It’s come to be expected at digital humanities-oriented conferences that there will be a vibrant backchannel—commentary, questions, dissent, and amplification, usually taking place in real-time (but not always real-place) on Twitter. Even scholarly conferences that are not strictly digital, such as the Modern Language Association, have begun to have ongoing and serious discussions on the conference backchannel.
Derek Bruff has written extensively on encouraging conference backchannels and dealing with distraction and incivility on backchannels, and I want to take his ideas even further in this session, asking how can we build—literally build from the ground up—a better backchannel?
That’s right, I want to hack the way we yack.
The Better Backchannel might be a software solution built on top of Twitter, but I don’t want to assume that Twitter is the best or even default platform for the Better Backchannel. Perhaps the Better Backchannel is a disparate set of existing tools, assembled in a new way. Or maybe the Better Backchannel is not a tool at all, but a set of practices.
To begin, I see four broad questions to consider (there are more of course, and I hope you add them in the comments below):
- What are the limitations of existing backchannels?
- What do we want the Better Backchannel to do that existing backchannels don’t do or do badly?
- What existing tools support these features, or can be hacked to support these features?
- And how can we put the Better Backchannel into operation?
In the ideal world, we answer these questions in the session and actually build the thing on-the-spot. That’s not going to happen, of course (the building, that is), but we may end up with a blueprint that some sort of future One Week | One Tool team might act on. And in the meantime, we might learn something that will enrich our current use of backchannels.