Tag Archives: microblogging

Social media for a cause: How "Invisible Children" can serve as a model for the heritage field

On April 25th, thousands of people abducted themselves in solidarity in partnership with a San Diego based non-profit organization called Invisible Children. The event was organized through social media to make a statement and it prompts blogger Dylan Staley to ask the question: Has the time come for similar measures for the cause of heritage?

Invisible Children

By Dylan Staley

On April 25th, thousands of people abducted themselves in solidarity in partnership with a San Diego based non-profit organization called Invisible Children. Invisible Children organized this event, called “The Rescue,” to simulate the experiences of children abducted in Northern Uganda by Joseph Kony, leader of The Lord’s Resistance Army. The event’s purpose was to get the attention of media and moguls, Invisible Children’s term for those influential figures in modern culture (artists, talk show hosts, Senators and Representatives, celebrities, etc), to “rescue” the people who abducted themselves by speaking out in support of Invisible Children and their cause.

As organizations like Invisible Children begin to embrace social media as a way to inform people and coordinate events, those in the preservation fields can do so as well. In my earlier blog posts, I wrote about how preservation organizations can use services such as Twitter and USTREAM for live, up to the minute updates of what’s happening right now. Even now, organizations using the power of the masses through services such as Twitter and popular social-networking site Facebook to both organize and inform people about events and causes.

One of the more interesting aspects of The Rescue, however, was its utilization of the internet and social media. Using social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Mogulus, Invisible Children was able to coordinate efforts in over 100 cities in ten different countries around the globe. Here’s what happened:

  1. About a month before the event, Invisible Children asked those who were going to be participating in the event to use their social networking sites to get the word out about the event. Also, they encouraged users to use sites such as Twitter and YouTube to get the attention of various celebrities such as Oprah, The Jonas Brothers, Ashlee Simpson, Nicolas Cage, Paramore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Angelina Jolie, and hundreds of others. Invisible Children also asked people to use phone calls, emails, and letters to get the attention of their Senators and Representatives.
  2. On April 25th, as thousands of people left their homes to abduct themselves, people used Twitter to keep their friends updated and also to contact other abductees in other cities. I used my Twitter feed in combination with hashtags to share my updates as I was abducted and rescued in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
  3. In addition to Twitter, Invisible Children used the power of live broadcasting to bring together people who were unable to attend the event and those who had already been rescued to help get the remaining cities rescued. There was even an instance in which the host of the live show asked the viewers to order pizza for one of the groups in Wichita, Kansas.

So, as we in the heritage field dip our toes into the social media wading pool, what will it take for us to jump in with the big kids and make a real difference?

  1. Communicate the resource. It’s easy to get so bogged down in semantic differences that the resource is forgotten amid the press reports about red-eyed obstructionist preservationists blocking more progress. Communicate why it’s important to you and make a go at understanding why heritage resources are important to others as well. But this has to be done ongoingly BEFORE THE CRISIS to be effective.
  2. Get coordinated. The social web is about collaboration. And most heritage resources require the coordinated efforts of multiple specialists to preserve them. Use these tools to communicate with folks out of your field and learn a little more about their views of these situations. A broader mind never hurt anyone.
  3. Have a plan. The success of the Invisible Children campaign was the result of individuals, groups and various online tools working together for a purpose. Think about who you wish to target with your communication and take the time to understand which online tools resonate with them.

“Anyone born after the year 1980 are Millennials, they grew up on the internet, they know the power and access to technology,” said Jason Russell, one of the three young guys who founded Invisible Children after taking a trip to Africa and witnessing the horrors of the war there that has been going on for over twenty-three years in Northern Uganda. As time goes on and our generation becomes increasingly interconnected through the internet and technology, using these tools can help ensure a bright future for generations to come through the preservation of generations past.

Twitter and microblogging: Instant communication with your community

Twitter in Plain English from leelefever on Vimeo.

“What are you up to?”

It’s how we greet friends and strangers alike everyday. It’s also the question behind one of the web’s most popular social networking sites: Twitter. Voices of the Past posts links to its news, along with other community announcements, at www.twitter.com/heritagevoices. So what is microblogging, and what can you gain from it?

Microblogging, a term that refers to the plethora of micro-blog posts on the sites of services such as Twitter, and Tumblr, lets users update their friends (or followers as Twitter calls them) about what’s going on right now. For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll be looking at the basic ideas behind microblogging with Twitter. Yes, the first time I heard about it I too wondered who in the world would spend their time on something like this.

Lots of folks, evidently. According to the measurement website Tweetrush, about 2 million “tweets” (a.k.a. posts) are released into cyberspace each day. And in a time when most companies are going to the government for the funds to stay afloat, venture capitalists gave Twitter $35 million it didn’t even necessarily need.

It turns out that most people like the freedom of expression that blogging promises, but aren’t crazy about the commitment. While some of us may enjoy the process of researching and crafting a blog post to stand the test of time, others just want to share their admiration of meal well done or vent their complain about unsatisfactory service. The sentiment is short, sweet and instantly out there for millions to see.

Ease of use is where much of Twitter’s popularity lies. There is no logging into an administrative panel to create headlines, tags and the other components of a blog post. And the interface is immaculate, unlike the chaos of Facebook or MySpace. Type in the homepage box and press send. That’s it. Dozens of Twitter update applications have been built for quick updating via desktop applications and smartphones as well.

Obama on Twitter
Obama on Twitter

More than 250,000 Obama followers on Twitter aided in his presidential victory through spontaneous meet-ups and fundraisers announced through the service. In February 2009, “Twestival” was celebrated for the first time in more than 180 cities all over the world. Twestival essentially began with groups of Twitter users rallying together to support the cause of clean water in developing countries. Hundreds of gatherings were held to raise money for public works projects.

Twitter can be used on a personal level for project management, conference meeting communications, to-do lists, notetaking, job networking, flash focus groups, and getting all the family together at the same time for dinner. It can also be used to aggregate news in an easily accessible way.

But Twitter is merely the delivery platform. It’s up to the users of the service to determine what the conversation is about. Groups who are on archeological surveys can use these services to update their friends and colleagues about their findings almost immediately after the fact through the use of cellphone integration that many microblogging services offer. These services can allow almost real-time communication: something that is virtually unheard of within the preservation field.

After Twitter, a flurry of microblogging services were hatched only to go the way of the dodo. Jaiku, Pownce, Plurk, Brightkite were among the players I remember best from the early days. Today, Twitter commands much of the action, though you can find the current microblogging services reviewed in this post.

Twitter Lists

To me, “lists” are the functionality that make Twitter worthwhile. It takes the firehose of information and contextualizes it. These lists take a while to build, but are worth it. If you are looking for content to get started consuming information on Twitter, here are my curated lists of folks in digital heritage. You can follow these lists with your account or use them to build your own lists. My list “Heritage Influencers” is embedded below with the latest tweets from that group.


5 Ways to Use Twitter for Good

Newbie’s Guide to Twitter

Latest news on Twitter