A group of scholars, Wolfgang Reinhardt, Martin Ebner, Guner Beham & Cristina Costa, have written a very interesting case study titled How People are using Twitter During Conferences.
Overall, the paper is deeply rooted in social psychology and learning theory. I'm sure that many of the findings could be transferred into an educational, corporate, or any other type of community of practice.
The paper contains an overview of web 2.0, micro-blogging and focuses on "how Twitter can enhance the knowledge of a given group or community by micro-connecting a diverse online audience."
Here are some of the key points and survey results:
- At Conferences Twitter Serves Three Primary Functions: Organizational Enhancement, Effective Sharing of Information, and Easier to build a conference community.
- Microblogging tools like Twitter provide a flexible, inclusive platform for knowledge sharing & discourse
- Twitter should be seen as a new form of communication where "ideas, simple notifications, news, pictures (via TwitPic), links and other information are shared in real time."
- Information Seeker: Observes the Twitter stream but doesn't contribute to the conversation, no active participation. (Note: In educational psychology this concept of "lurking" is widely referred to as Legitimate Peripheral Participation.)
- Information Source: Comprised of those people who contribute knowledge to the Twitter stream.
- Primary goal of micro-blogging is "enhance one's cyberspace presence."
- Twitter as "Mobile 2.0." The mobile nature of Twitter and third party apps are a key factor in why Twitter is a valuable tool for knowledge exchange.
- Hashtags allow users to create a "theme" thereby making it easier to follow the conference and "generate a resource based on that theme."
- Survey Results: 67% reported to have tweeted during the conference, 52% had conversations based on presentations via DM (direct messages).
- Survey Participant Feedback: "In the Twitter back channel we discussed things more deeply than the guy on the stage", "You get to know unexpected things and people", "Twitter gives people a greater sense of community" and "encourages participation."