Triumph and Twitter at ECSM2014 and SSMS2014

Really successful Student Social Media Showcase and inaugural European Conference on Social Media hosted by Business E-Learning research group at University of Brighton in last three days. What’s the evidence of success?

Success counted on the basis of online footprint: so far we have some 1378 tweets sharing the #ECSM2014 hashtag, 656 outgoing links and 198 photos shared from the three days. Success also counted from some 170 participants from 35 countries – which for a first new conference was very strong. Success also judged by the positive and engaged conversations throughout a conference which mixed a diverse focus of research on data analytics, business and marketing perspectives of social media, e-participation and democracy and impacts of social media on learning at all levels of education.

Although the range of paper topics was far too wide to summarise, Asher Rospigliosi, conference chair, and I summarised five challenges arising from the research across the conference:

1.ubiquity – clearly social media is omnipresent, yet many academic researchers are not using many social media platforms – to what extent can we hypothesize without personal engagement and experience? to what extent do we use social media to share research? debate questions? just using it for checking flights or trains is not really enough.

2.Twitter focus – one of the easier social media platforms to use for research, but what kind of data are we getting? Farida Vis, keynote on Day One, alerted us to the immensity of the FIREHOSE and the strong chances that sampling was not what we might expect in standard datasets.

3.clash of worlds – as exemplified by the breadth of conference papers, social media influences and fuels political, economic, commercial, social and personal worlds as well as those of the academic and the learner – there is potential here for unintended consequences in research.

4.pace of change – social media platforms come and go with unpredictable speed, while institutional and research funding timelines continue to move at snail pace – the dangers of focussing on a suddenly extinguished platform are obvious

5.language – all our keynote speakers: Ben Shneiderman, Farida Vis, David Gurteen and John Traxler touched on issues of language in this fast expanding research domain. Shneiderman pointed out we don’t have much language to describe the shapes in visualised data yet, Vis pointed out the absence of language to compare and contrast visual images which are the increasing focus of social media – especially on instagram, pinterest, snapchat etc, Gurteen showed us we needed shared language to make meaningful conversation and Traxler highlighted the potential dominance of Western language through technology affecting and perhaps extinguishing local languages across the world.

There are lots of ways we can go back and reflect on the content and challenges of the conference – particularly through epilogger
and storify, found through the blogsite as well as twitter and flickr streams. Nicola Osborne of EDINA also contributed an excellent very detailed blog of all three days, for which many thanks Nicola.

When all have returned home to ponder on the events of the last three days, what will we remember? For me it was the dazzling diversity of thinking about social media and the sense of being on the brink of an exploding research domain. Look out for Special Issues and papers selected from the conference in related journals – details on the conference website:

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