of the University of Sydney. However, even if working for an Australian University from overseas, I do not feel disconnected to former colleagues and co-workers. Despite having regular email exchange with my colleagues, I also follow the official social media accounts of the Centre for Disability Studies. I can use their posts and updates to catch up with current projects, awards or even new faces.
As an active user of researchgate.net I stay informed and updated on other research projects of my field. Another way to keep in touch with trends, topics and themes in the field of disability studies is to follow official social media channels of Centers for Disability Studies from around the world, specific disability related news pages and even certain disability studies scholars who are quite active, e.g. on twitter.
How I attended a Disability Studies conference virtually on social media
By doing just this, I virtually participated on this year’s Lancaster Disability Studies conference in early September. Actually, Lancaster is not too far away from Liverpool, but I found out too late about the conference and I was also busy doing some work… But simply following their hashtag (#cedr18) instead provided me with brilliant insights into actual talk content, pictures and everything else typical for a conference.
There are so many wonderful tweets from the Lancaster Disability Studies Conference that we just can't retweet them all (there are hundreds!). But #cedr18 represents a fantastic record of the event through every1's tweets.
Observations. Inspirations. Provocations!
— Centre for Disability Studies (@CDSLeeds) September 12, 2018
Retweet interesting facts
I did the same at the beginning of October when the bi-annual conference of the German Sociological Association (DGS) was taking place in Göttingen/Germany. Although a little bit confused about which hashtag to follow best, I finally managed to follow a few talks virtually. Some nice lads were twittering about the main themes of the talks they attended. I simply could retweet content that I considered worth sharing such as this one:
— Daniela Russ (@UeberDruss) September 26, 2018
Figure out the right hashtag
And because of all of the above, I was also looking forward to the German Disability Studies conference held in Berlin from October 19th to 21st. One of the aforementioned news websites also announced the conference and pointed at the unique hashtag “#disko18” created for social media channels to link conference related content accordingly.
— Rollingplanet (@rollingplanet1) October 15, 2018
The abstract book of the conference announced the biggest conference on the subject in Germany since the initial conference on Disability Studies in Germany in 2003. It also pointed at the necessity for better networking of disability studies scholars, peers and everyone else interested in this topic. The organization committee expected roughly 200 participants. Maybe these participants wanted to get inspired about possible research opportunities. Because another talk abstract claimed that although German Disability Studies are on the agenda now for quite some time, until today major areas of research are lacking or are not sufficiently covered by the research done so far. So, I was very thrilled and excited to read about the conference online and follow the conference on social media.
Read, retweet and follow
When the conference started, I could hardly find any posts about this conference on facebook searching the official hashtag. However, a vibrant coverage was performed and multiple angles were shared on twitter instead. A marvelous job was done by Gudrun Kellermann (@gud_kel) in this regard. She covered so many of the talks she attended on twitter, although she pointed at the fact that listening and tweeting at the same time was very hard for her.
Am Samstag und Sonntag geht es weiter mit der Disability Studies Konferenz. Hier das Programm: https://t.co/SGgj92h8Zh Ich twittere in diesen Tagen vermehrt unter dem Hashtag #disko18. Trotzdem twittere ich eher wenig, da gleichzeitig zuhören und schreiben anstrengt.
— Gudrun Kellermann (@gud_kel) October 19, 2018
With her brilliant coverage and the additional tweets shared by a few more attendees, I was able to follow the conference without being in Berlin. Also, I found out which scholars already use twitter as a medium to share for those not there, and started to follow them. However, even though some disability studies scholars already embrace the opportunities to share discussions on social media, there is still a lot room for improvement. Social media enables people who – for whatever reason – could not attend a conference in person to get some information about their fields of interests. For those who might be hard of hearing, twitter is another support tool to follow conference talks. Unique hashtags allow to collect and structure these information and should be used accordingly. To conclude: Social media offers great opportunities to disclose information and should become a natural part to report about conferences!