CAP and Twitter


As you may have noticed, the home page of the Campus Archaeology Program website includes a sidebar “widget” that has a Twitter feed listed. We will be using Twitter in order to engage the community in the everyday parts of the Campus Archaeology Program. In order for the community to take full advantage of this opportunity, however, we thought it would be worth while to fully explain what Twitter is, how we are going to use it, and how others can be involved.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a social networking tool that simply asks, “What are you doing?” Users open a twitter account and essentially answer this question as often as they like. For some, it is weekly, others hourly, but most of the time, it is whenever the user feels like sharing something. Each entry must be under 140 characters, and is called a “tweet”. Each user has the ability to “follow” another user’s Twitter feed, which is a chronological list of a user’s “tweets” (See Terry Brock’s Twitter Feed).

Recently, Twitter has exploded in popularity. It has become much more than a tool listing “what people are doing”. Politicians are using it to communicate with constituents (See John McCain, for example). Athletes keep fans updated on their day-to-day activities (Shaquille O’Neal often gives out free tickets on Twitter). Journalists give links to articles and even conduct interviews on Twitter, and talk show hosts, such as Jimmy Fallon, asks the public for questions to ask his guests. Many people use Twitter to provide links to interesting articles, photos, and videos that they have found interesting. Large companies such as Comcast have started using Twitter to seek out customers in need of service or help. CEO and co-founder of Biggby Coffee, BiggbyBob, often gives out coupons and free coffee through his tweets. Professors, such as David Parry, have been using Twitter in classrooms. Also, Twitter users have the ability to send messages to each other. This allows for a breaking down of typically boundaries: if you have a question for Shaq, for example, send him a tweet. He will probably respond.

How can it be used for CAP?

One of the most important elements of Campus Archaeology is not only making sure MSU is a good steward for its cultural resources, but also to make sure that the campus community is as engaged as it can be with all aspects of research, discovery, and presentation of the University’s cultural heritage. Each member of our community has a stake in the way in how the history of MSU is told. Our Facebook group and the CAPBlog are both means of doing this: members of the MSU community can comment and interact with archaeologists about what is going on. We are in the process of developing an email newsletter for this purpose. Twitter allows us to keep the MSU community involved all of the time, on a very minute level.

This will be most evident during archaeological excavations. During excavations, our Campus Archaeologist will utilize a cell phone with picture taking capabilities (in this case, an iPhone) to regularly provide updates from the field. This will include photos of features, neat finds, and anything else happening at the site. People who “follow” the Campus Archaeologist will be able to send messages commenting on the finds, provide possible interpretations or identifications, or ask questions about why the archaeologist has decided to excavate the way that they have (Follow Terry Brock here). Other archaeologists who are following the feed can comment about what they think the artifacts are, let the Campus Archaeologist know about other places where similar artifacts have been found, or point CAP in the direction of relevant scholarship. They can ask questions about why we are digging where we are, what we expect to find, or tell us a story about a memory they have from the place we are excavating. This opens the possibilities for collaboration with multiple communities in the discovery and interpretation of MSU’s cultural heritage, and each piece of knowledge makes the understanding of the space more rich and more inclusive.

In order to make sure that all the discussion about CAP is entirely transparent, we have developed a tag for each tweet: #CAPMSU. At the end of each message, either by us or by a commenter, this tag should be added. This allows searches done at Twitter Search for #CAPMSU to bring up all of the tweets about CAP. This is important so that everyone can view the results. It allows people who are not following our Campus Archaeologist to view the results, as well as those who do not want to sign up for a Twitter account.

There are two other ways for everyone to follow #CAPMSU. The first is to look at the sidebar of our Homepage. There, the 10 most recent tweets with the tag “#CAPMSU” will be posted. The other is to do a search for #CAPMSU at Twitter Search and click on the “Feed for this query” button. This will create an RSS feed that will send regular updates to an RSS reader (Don’t know what RSS is? Follow this link).

We hope that this becomes a way to engage the community in the process of protecting, excavating, researching, and interpreting the cultural heritage of MSU. We should mention that we are very much testing this out: we have never used, nor seen anyone else use, anything like Twitter in this fashion. The closest we have seen is a weekly blog entry about excavations by the field director. We will be doing that as well. But for the most regular and in-the-moment updates from the field, and to interact directly with the archaeologists in the field in real time, using Twitter is the next best thing to being there.

Follow Campus Archaeologist Terry Brock @brockter.

Follow Program Director Lynne Goldstein @LynneGoldstein.

Author: Terry Brock

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