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Posts Tagged ‘missiology’

About a week ago, I participated in a conference, the venue – and most participants – being about 9000km away. Nothing new, one might rightfully say. Of course, I participated through electronic means. Welcome to the future, Alexander G. Bell, you might say.

The uniqueness, at least from my perspective, was the medium through which I participated – twitter.* To my delightful surprise, I could follow a lot of what was happening. I am no expert on the subject – the conference was that of the Southern African Missiological Society – but I could gauge pretty well what everyone was arguing. This, even though what I received where pretty much only short bursts of information. True, someone with almost no knowledge of the subject would probably have lost the thread; but this will be the case in “real-life” participation too.

Some of the speakers had put their papers online, and links to these papers were passed around on twitter. This meant that

a) one could read up on the matters later on, and

b) people attending the conference could probably follow the speaker even better, if they had internet access.

To illustrate another useful aspect of twitter’s ability to share links quickly: a few links to speakers’ blogs made the rounds. The audience (even those abroad) could get a general background perspective on the speaker – and these links and blogs are, of course, useful for the future too. Not only the blogs, but also simply other twitter users participating came to my attention. I will hardly go looking for twitter users; let’s face it: the 140 characters biography say almost nothing. But a shared interest, in this case identified by the hashtag #SAMS2011, did point to some interesting voices that I will listen to from now on.

Among other things, the usefulness of twitter for missiology was discussed (in a report back paper, worth the read!). I would like to emphasize here that twitter is a relatively cheap and accessible means of communication. Added to this, Africa has rather good cellphone reception (contrary to what some may think). The SAMS conference set up a screen with incoming tweets in the background – meaning just about everyone could make themselves “heard”.

I’m not hailing twitter as THE solution, or as the new way of holding conferences. In fact, I think a lot got lost in summary, so to speak. Some questions were left unanswered; some themes dropped, as is the twitter way. Obviously a lot of non-verbal communication went flying. And although meeting new people electronically was great, it’s no substitute for meeting someone in the flesh.

A lot of useful academic discussion (most useful academic discussion?) occurs after the day is done; over lunch; over dinner; over coffee. I’m sad that I’ve missed it – this time. Nevertheless, I at least got SOME input.

By the way, I’m sure some of the papers will make their way into Missioniala, SAMS’s journal.

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FOOTNOTES

* Members of the Society of Biblical Literature have been using twitter as a medium dating at least as far back as 2009, through the hashtags #SBL2009, #SBL10, etc. My hashtag search for the International meeting – I’m assuming it will be #SBL11 – is already on. I’ve also participated in other such experiments, where I’ve had a similar experience.

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