Live Twitter commentary and Q&As – both official and unofficial – have become a feature of historical TV programming. What opportunities can this format offer academics? How does it break down conventional hierarchies, and how does it create new ones? What are the uses of history in the present day and how does live tweeting engage viewers of historical documentaries and dramas?
Dr Catherine Fletcher, an expert on early modern Italian history at the University of Swansea, argues that social media can offer a democratic and participatory role for the viewer. ‘Live tweeting allows audiences to comment in real time on a TV programme (or any other event),’ she explains.
‘If enough users agree on a hashtag (like #WolfHall or #WarAndPeace) that enables others to follow all the related tweets. This being the internet, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that a gif of Thomas Cromwell’s kitten and a knitted Cromwell doll were in contention to win the #WolfHall Twitter crown.’
An associate professor in history and heritage at Swansea University, Dr Fletcher has been on Twitter since 2012 as @cath_fletcher. She has more than 3,000 followers and has clocked up some 7,000 tweets. And while her research focuses on 16th-century Europe, Dr Fletcher is also very interested in the uses of history in the present day.
‘I’m a regular radio contributor (and a 2015 BBC New Generation Thinker) and write for a wide audience. My latest book, The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de’ Medici is just out.’
So what can we expect from her on the 11 May?
‘…while this might seem all very democratic and participatory, the world of social media still has its hierarchies and gatekeepers,’ says Dr Fletcher. ‘At the Social Scholar seminar I’m going to talk about my own experience of how they operate, based primarily on some analysis of my social media commentary on Wolf Hall [Hilary Mantel’s acclaimed historical novel, which was turned into a TV series by the BBC] but also looking at some other examples of history “on the hashtag”.’
Title: Between old and new media: TV, Twitter and history on the hashtag
Speaker: Dr Catherine Fletcher (Swansea)
Series: Social Scholar seminar
Date & time: 11 May, 1–2pm.
Location: Room 246, Second Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
To find out more about this event please check our event page. The Social Scholar seminar is a free lunchtime seminar which investigates the ‘social’ aspect of academic work including social media, public engagement, and the digital humanities.