Social Media in Live Events publication

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 16.25.46I wrote a few times already about the SMiLE project led by Lisa Harris and Nicole Beale that I am part of. The team presented at the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) conference a few months ago and the paper of that presentation is now included in the online proceedings. You can access the full version on the PLE website or through my bibliography. The paper presents some early findings on our social media strategy applied to the CAA conference 2012 in Southampton.

More cool stuff is to come from the SMiLE team, and we have some great innovative network analysis things in the pipeline, so stay tuned 🙂

Harris, L., Earl, G., Beale, N., Phethean, C., & Brughmans, T. 2012. Building Personal Learning Networks through Event- Based Social Media : a Case Study of the SMiLE Project The Growth of the “ Backchannel ”. In PLE Conference Proceedings, Personal Learning Environment Conference 2012,

In this paper we report on early findings of our SMiLE project which is evaluating how effective various online social networking channels can be in supporting how people network and learn from a major ‘live’ conference. The event took place at the University of Southampton in March 2012. We consider the dynamics of the relation- ship between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ communities in the development of personal learning networks, for example how social networking impacts upon participants’ interaction and engagement before, during and after the event as the community of practice de- velops. Assessing the impact of social networking activity on ‘real world’ outcomes has historically been a difficult task, but we argue that recent developments in social network visualisation and analysis now enable valuable insights to be generated for the benefit of both event organisers and attendees seeking to build their subject knowledge and extend their networks.
We begin with a brief review of networking theory and the emerging role of the
online backchannel at ‘live’ events, before describing the approach we took to the col- lection and analysis of social media data from the CAA Conference. We then discuss the implications of our findings for people looking to build learning networks through the increasingly blurred boundaries of ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ networks. We conclude by highlighting some lessons learned and possible directions for future research. Our findings also have relevance to the PLE conference itself – which this year has the added dynamic of two face to face locations for the conference operating at the same time to pose new multi-channel communication and learning challenges for partici- pants.

SMiLE: But who is going to read 12,000 tweets?!

A second blogpost about the SMiLE project I am involved in appeared recently on the London School of Economics website. I wrote about the project’s aims before as Nicole Beale and Lisa Harris explained it on the LSE website earlier. This second blog post introduces a first glimpse at the results including a short discussion of Twitter network visualization and analysis. Exciting!

In fact, this second blog post reveals some of the really cool work the project members have been up to. MSc students here in Southampton have been busy using the collected social media data in creative ways for their projects. The project is also working with the Oxford e-research centre on a guide for best practice for using social media at conferences. But that’s not all! We are also working on depositing the entire social media archive with the Archaeology Data Service in York, and publishing some of the results in Internet Archaeology.

The rest of the blog post goes on to discuss some of the issues surrounding all this. How does one go about depositing an electronic social media archive? Lisa and Nicole looked into some of the comments of the conference delegates, provided in feedback forms, to get a more qualified picture of the issue and how to proceed. The blog also discusses the issue of developing an interface through which this dataset can be explored. Mark Borkum and I are looking at using network analysis tools for this. More on the network side of things will be revealed in later posts.

Have a look at the original article, definitely worth a read!

Social Media at CAA2012 on London School of Economics blog

The London School of Economics blog today features a post titled ‘If you don’t have social media, you are no one: How social media enriches conferences for some but risks isolating others’. It introduces some preliminary findings of the ‘Social Media in Supporting Live Events’ (SMiLE) project by Southampton’s Digital Humanities members Nicole Beale, Lisa Harris and their team… of which I am lucky to be part 🙂 They extracted data from over 13,000 tweets, 430 photos and a number of videos, all derived from the social media strategy the project set up for the Computer Applications and Quantitative techniques in Archaeology (CAA) conference held at the University of Southampton in March. Because the social media strategy was developed in detail before the event the SMiLE team managed to convince a large portion of conference delegates to use social media and collected way more data than they expected.

The blog post reveals some very preliminary results, but this rich dataset promises to provide many more fascinating insights in the use and potential of social media at a Humanities conference. Keep an eye out for SMiLE on the LSE and SotonDH blogs! And of course this one as well 🙂

An overview of The Connected Past

Over the weekend of 24-25 March 2012 a group of 150 archaeologists, historians, mathematicians, computer scientists, physicists and others from 19 different countries met at The University of Southampton. Their objective: to discuss the critical application of network and complexity perspectives to archaeology and history. The result: a stimulating and friendly gathering of academics from very diverse backgrounds who collectively created the exciting discussion platform the organisers believe is crucial to the development of future critical applications in our disciplines.

The last few weeks were hectic for Anna Collar, Fiona Coward and myself. There were many last-minute decisions to be made and problems to be solved. But in the end everything and everyone arrived on time to kick-start the symposium. Most delegates arrived from all over Europe and North America, and some joined us from as far as Australia and Japan. We were happy to welcome delegates from over 60 different universities. The most important work during the symposium took place behind the scenes by Lucie Bolton and her great team of volunteers who were there to welcome all delegates at 8am and make sure they were fuelled with lunch, coffee and cakes throughout the day. The Connected Past would not have been possible without them.

Jon Adams, head of the Department of Archaeology here in Southampton, opened the symposium and introduced our first keynote speaker Alex Bentley. Alex discussed in what cases certain types of network approaches are useful when exploring complex social systems. His paper provided a great start of the conference by setting out a framework for complex systems simulation and identifying the role networks could play within this. A first session of the symposium followed with a very diverse group of papers discussing a range of theoretical and methodological issues. Tom Brughmans explored the evolution of formal archaeological network analysis through a citation network analysis. Johannes Preiser-Kapeller argued for the incorporation of Luhmann’s systems theory in historical network approaches. Andy Bevan explored the issues involved in tracing ancient networks in geographical space. After a coffee break Astrid Van Oyen presented us with the Actor-Network-Theory perspective and how this might be usefully applied in an archaeological context. Søren Sindbæk made some very critical remarks concerning a direct mapping of exchange networks from distributions of archaeological data. Finally, Marten Düring presented a particularly fascinating approach of support networks for persecuted Jews in World War II and compared the usefulness of different centrality measures on it.

After lunch we reconvened for a session called ‘Big data and archaeology’, which included presentations of big datasets that showed particular potential to explore using networks on the one hand and archaeological applications of network analysis on the other. The session was opened by Barbara Mills who presented the work of her team on exploring distribution networks of a large archaeological dataset from the US southwest. Caroline Waerzeggers presented a dataset of tens of thousands of cuneiform tablets which hold a large variety of past relationships that can be usefully explore with network techniques. Mark Depauw and Bart Van Beek similarly presented an impressive dataset which includes references to almost half a million people living in Graeco-Roman Egypt. After tea Eivind Heldaas Seland introduced us to a highly qualified view of networks of travel and religion in late antiquity. Alessandro Quercia and Lin Foxhall presented their networks of loom weights, which is part of the wider Tracing Networks project. Angus Mol took us to the Caribbean with his network approach of a rather small but fascinating lithic assemblage. Finally, Craig Alexander discussed his study of visibility networks in Iron Age Valcamonica.

At the end of the day we had the pleasure of listening to Carl Knappett live from Toronto via a Skype call. We decided to go for this low-tech option because sadly we could not guarantee tech-support during the weekend and wanted to avoid complications. I am sure this is the first time Carl had a Skype meeting with 150 people at the same time. Carl Knappett suggested that in order for network approaches to be usefully applied in archaeology we need be aware of the diversity of available approaches and preferably work in collaboration with network specialists. In some cases, however, networks are not the best perspective to approach our archaeological questions. In his recently published ‘An archaeology of interaction’ Carl points to a wide range of theories and methods that may or may not work within the same framework, but knowledge of this diversity might lead to their more critical and useful applications. This second keynote presentation was followed by a wine reception and a visit to our local pub The Crown.

After a long night out and a nights-sleep further shortened by daylight savings time we were surprised to see almost all delegates appear at 9am to listen to our third keynote Irad Malkin. Irad recently published ‘A small Greek world’ in which he sees the emergence of Greek identity through network goggles by using a vocabulary adopted from complex network analysis to describe the processes he identified in ancient sources. Irad’s keynote address stressed how a networks approach allows us to revisit old questions and how it allows for spatial structure to be compared with other types of relationships. The subsequent session titled ‘Dynamic networks and modelling’ began with a great presentation by Ray Rivers stressing that archaeologists need to be aware of the implications of decisions made when modelling the past and selecting ‘Goldilocks’ networks that seem just right. Next, Anne Kandler presented her network model for exploring the transmission of ideas, which shows how the structure of complex networks influences cultural change. Caitlin Buck presented the work by her team on a new (and very robust looking) model for the spread of agriculture in Britain and Europe at large. After the break Tim Evans presented a much needed paper comparing different network models and their potential uses. The discussions after this paper revealed that such a comparison along with archaeological case studies would be a very welcome resource to archaeologists interested in networks. Juan Barceló presented a Bayesian network approach to explore causal factors determining the emergence and the effects of restricted cooperation among hunter-gatherer societies. Marco Büchler presented his fascinating work on text re-use graphs he and his team in of the eTraces project in the Leipzig centre for eHumanities are working on.

After lunch we had the pleasure of listening to papers in our last session ‘Personal, political and migration networks’. Wilko Schroeter presented on marriage networks of Europe’s ruling families from 1600-1900. Ekaterini Mitsiou moved our attention to the Eastern Mediterranean in her discussion of aristocratic networks in the 13th century. Evi Gorogianni made us look at dowry in a new way by stressing the relationships they establish and express. After tea Elena Isayev made us explore the early 3rd century BC networks of Italy outside the Italian peninsula. Claire Lemercier provided us with some critical comments on the historical use of formal network techniques and illustrated this through a case study on migration in northern France. Amara Thornton traced networks of individuals linked to the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem. Finally, Katherine Larson showed us a particularly creative way of seeing networks in the archaeological record by linking sculptors’ signatures on ancient statues.

In our eyes The Connected Past was a great success. We enjoyed the experience of organising the event and were delighted with the overwhelming response to our call for papers and registration. We received some great reviews from Tim Evans and Matteo Romanello. In the end, however, it was the delegates themselves who seized the opportunity to engage in multi-disciplinary discussions and to consider future collaborations in innovative research directions.

The Connected Past does not end here! In some time we will make some of the recorded talks available online, we will publish the proceedings and we have plans for future meetings. All to be revealed in time. For now all we want to say is: thank you for a fascinating weekend and keep up the multi-disciplinary discussions!

Personal Histories of CAA

This year marks the 40th anniversary of CAA. We will celebrate this event with the ‘Personal Histories of CAA’ session to be held at the CAA conference venue on Wednesday 28 March, from 2pm to 4pm. The founders, former chairs and key members of CAA throughout the last 40 decades will share their personal experiences with us. We are honoured that for this event we are able to welcome to Southampton Sue Laflin, Phil Barker, Clive Orton, John Wilcock, Nick Ryan, Paul Reilly and Hans Kamermans, as well as listen to an interview with Irwin Scollar. The session will be moderated by the current chair of CAA, Gary Lock.

Find out more about this great event on the CAA2012 website. And do also visit the Personal Histories project website.

Over the last forty years CAA has grown from an annual event at the University of Birmingham to a national and now worldwide conference attracting over 300 participants every year. It also lived through major changes in the role computing played in academia and people’s personal lives, through the availability of computers at academic institutions, the introduction of GIS, the affordability of computers for private use, the rise of user friendly operating systems, and last but not least the emergence and extreme impact of the world wide web. These events have strongly influenced the way archaeologists have used computing and quantitative techniques, and no organisation is a better reflection of this than CAA. The ‘Personal histories of CAA’ session aims to make the current generation of archaeologists aware of such dramatic shifts, and to provide personal perspectives for charting fascinating future research avenues.

CAA 2012 bursaries and first plenary speaker!

Just a quick note to say that applications for bursaries to attend CAA2012 will close at 12:01am on 25th January. This is to allow us to process applications in time for people to purchase registrations at the reduced rate.

In other news, the first plenary speaker for CAA2012 is announced: Dr Jeremy Huggett (University of Glasgow) with a talk entitled “Disciplinary issues: the research and practice of computer applications in archaeology”

CAA has been meeting annually for almost forty years, so one might expect that we would have a reasonable idea of the nature and role of archaeological computing. However, some see it as an emerging field (e.g. Bimber & Chang 2011) while others suggest the need for a new archaeological speciality: Archaeological Information Science (e.g. Llobera 2011). Even the Wikipedia page on computational archaeology describes archaeoinformatics as an emerging discipline. Is this a sign of a lack of confidence in forty years-worth of enterprise and development or is it instead an indication of growing self-assurance in the subject? In recent years other fields, including GIScience and Information Systems, have sought to evaluate their intellectual core and identity; perhaps it is time that archaeological computing does likewise.

Registration open for CAA2012

You can now register for the Computer Applications and Quantitative methods in Archaeology conference 2012, in Southampton. So register, register, register! And don’t forget to include your social media profiles so we can make this a real CAA 2.0!

The CAA2012 registration system is now open:

The early bird registration rates will end on 1 February. We very much look forward to seeing you in Southampton in March.

As part of the registration process we would very much like you to provide us with your social media profiles e.g. twitter, linkedin, academia etc. If you agree we will place these on the CAA2012 website in order to create an online community in advance of the conference and to help interactions during and after it. Please also follow @caasoton if you are a twitter user for regular updates.

CAA submission deadline extended

We have extended the CAA2012 submission deadline to 7 December! This means you have 7 more days to submit abstracts to mine and John’s session ‘Geography and-or-not topology’ 🙂

It has been a crazy day at CAA2012 HQ. We are now approaching 300 submissions for the conference, with an amazing range of topics. So, thank you VERY much for your submissions.

We have also received a lot of requests for slightly more time, and so we have decided to extend the deadline until 11:59pm UK time on Wednesday 7th December. Submission is via the Open Conference System.

We will still endeavour to release the programme before Christmas so to help the referees please get your submissions in as early as possible.

We will also be announcing the registration fees and process next week.

The website also carries details of the Student Bursary application process which is now open. Also remember the Recycle Award.

Finally you can now follow us on twitter via #caasoton

Blog at

Up ↑