Reflections on BAVS 2016

bavs-poster_castleThe 2016 British Association for Victorian Studies annual conference, ‘Consuming (the) Victorians’, officially closed at Cardiff University on Friday. Today, I finally put in a full and productive day of work again after a long weekend of post-conference recovery. It’s one thing attending a three-day international conference. It’s a whole different thing organising one. Despite a fantastic organising team – and an equally fantastic bunch of delegates – four days of conference mode (preceded by a year’s worth of planning) takes its tole. Fortunately, it was still an amazing experience overall, and one I would gladly repeat… though perhaps not immediately.

Today I spent several hours putting together Storify threads of all the Twitter highlights from each day of BAVS 2016, and got to re-live the moments that made it special. I was also overwhelmed by just how many tweets there were. Just counting those I retweeted from the official @BAVS2016 account, there were more than 3000 tweets between 31 August and 2 September. On the first day, the #BAVS2016 hashtag was among the top fifty Twitter trends in the UK. Not bad for a group of 350 Victorianists – especially given that their presence on Twitter mostly consisted of PhD students and early-career scholars.

Without further ado, then, the Storify feeds for BAVS 2016:

BAVS 2016 – Day One (31 August, 2016)

BAVS 2016 – Day Two (1 September, 2016)

BAVS 2016 – Day Three (2 September, 2016)

BAVS 2016 – Aftermath

We couldn’t have achieved all this without our team of bursary tweeters, who volunteered their skills in exchange for a small subsidy (which in turn was graciously provided by BAVS and Cardiff University). They produced around a third of the live tweets during the conference.

Image by @KeiWaiyee (‘Marxist Baking’), a BAVS 2016 delegate

It was a fantastic three days, but now it’s time to turn my thoughts back to all the projects I’ve been neglecting in the run-up to the conference – and to BAVS 2017: ‘Victorians Unbound’!

Fantasies of Contemporary Culture (in Review)

CulturalfantasiesA massive ‘Thank You’ to everyone who attended Monday’s Fantasies of Contemporary Culture symposium at Cardiff University, either in person or on Twitter. I enjoyed the day (and all the papers) immensely, and feel very honoured to have been a part of it.

I’ve compiled some of the images, tweets, and Facebook posts into a (very long) Storify thread. Browse them at your leisure. Here’s how it all starts:

 This week at Cardiff University, delegates gathered from around the world for the Fantasies of Contemporary Culture symposium. The event was an opportunity to explore the political and cultural functions of fantasy, in all its forms.

‘How might the fantastical characters and environments that populate our contemporary cultural landscape be informed by the experience of twenty-first-century metropolitan life,’ asked the event’s call for papers, ‘and how do such texts (in)form that experience in return?’ Delegates answered this question in many different ways, over two plenary talks, eight panel sessions, and numerous informal discussions throughout the day.

[read more here]

A lot of people were enthusiastic about doing this kind of thing again next year – and in fact we’ve already had a chat with a couple of delegates who might like to bring Fantasies of Contemporary Culture to their universities in the future. If we’re going to do this, however, we’d like to know what you thought of this year’s symposium.

We’ve compiled an anonymous survey of 10 questions. If you can spare the time (it should take about 2 minutes), we would love to hear your honest thoughts and points for improvement.

Thanks again – and hope to see you next year!

10 Things No One Tells You About Getting Paid to Facebook

This post originally appeared on Social Media Skills for Students, a comprehensive website that hosts how-to guides for and reviews of the most popular forms of social media. It also provides firsthand experiences, opinions, and advice from students and staff who use social media in teaching, learning, research, and other professional capacities, as well as showcasing inspiring content created by students and lecturers. To find out how to write for them, click here.
Social-media-appsI’ve been a student on and off for most of my life. In the two years that I took a real, full-time ‘break’ from the academic mill (assuming applying for PhD funding and attending vampire conferences don’t count as studying), I worked as a web editor and social media manager for Poetry International, a not-for-profit literary organisation in Rotterdam. As part of my job I ran Poetry International’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, and I also ended up expanding their social media presence across other platforms. This wasn’t the first time I had used social media for professional purposes, but it did teach me some weird and wonderful things about working in the industry.

1. No one takes you seriously

When I used to tell people I worked in social media, I got pretty much the same reaction I do now, when I tell them I’m a funded PhD student studying monsters: confusion and surprise. Response one is inevitably: ‘I didn’t realise they paid people to do that’. Response two generally goes something like: ‘So you get paid to fool around on the internet all day?’ The answer is basically ‘yes’. Embrace it.

2. It’s actually a lot of work

Just like socialising offline, doing social media right takes time, and you only get out of it what you put into it. Even if you’re only focusing on sharing content from a website, and not really interested in engaging with your followers, you have to think about the best way to communicate that content. If you’re running more than one social media networks, each one also requires a different approach to the same content. Also, people underestimate the time it takes to find good images, especially if (like many of us) you don’t have any real budget.

For all this guy’s colleagues know, he could be waiting for photos to upload to Facebook.


3. No one knows what you’re doing

Though PR and communications companies may be the exception to this rule, a lot of your co-workers just won’t get what it is you physically do all day, or why what they’re doing needs to be communicated on social media. These are often people who don’t really use social media that much themselves. Surely it’s just for posting pictures of food? Even if your colleagues work in communication, the strategies they’ve developed in print and online media may not always work in social media.

4. No one knows what they’re doing either

There’s no proven formula for how to ‘do’ social media, and even if there were, it keeps changing the whole time. As for content, sometimes you understand immediately why these people are successful at social media, but sometimes you really can’t see from their feed why they deserve more followers than you. Not naming any names. Honestly, it’s all a matter of perspective, and of knowing your audience. How you use social media depends 100% on what you’re sharing, who you’re sharing it with, and what you want to achieve by sharing it. This has the effect that…

5. You end up feeling like a mystical internet wizard

Sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t, and usually you have no idea why. There’s definitely skill and creativity involved, but a lot of the time you also just click ‘share’ and hope.

‘Maybe if we try sharing it backwards at a crossroads during the full moon?’


6. You meet loads of great (and often very grateful) people

The great thing about working in social media is that you basically spend all day networking. You’ll exchange friendly banter with some of your followers, and you’ll find yourself befriending the social media managers at other organisations as well. No one likes a self-important news feed, so in addition to posting your own content, you end up sharing a lot of other people’s stuff. There are different ideas about just how much of your feed this should include, and it depends a bit on what kind of content you’re sharing, but my rule of thumb was always at least two pieces of content from outside your organisation for every one from your own. Sometimes other organisations will even ask you to share their content, and are very happy to return the favour.

7. You will have to promote unpromotable things

It seems like everyone is on social media these days, and some social media managers are luckier than others with the content they’re asked to share and promote. Whether you work for Coca-Cola, KLM, or The Paris Review, however, at some point you will have to promote something that just does not automatically get people excited or engaged on social media. This may be because of its nature as a product (mouthwash FTW!) or, as was usually the case with my work, because it’s not very visual. What’s the best way to share a poem on Twitter or YouTube when you have very limited time and resources? You’ve got options, but sometimes you have to get very creative. It’s even trickier if some of your audience doesn’t take very kindly to you demeaning their beloved interest by trying to commercialise it (‘Top 10 Poems About Sex!’).

This vintage stock model looks like she’s enjoying her mouthwash.


8. You are the god of your domain

Unless you work for a big company, chances are you will the sole person responsible for running the social media – and you may have other responsibilities alongside it. While this can be very intimidating, it also offers a whole lot of freedom. You can try (virtually) anything you want! When it’s not a wild success no one notices, when it backfires it’s (usually) chalked up to the fact that you’re bravely shouldering the burden of running the social media alone, and when it’s successful you get all the credit.

9. People will think you’re amazing

Your job title sounds very space-aged. Unfortunately, a lot of people equate working in social media with being a wizard in all things technical. While you’ll no doubt pick up some computer skills along the way (maybe some basic html if you’re lucky), for the most part this is not the case. We forget where the ‘Events’ button is just like everyone else. If anything we probably irritate the IT department more than anyone because of our weirdly superficial familiarity with technology. Still, if you can get away with it, it’s nice to feel like an internet expert. If you have the time for a coding course or two, you may even evolve into one of those rare unicorns with communications skills and technical ability.

10. The only way to go is up

As more and more companies realise the importance of using social media to communicate, they will need people who are up to the challenge of managing their online presence for them. They are at your mercy. The best part? You probably already have the skills to do it.

And a folder of cat photos somewhere on your computer that you can now put to good use.