Social Scholar (18 March 2015) Using Social Media for a National Festival (and Learning how to engage online)

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This month at the Social Scholar seminar we are going to look at social media campaigns for national festivals as an example of what can work well and what can be learnt from such campaigns. This should prove to be a useful session for those using or planning to use social media to promote and discuss events and projects. For full details check out our Event Page and register your interest to attend.

Title: Using Social Media for a National Festival (and Learning how to engage online)

Speaker: Dr Michael Eades (SAS)
Time: Wednesday 18 March 2015, 1pm-2pm
Location: Room 243 (Senate House)

Our speaker this week is Dr Michael Eades (School of Advanced Study) and as usual we asked him to answer a few questions for us.

SAS:Hello Michael. Thank you for agreeing to talk with us. Firstly, could you tell us a little more about yourself?

Michael: I am the School of Advanced Study’s Cultural & Public Engagement Research Fellow, more often described as the SAS ‘Public Engagement Person’. I do various things in SAS, including my own research on the Festival in a Box project, but primarily I curate the School’s major outlet for public engagement activity: the Being Human festival of the humanities.  Being Human is the UK’s only national festival of the humanities, and featured over 160 events across the country in 2014, hosted by around 100 universities and cultural organisations.

I’ve worked primarily in cultural and public engagement roles for just over two years now since completing my PhD at the University of Nottingham in 2012. My thesis looked at theories of community and engagement with/reception of culture, so I find my current work an incredibly rewarding way to continue exploring the ideas that informed that research in directly applied contexts. At SAS, my projects in this field have included everything from parkour on the roof of Senate Houseto curating a ‘human library’ of academics in Senate House Library. All great fun!


SAS: How important do you think social media is to public engagement work?

Michael: Very important indeed. Social media is changing the way that people interact and communicate – making ideas and the people behind them more accessible. But it is also raising some serious challenges. As communication speeds up and barriers break down, we have to be very careful to keep a sense of perspective and try to work with new technologies ethically.

With that said, both blogs and Twitter, particularly, were crucial to spreading the word about the Being Human festival. We worked really hard to use them to build up an online community of followers and fans of the festival. Essentially what we have at the moment is a small (but growing) army of ‘humanities geeks’ following us online. Exactly what we wanted!


SAS: What can we expect from you at the Social Scholar?

Michael: I want to do two things in my Social Scholar session. Firstly, I’ll go through some of the thinking behind the Being Human social media strategy in 2014 and some of the campaigns through which we built up a following. These included runaway successes such as our ‘shelfies’ campaign in autumn 2015, and some things that didn’t work so well, too.

The second thing that I want to do is to try to gather some ideas from the audience about what we might do for Being Human campaigns in 2015. It’s always good to do a bit of brainstorming for projects like this, so to anyone who is thinking of coming along… please do come with some ideas! I can’t promise not to steal them, unfortunately, but they’ll help us to keep raising public awareness of the humanities. That’s what the festival is there for and it’s a good cause.

To find out more about the seminar check out our Event Page and register your interest to attend. The seminar is FREE and open to all.

Podcasting academic research: PhD-Casts and Viva-Voce (Social Scholar, 18 February 2015)

The Social Scholar seminar is back with another lunchtime session, this time on Wednesday 18 February 2015, 1pm-2pm, in room 243 (Senate House). This week our focus will be on Research and Podcasts, and how audio and video can be an aid to the researcher and administrator in promoting the work that is done and building connections.

Title: Podcasting academic research: PhD-Casts and Viva-Voce – giving voice to your research

Speakers: Gemma Sou (University of Manchester); John Gallagher (University of Cambridge)

Abstract: What is it that you actually do? The humanities researcher is often asked this question and it is often difficult to give an adequate answer. In this session we look at two examples of how social media can help especially in the form of video and audio podcasting. Viva Voce is a series of 4 minute audio podcasts where researchers can talk
about their research in an accessible way to a non-specialist audience and as a means of dissemination and sharing. PhDCasts offers an alternative approach of longer video podcasts done in an interview style. Gemma Sou and John Gallagher will describe these projects and share examples of best practise, challenges, and their views
on using podcasts and other social media to create impact around research in the arts and humanities.

The seminar is FREE but we request that you RSVP via Eventbrite.

We have an interview blog post on the SAS blog where both speakers talk about their podcast projects and explain what they will be talking about on the day.

Here is John Gallaghar and the co-founder of Phd-Casts Richard Blakemore talking about their ‘season two’ of videos.

And here is a quick video of Gemma Sou, founder of Viva-Voce talking about the reasons why she started the project.

We the Humanities: The Benefits and drawbacks of the Social Scholar (3 December 2014)

photoThe second Social Scholar seminar of the term takes place on Wednesday 3 December 2014, 1pm-2pm, in room 243 (Senate House). This week our focus will be on Twitter, and in particular on a unique idea for a rotation-curation Twitter account. In this post the founders of @WetheHumanities and our speakers for this session, Jessica Sage and Krissie West, tell us a little more about what to expect.

What can we expect from you at the Social Scholar?

We’ll be giving a little insight into what we do at We the Humanities and why we set it up, how it has grown organically, and what our plans are for the future of the project.  We also want to provoke a discussion that questions the assumption that an engagement with social media is necessarily beneficial for Early Career Researchers.

Why do you think Social Media (and particularly Twitter) is useful in academia?

This is precisely what our talk is going to be questioning: considering how academics use Twitter, why they use Twitter, and what they can gain and lose from doing so.  We want to engage with the tension between Twitter being on the one hand a frivolous waste of time and on the other hand public engagement in action.

Speakers profiles

Jessica Sage and Krissie West are the co-founders of the Twitter rotation-curation initiative, We the Humanities; they originally met on Twitter, discussing children’s fiction.  Krissie is a PhD researcher at the University of Reading, working on constructions of childhood in Transcendentalist literature, which she intends to submit next year.  She has over 17 years’ experience in journalism and editorial work and is currently the Storytelling Consultant for the marketing firm, The Story Consultancy.  Jessica has recently completed her PhD, on photographs of children taken by Lewis Carroll, at the same university.  She is currently a sessional lecturer at Reading and for the Workers’ Education Association.

Full details on this event can be found on the SAS events system. The Social Scholar is a FREE seminar held by the School of Advanced Study every month. Please also follow us on Twitter @SASNews hashtag #socialscholar.

Social Scholar: An introduction to writing blog posts (29 October 2014)

The Social Scholar

The Social Scholar seminar begins again this month and I will be talking at the first session about writing blog posts. Here is some of my thoughts on the matter.

If you search online you will very quickly find numerous articles offering advice about how to write a good, successful blog post. Many of these will be lists – 20 Quick Tips on Writing Great Blog Posts or 19 Headline Writing Tips for Blog Posts – or suggest that if you follow these ‘rules’ then you will quickly make money out of your post: Writing a Good Blog – For Dummies; How to Write a Blog Post: A Simple Formula etc.

As a general rule in academia we are not interested in making money from blog posts. That is not their primary purpose or even their secondary purpose. It’s simply not relevant. We are interested in attracting an audience – of course – but the advice pieces often do not help us to solve the balance problem that we often come across whenever we try and summarise complex material into a short gathering of paragraphs. How do we ensure that our point has been made and understood without losing the very audience we seek in the process?

I have been involved with blogs since 2010 (which doesn’t sound long, but then blogs have only really developed beyond their initial focus as personal online dairies since c. 2009) and I have spent time thinking about how to write posts and reading the advice scattered throughout the internet. Most of it isn’t very helpful for academics. The advice is directed towards business – towards pushing up sales – not toward scholarly impact and public engagement.

The advice talks about ‘rules’ but I’ve looked at successful and unsuccessful blogs from academic institutions, groups, and individuals, and the ‘rules’ often don’t apply. In short, a blog can take any form that you want it to take. It can have any voice you wish to give it. It can be thousands of words or a few hundred; it could be an image with a title, or a video. There is no right or wrong way to write a blog post.

And yet! The advice that does exist can be used by academics and research facilitation staff as a guide and as a means to more successfully put a point across. There are ways to write that aid skim reading (for almost all blog posts are skim read more than they are read in detail), there are ways to point out quickly what the topic is about, and there are ways to ensure that the blog post works for you just as much as it works for the intended audience.

I will therefore be offering suggestions at this month’s Social Scholar on how you might wish to write and structure a blog post. I won’t be suggesting ‘rules’, but I will be offering advice on structuring, length, and tone and much else besides.

I will be talking at the Social Scholar seminar on Wednesday 29 October 2014, 1pm-2pm in Senate House (University of London). For full details check out the event page or SAS Blogs.

Forthcoming event: Creating Impact: Using social networks to build knowledge networks

Dot - Image for Social Scholar sessionNext Tuesday is the last of this years’ Social Scholar seminars put on by the School of Advanced Study as lunchtime training sessions in using social media. As usual the seminar takes place in Senate House (University of London) at 1pm-2pm (Wednesday 18 June 2014). This week Dot Fallon (SAS) and Abhay Adhikari (indpendent digital stratagist) will be talking about the AHRC Science in Culture theme as a case study for creating impact and building networks using social meda.

As usual I interviewed both speakers to find out more about what they plan to talk about and learn more about their opinions of social media. When I asked them why social media is useful this is what they said:

Dot: Social media offers the opportunity to build an engaged network of researchers and share project information quickly and effectively. It’s also a great news source and an essential way of keeping up to date with current issues in the humanities.

Abhay: Social media is an excellent resource to create meaningful impact and build knowledge networks. Social tools can also help you discover new thinking, share ideas and opinions and raise your profile. And once you have clarity and purpose you can engage online communities to work with you or alongside you on interesting projects.

If you would like to read more of this interview then check it out on the SAS Blog here. If you would like to attend the Social Scholar event please RSVP via Eventbrite. Full details of the seminar can be found on the SAS events system.

Social Scholar seminar: Academic guide to social media and blogging

Claire Shaw (The Guardian)
Claire Shaw (The Guardian)

On Wednesday 9 April 2014 (1pm-2pm) we will be holding our next Social Scholar seminar (in room 243, Senate House). This week we will be looking at the Guardian newspapers’ Higher Education Network through the eyes of community journalist Claire Shaw (@clurshaw). For full details of this event check out the SAS Events web page or RSVP via Eventbrite to attend.

Claire Shaw has this to say about blogs:

New research shows that academics blog for their professionals peers, rather than for public outreach, and that blogging functions more like a global virtual common room. On the Higher Education Network, I think academics blog to both get feedback from their critical peers and inform a wider audience. What has become more apparent is the impact a blog can have on the individuals who work in higher education. A recent blog about there being a culture of acceptance around mental health issues in academic went viral (shared over 62k times on Facebook), and sparked debates worldwide. Our new Academics Anonymous series is a good example of why academics blog.

For the full interview check out the SAS Blog.

Abstract for the seminar: Academics are now urged to blog and use social media. Why? Because it’s believed to be a valuable part of the wider ecology of scholarship. It increases potential for public engagement, outreach opportunities and can be used as a way to measure research impact. More and more academics are harnessing the power of social media: over the past year and a half working on the Guardian Higher Education Network, I’ve seen our community of Twitter followers grow from 15k to 63k. In this session, I will provide a guide for academics on how to blog and use social media in the most effective way – and get your work noticed.

The Social Scholar seminar is FREE and open to all. Follow us on Twitter @SASNews using the hashtag #socialscholar. 

Social Scholar seminar: Myles Runham (BBC) – Online Learning: Developing Trends

Myles Runham (Head of BBC Online, BBC Academy)
Myles Runham (Head of BBC Online, BBC Academy)

The March session of The Social Scholar will be held in room 233 of Senate House (University of London) at 1pm on Wednesday 19 march.  The seminar is free and open to all. 

User expectations of what learning is and how it is offered and supported are changing dramatically and rapidly. Remaining relevant is the most significant challenge for organisations working in this new world. How might we respond to these challenges?

This month, for the Social Scholar, Myles Runham, Head of Online, BBC Academy will be talking with us about his experience of using social media. The BBC has long created online education and learning content but the promotional and discoverability side of this is less widely discussed. This seminar, therefore, offers us an opportunity to find out how the BBC uses social media, why they use it, and what benefits they expect to gain from it.


About the seminar

The Social Scholar is a series of lunchtime seminars from the School of Advanced Study, looking into the theme of Social Media. Each session includes a 20 minute presentation from an expert already using social media in the Humanities followed by discussion and Q&A.  In these sessions we hope to learn together about how to better use social media in a professional capacity and what the difficulties and issues are.  The series will look at blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media services.


Time: 19 March 2014, 13:00 – 14:00

Speaker: Myles Runham (Head of Online, BBC Academy)

Location: Room 233, Senate House (University of London)

For full details of the Social Scholar check out the SAS blog category for Social Scholar. Alternatively follow the Social Scholar on Twitter @SASNews using hashtag #socialscholar

Is blogging useful? Kajsa Hartig (Nordiska Museet) on blogs

Kajsa Hartig (Nordiska Museet)
Kajsa Hartig (Nordiska Museet)

The next Social Scholar seminar will take place at 1pm on 19 February 2014 in room 246 (Senate House, London). This month we will be looking at how two different museums use social media and how this might be of interest to academics, archivists, librarians and other related staff members and students.  As always the seminar is FREE and open to all. Click here for further details.

The second of our speakers is Kajsa Hartig, Digital Navigator at the Nordiska Museet in Stockholm. This is what she has to say about blogs.

Do you think blogging is a useful pursuit for academics and why?

Yes I do believe blogging is very useful. It is a repository for your ideas and thoughts, a place to share research and projects. Just by itself the blog is perhaps less useful, but by communicating it through other channels, i.e. Twitter, Facebook , forums etc. your content will reach a wider audience, more people will find your blog posts, read and comment. The blog is a part of a larger digital eco system that you need to master.

Blog about one overall topic, for example your area of research, but elaborate in blog posts covering smaller topics where you can deepen the thoughts and discussions. Create blog posts in response to someone else’s blog, comment on other people’s blogs. This will keep you a part of a larger online dialogue with in your area of interest.

Think about how you are portrayed through your blog, are people’s perception of you the one that you want them to have? A blog can be helpful in building a professional profile online, and in that sense also contribute to a growing career, regardless if you want to pursue a career within academia or move into the arts sector

A blog can also be an arena for trying out new ideas and getting feedback that might even set you off in another direction.

For the full interview with Kajsa Hartig visit the SAS Blog. You can also learn more about the Social Scholar on the SAS events system. The Social Scholar is a FREE event held by the School of Advanced Study every month. Please also follow on Twitter @SASNews hashtag #socialscholar.

Is blogging useful? Kathryn Box (Manchester Museum) on blogs

Kathryn Box (Manchester Museum)
Kathryn Box (Manchester Museum)

The next Social Scholar seminar will take place at 1pm on 19 February 2014 in room 246 (Senate House, London). This month we will be looking at how two different museums use social media and how this might be of interest to academics, archivists, librarians and other related staff members and students.  As always the seminar is FREE and open to all. Click here for further details.

One of our speakers is Kathryn Box, marketing officer at Manchester Museum. This is what she has to say about blogs.

Do you think blogging is a useful pursuit for academics and why?

There is no doubt that blogging is a useful pursuit for academics. There are numerous professional and personal reasons why it is beneficial, which indeed I could talk for hours about….

From my experience at Manchester Museum, the blogging curators get to ‘diary’ their day to day practice. Ultimately building up a record of activity and events, as well as thinking (and typing) about findings, research and theories. They get to join in debates and show off about the fantastic collection they get to explore. As most academics spend years writing their thesis, blogging is an instantaneous e-journal, which breaks down the barrier between the learner and academic. Students and peers get an amazing insight into a world which goes on behind the scenes at a museum, gaining a better understanding about how curators tick and how these big cultural institutions work.

This does indeed mean that in Marketing we are asking quite a lot from our curators, on top of their already heavy work load. However thinking about blogging as a part of your way of working and resource management, it can become a source of structure and excitement. Blogs can create a level playing field for teacher and learner (blogs can be seen to have ‘democratic potential’) and it is a great way for those quiet students at the back of the class to engage.

Over time blogs have become easier and easier to set up, but time is not wasted making sure it is user friendly and enticing to the reader.  It is important for academics to stay relevant to their audience and most importantly, are active. This means a bit more than publishing a post every week. Once you’ve written a post, encourage comments (this may be tweeting about your post, making a video, emailing your post to people). Then when you get comments: reply. Encourage feedback, be honest and question responses. This all helps in starting a real dialogue and discussion, which is pivotal to a successful (and of course, useful) blog.

For the full interview with Kathryn Box visit the SAS Blog. You can also learn more about the Social Scholar on the SAS events system. The Social Scholar is a FREE event held by the School of Advanced Study every month. Please also follow on Twitter @SASNews hashtag #socialscholar. 

Archives and Society – upcoming event! (26 November 2013, 5.45pm)

UCL libraryIn November I will be talking about the use of blogs in both academic and archival settings asking questions about best practise and the pros and cons of the blog as a tool for research, promotion, and discussion.

Blogs are increasingly becoming important to academics who write about History and to the archives-sector who support that research.  As a tool it is partly about promotion and advertising of an institution or department, but the form that advertising takes is often of scholarly merit, and is increasingly helping to open up the archives and mysteries of the research process.

In November I will be talking about this subject to the Institute of Historical Research, Archives and Society seminar in November. The talk is a much greater expansion of the presentation I gave in the summer for the Social Media Knowledge Exchange conference and will include much of what I have learnt since.  Here’s the brief abstract for more information:

Event Title: Blogging History: What are the uses of blogs in academic and archival settings?
Location: Bloomsbury Room G35, Senate House, ground floor
Date: 26 November 2013
Time: 5.45pm

Abstract: In this paper I will be looking at how blogs have become useful to academics, libraries, and archives as a means to promote, engage, and express interest in the History subject discipline.  Based around my Blogging for Historians project funded by the Social Media Knowledge Exchange ( and upon further research into blogs linked through the blog aggregator, Early Modern Commons, I plan to investigate how blogs are being used currently, what purpose they serve, and what role they might have in the future.

The Archives and Society seminar is a free seminar series put on by the Institute of Historical Research.  Please feel free to come along and join us.