Tips for a Successful Twitter Conference

A recent Green Criminology symposium provides insight into how the unique challenges associated with Twitter conferences may be overcome.

James is Chair of the British Society of Criminology’s Green Criminology Research Network and an Assistant Professor of Criminology at the University of Nottingham. His research interests focus on crimes of the powerful more broadly and environmental harm more specifically. His current work looks at the social construction of environmental deviance.

Twitter conferences reach huge audiences. During its two-day symposium, 62,000 people viewed tweets from the Green Criminology Research Network’s account. Twitter was the main vehicle for advertising the event, contributing to 1,800 people viewing the call for papers and 2,100 the subsequent speaker schedule. Over 120 people watched keynote addresses from Dr Angus Nurse and Dr Jenny Maher in real-time. All in all, not bad for an event that cost nothing but time to organise or attend.

Twitter is a relatively new medium for academic conferences. It provides ‘speakers’ with the opportunity to share their research in five or so tweets over fifteen minutes. This is then followed by a fifteen-minute Q&A, a time-limit mainly there to encourage audience movement between papers. With only 1,400 characters, presenters are encouraged to be inventive. The Green Criminology conference saw a mixture of images, videos, charts and text being used to effectively communicate research.

With the prospect of repeated and regional lockdowns on the horizon, Covid-19 brought to the fore issues of accessibility and predictability. These were compounded by widespread restriction of university travel budgets and an intensification of workloads incurred by the rapid shift to online teaching. In this context, preparing for a face-to-face conference seemed futile. Accounting for these circumstances, and taking cue from the Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology and the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, among others, the Green Criminology Research Network steering group decided that a Twitter conference would be the best way to proceed.

On reflection, Twitter conferences primarily benefit from their inclusivity and accessibility. Anybody with a computer or smartphone can participate and – no longer bound by transport costs, travel time or prohibitively expensive conference fees – almost anybody can attend. Even those in different time zones can use the ‘schedule Tweet’ function to post their ‘paper’ in advance or just catch up with Tweets after the event has ended. Indeed, the Green Criminology symposium hosted over twenty speakers from nine countries, including Israel and Australia. There is also no need to share slides following an event or ask permission to record video-streams because Tweets can be viewed long into the future (provided they are not deleted). However, such benefits are not without their challenges, two of which can be overcome with a little preparatory work.

First, without adequate guidance on what is ultimately an unfamiliar conference format, there is potential for exclusivity. The format may deter those unfamiliar with Twitter, or indeed digital technology more broadly. This is not an inherently bad thing. It may provide a platform for less familiar scholars to present their work, opening up a space for ECRs, and allow technically capable scholars to showcase skills unfamiliar at traditional conferences. Nevertheless, inclusivity is favourable. So, the Green Criminology Network established ground rules from the very start aimed at preventing uncertainty or ambiguity. The call for papers therefore included sections on ‘How will the Twitter Conference Work?’, ‘What if I don’t have a Twitter Account?’, ‘Presenter Guidelines’, ‘Tips and Tricks’, and offered examples from other conferences so people could see how the format worked in practice.

Second, without some way of organising relevant Tweets from the myriad of individual Twitter accounts, there is potential for disorganisation and fragmentation. To address this, three ‘navigation points’ were created through which people could access the conference. First, the Speaker Schedule used Microsoft Sway to link to speaker abstracts and Twitter accounts, providing direct access to papers. This removed the need to navigate Twitter and improved inclusivity among those unfamiliar with the platform. Second, a short, relevant, and consistently used hashtag was important. #GreenCrime2021 was used in the initial call for papers and in every conference tweet prior to, during, and after the event. This provided an easy search term for those wanting to gather all conference tweets in one place. Third and finally, the Tweet Schedule tool provided automatic signposting from the network’s official Twitter account. A Tweet linking to each new speaker, with a title of their paper, was scheduled to send 5 minutes before they were due to present. This meant that anyone could navigate the conference in real-time simply by accessing the network’s Twitter account.

While these measures ensured a successful Twitter conference, it is worth noting that the lack of face-to-face interaction was felt. Questions were asked, answers were forthcoming and discussion ensued, but the inability to see others was a notably absent quality. This is where face-to-face conferences always have the upper hand, whether in-person or over video-call. Indeed, it is for this reason that Twitter may be better suited to research showcases, PGR-conferences, or alongside traditional conferences as a means of expanding the reach of papers. In whichever manner they are used, Twitter conferences have their place. It is worth remembering, however, that their success is contingent on effective preparation; a little of which goes a long way.

Watch again

Keynote video from Dr Angus Nurse

Keynote video from Dr Jenny Maher

Contact

Dr James Heydon, University of Nottingham

Twitter: @Jwheydon

Photographs courtesy of author 

A Green Criminological Take on the BSC in Lincoln

The BSC Annual Conference 2019 in Lincoln from a PGR perspective.

EGladkova

Ekaterina Gladkova holds a BSc in International Relations and an MSc in International Development. She is currently conducting PhD research that focuses on the links between farming intensification and environmental (in)justice and has its roots in green criminology.

 

 

My first BSC Annual Conference ‘Public Criminologies: Communities, Conflict and Justice’ held at the University of Lincoln in 2019 was an intellectually invigorating and socially exciting event. Over 200 papers were presented, illuminating different aspects of the current criminological research and engaging with the pressing social and environmental issues. The latter was particularly significant to me because it resonated with my personal academic interest in green criminology and provided an opportunity to catch up with the research of others working in the same field. Great sessions that intersected environmental problems with the criminological discipline, such as Capitalism and Environmental Harm; Deviance and Social Control in an Age of Ecological Disorganization, were held. Two roundtables – Green Criminology and The Intersection of Indigenous, Cultural, Southern and Green Criminologies – gave an opportunity to debate about harms and crimes against the environment and discuss prevention strategies both within and beyond Western knowledge structures.  Moreover, a plenary on Climate Change and Criminology from Professor Rob White continued breaking criminological silence on one of the defining issues of our time – global warming – and discussed how criminology can both address the issues around climate change denial as well as engage with climate change mitigation and adaptation. Yet, one of the highlights of the green criminological strand of the BSC 2019 was the launch of Green Criminology Research Network during the roundtable titled Green Criminology: The Past, Present and Future. The roundtable discussed the origins of green criminology, synthesised its current developments, and outlined some directions for the future of this area.

I also had an opportunity to present my paper during the PGR segment of the conference, illuminating one particular aspect of my research. An underlying theme of my research is food production, as I aim to advance the criminological understanding of both isolated deviancy and systemic harm featuring in the fabric of modern food systems. The research adopts a socio-legal approach, scrutinising a particular routine practice that underlies the modern-day meat production: industrial farming. While this large-scale, high input / high output, technology-based practice results in environmental and social grievances (Passas, 2005) as well as severe harm to animals (Wyatt, 2014), it nevertheless is the chosen mode of meat production globally. It, therefore, can be seen as an ‘ordinary harm’ (Agnew, 2013) that contributes to environmental destruction and undermines social cohesion.

Some countries jump on the bandwagon of industrial farming as they decide to re-structure the way they farm and Northern Ireland is one of them. A sharp increase in the number of industrial pig and poultry farms was reported in 2017 (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 2017). Industrial, or intensive, farms refer to the farms that house at least 40,000 poultry birds or 2,000 pigs grown for meat or 750 breeding pigs. The number of such farms in Northern Ireland went up by 68% from 154 in 2011 to 259 in 2017 (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 2017). In addition to the global dynamic in farm intensification, an industry-led Going for Growth (GfG) strategy adopted by the Northern Irish government in 2013 also provided an impetus to intensify meat production. My research takes the case study of pig farming intensification to analyse this alarming trend.

Farming intensification threatens an already fragile natural environment in Northern Ireland and also has detrimental consequences for human health and wellbeing. The paper I presented at the BSC 2019 used an environmental justice perspective to analyse farming intensification through the lens of a community affected by this phenomenon. It discussed environmental harms and risks from the existing farms in the area that the community is currently exposed to and suggested that these harms are likely to be exacerbated as pig farming intensification gathers pace. I also looked at the opportunities for the local residents to engage in environmental decision-making around intensive farm projects. The latter appear to be limited and I concluded that farming intensification in Northern Ireland is marked by recognitional and procedural environmental injustice.

The BSC Annual Conference was a perfect opportunity to present this work as it resonated with the main theme of the conference – Communities, Conflict and Justice – and showed how an ‘ordinary harm’ of farming intensification can produce a local conflict that reveals the flaws in environmental decision-making procedures.

Overall, my first BSC Annual Conference experience was very positive and I am looking forward to the next year’s conference!

Contact

Ekaterina Gladkova, PhD researcher at Northumbria University in Newcastle,

e.gladkova@northumbria.ac.uk

@EkatGladkova

Images: courtesy of the author and CopyrightFreePhotos