by Emily Fioccoprile
A strong presence on social media was integral to this conference, as it brought the issues raised throughout the event to a wider audience. The event organisers established a Twitter hashtag, #bradgender, and a Facebook page. We publicised them throughout the course of the conference, inviting delegates and colleagues who could not attend to continue the discussion of gender’s relevance online. The majority of comments (Tweets and Facebook Posts) were live, play-by-play accounts of the conference, and they were generally positive and forward-looking (e.g. how to improve discussions and perceptions of gender within and outside of academia).
Who’s talking about #bradgender?
Since its creation in July 2014, the hashtag #bradgender has been used in 358 Tweets*, the vast majority of which were written by delegates (220 Tweets, or 61.5%; Figure 1) or the organisers (108 Tweets, or 30.2%). The Facebook page has generated 49 Likes (Figure 2) and 59 Posts (52, or 88.1%, of the Posts were from the organisers; Figure 1). These Likes and Posts have reached more than 100 people, according to official Facebook statistics (Figure 3). Most of this activity occurred during and immediately after the conference, with Likes increasing dramatically on 18 September 2014 (Figure 2). Facebook statistics also break down the demographics of people who like a page, providing information about where they come from and how they construct their identities. Our page’s fans hail from 12 countries, although most live in the UK. 75% identify as female, 12% identify as male and 13% do not appear in the gender statistics information** (Figure 4). The predominantly female bias in fans reflects the overall make up of the conference delegates, and highlights a wider imbalance in academic studies of gender, which was addressed at several points during the conference.
What are people saying about #bradgender?
Social media were important leading up to, during and immediately after the conference. Prior to the event, the hashtag #bradgender and the Facebook page were used for promotion and information dissemination. The event registration link was circulated and delegates were kept up-to-date with news items, such as travel bursaries and changes to the programme. The peak of social media activity occurred during the event itself, when organisers and delegates used both Twitter and Facebook to post play-by-play accounts of the conference sessions (Figure 5). For example, during the plenary lecture by John Robb and Oliver Harris on Day 1, organiser Hannah Cobb tweeted: ‘John Robb: “Gender as a category is always in the process of becoming”. BRILLIANT! Deleuze/DeLanda within only 5mins! #BradGender’. The Facebook page received similar posts on Day 2, when organiser Joanne McNicholls and delegate Pamela Jane Smith began commenting on individual paper topics.
Tweets and Facebook posts also recounted delegates’ personal experiences and emotions concerning the event. Delegates wrote about the anticipation leading up to and following the presentation of their papers and posters, and about the city of Bradford. Some attendees thanked the organisers, and colleagues who could not attend sent their apologies. Finally, discursive Tweets on the theme of gender also used the conference hashtag. Delegate Ray Laurence started conversation about the weight given to gender in museum agendas that reached beyond the conference: ‘@AskACurator am at conference ‘Is gender still relevant? Can I #askacurator (all of you) this question? pls use ht #BradGender‘. Other delegates posted links to web articles or made general comments on the state of gender in academia.
Both the hashtag and Facebook page will remain publicly visible and active, serving as a record of the conference’s impact. Future, related events might use the Facebook page as a potential fan base.
* Statistics correct as of 13 December 2014.
** It should be noted that although users can enter a ‘Custom’ gender on their profiles, Facebook uses a binary gender system for its page statistics. Thus, the remaining 13% of our fans may represent multiple gender identities.