Reading over the posts and conversations on Day Nine of our digital conference “What is a Recipe?” I was struck by the many ways that our participants engaged with one another. When we started this project, we wanted to make sure that we were speaking with, and to, all of our constituents. The Recipes Project is a blog invented and managed by academics, but our readers and contributors come from a wide range of backgrounds: professional chefs, activists, scientists, medical doctors, linguists, folklorists, and food enthusiasts. We wanted to talk with, and to, all of the parts of our community.
It should come as no surprise that academics love to talk about their discoveries and ideas. When academics talk to each other, they use formal, traditional venues and formats (professional conferences/20-minute read-aloud papers) as well as more free-form, new ones (of all the forms of social media, academics seem particularly taken with Facebook & Twitter). Both offer advantages as well as drawbacks. But in order to reach new audiences, sometimes you have to move the conversation into different formats and genres.
That’s why we were determined to embrace a wide range of social media outlets and online platforms for the #recipesconf (or, as it’s officially called, our Digital Conversation). Over the course of this project, we have all “talked” with one another on Instagram and YouTube; on our blog and on guest blogs; in podcasts and in person; via Google Chat, Skype, and Join.me; on Facebook and especially on Twitter. Each platform had its strengths and weaknesses, and each also engendered different styles and sorts of conversations.
Day Nine of our conference showcased this phenomenon. There was an Instagram essay by Katherine Cheyenne Hysmith (Twitter: @kchysmith, Instagram: @kchysmith, and blog here). Emily Contois shared an e-journal and created a Twitter chat (hashtag #teachingcookbooks, Twitter: @emilycontois and website: bit.ly/foodgender). Rachel Snell blogged about her teaching and shared a website of her students’ work. The Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine at the University of Minnesota unboxed a new manuscript via Facebook Live (https://www.facebook.com/umnbiomedlib, Twitter: @umnbiomedlib, and Instagram: @umnlib). Siobhan Carlson continued her Instagram and Twitter essays (@SpuddenlyFarming and Twitter @Spuddenly_Farm). Harry Hayfield wrote a blog post (on Boeuf Bourginon) and Sietske Fransen talked to us via Twitter and her blog (Twitter @sietske_fransen and her blog post on her archives tweets here). And last but not least, some of our RP editors and our #recipesconf participants joined together on Twitter for a two-hour open forum on the “recipe” for our program — or, what were our guiding principles, designs, and methods in creating and administering a virtual conference?
I was struck by the ways that each platform offered its own unique sort of conversation. Real-time, instant engagement came most readily on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook; in these formats, participants seemed more willing to make comments and ask questions. Twitter was particularly lively, and it felt like the conference “lived” there, with quick response exchanges and lots of helpful reminders about the content that was being hosted elsewhere. On the blogs and on YouTube, participants shifted into a more scripted, prepared mode — carefully plotting out their presentations ahead of time, delivering them, and then giving us time to process and think through on our own. Over the course of the month-and-a-half that we’ve run this virtual conversation, I’ve enjoyed thinking and learning and conversing in all of these different modes, and I hope that you have, too.