Working the Backchannel: Analysis of a Literacy Organization’s Conference Hashtag
Forthcoming Article
Authors: Peggy Semingson, Henry Anderson, Elizabeth Powers, Pete Smith
DOI: 10.1615/IntJInnovOnlineEdu.2017019979

Professional educational organizations increasingly are seeking ways to foster digital connectivity and informal learning amongst membership through social media platforms and tools. Twitter remains one widely-utilized tool for members to connect with each other and with the professional organization. Organizations frequently use a conference hashtag on Twitter to foster participatory and networked approaches to learning while developing an online community around the event, yet these backchannels are seldom studied. This paper applies analysis on the Twitter backchannel of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) 2016 national conference. Social network analysis (SNA) tool was utilized to better understand the digital connectivity of key professional players and influencers at this literacy conference, and in a parallel thread, Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) software was used to document the tone, clout, authenticity, and analytical thinking of participants in the conference Twitter data set. Findings indicate distinct classes of educational practitioners in the Twitter conversation, such as those from a major publishing house, practitioner-oriented authors, children-oriented authors, and consultants. Content analysis using LIWC indicated that the conversations were decidedly analytical, positive in emotional tone, and contained language indicative of experts and expertise. Among top influencers in the Twitter engagements as identified by the SNA, the authors of books for children and young adults outscored all of the other influencers in positive tone and authenticity, while registering the most minimal use of clout or expertise language.

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