In any usual academic year, one of the highlights is attending conferences. Whether it’s to present new findings and ideas, being in the audience for presentations jotting down notes, whipping out your phone to snap a slide, asking questions or networking with other researchers in your field conferences are an annual gathering we look forward to. Had this year been an ordinary year, such gatherings would have carried on in the form of our Annual Midterm Conference for PhD students at the University of Glasgow at the end of April 2020 as well as the RGS Annual Conference in London bringing together geographers from across the globe.
However with the coronavirus outbreak, subsequent national lockdown and social distancing measures setting precedent for a new ‘normal’ from March, PGF@Home was set up by the PGF Committee (2019/20) to provide our postgraduate community with an active network and online space that gives you a little bit of that ‘conference feeling’. As a committee and PGF@Home team we felt it was really important to offer postgraduate researchers from geography and related disciplines the chance to share their work and wanted to try something a little different.
Having observed Twitter conferences in the past, we thought let’s give it a go and provide geographers the chance to take part in one! And to this end, our Committee organised, advertised, created a Schedule plus Presenters’ Guide and Attendee Guide, and chaired our first Postgraduate Forum Twitter Conference. In this post, we’ll be offering a summary and some reflections on our Postgraduate Forum Twitter Conference.
Over 3 days and 6 sessions, we hosted 21 presenters from over 15 universities from across the UK to as far as New Zealand and Australia. Presenters had 15 minutes to present 5 tweets plus 15 minutes to answer live-tweeted questions from our conference attendees. It was fantastic to see our presenters share their work in such innovative ways and watch conversations develop during the Q&A sessions. If you missed the conference, search #PGFTC2020 on Twitter to catch up on everyone’s presentations.
If you’re looking for a particular presentation or session, you can find the dedicated hashtags in our Schedule.
We found that holding the conference online meant that attendees could access presentations in the form of bite-sized tweets from across the globe and meet researchers in their field of interest from the comfort of their own home or office. And of course, such a conference has also been cheaper and more environmentally friendly to run than an in-person one. We hope this provided an inclusive environment for all our presenters and audience members and would of course welcome any feedback on the format or things we could improve.
Here, we’ve included just a few snapshots of our presenters’ work, and some of their thoughts on the event. Click on their tweets to view their presentations, follow them and ask them more questions!
In Session 2: Environmental Geographies we welcomed four presenters including Jenny Knight (University of Birmingham) and Daniela De Fex Wolf (Cardiff University) who have shared their thoughts on presenting at the conference.
Chloe Brimicombe (University of Reading) presented in our Water and Climate Session on Pan-African Heatwave Health Hazard Forecasting.
It was great to see how creatively people presented their work in, for example, our Cultural Geographies Session where Sharda Rozena shared a photo diary looking at the effects of gentrification and facadism in the London Borough of Kensington.
Phillipa Carter shared her research on landscape and the manifestation of memory through everyday rituals in a heritage project in the Derwent Valley through a video and a map made by participants based on their memories.
Andy Harrod’s presentation Loss and the making of (un)therapeutic landscapes loss included landscape photography and narrated videos.
“The RGS PGF Twitter Conference provided an excellent opportunity to communicate my research on a side project to my PhD to a wide audience. I enjoyed a welcoming session and engaging conversations about my research, which was rewarding especially as I was presenting on a sensitive and personal topic. It was also a great opportunity to connect with fellow PGR students and find out about their research. Using Twitter was an innovative approach and I was impressed with the quality of the content presenters fitted into five tweets!”
Andy Harrod , Lancaster University
Our Participatory Geographies session looked at a range of topics from the PhD journey itself to public engagement including Jack Lowe who reflected on participating in the conference below.
“The PGF Twitter Conference introduced a very innovative format for an academic event that helped me think about how to communicate my research in ways that can effectively engage audiences on social media. By planning how to fit my presentation into 5 tweets, it helped me find ways to share my research findings concisely and visually, without relying on long sections of text. I also really valued the opportunity to see snapshots of other people’s research and join in the discussion about them, via the hashtags and replies. The conference demonstrated how postgrads can make the most of Twitter as a networking tool, and it was heartening to make new connections with scholars both across geography’s sub-disciplines, as well as those who share similar academic interests and methodologies.”
Jack Lowe, Royal Holloway, University of London.
And there’s so many more interested and thoughtful presentations we’d recommend looking through our Schedule and jumping straight to the hashtags for more.
We also heard from our keynote speaker Professor Jenny Pickerill (University of Sheffield Geography) whose talk was watched over 140 times! We’d like to thank Jenny for offering us an insight into her journey in academia, and for providing some timely advice and thought-provoking questions. If you haven’t yet seen Jenny’s talk, you can watch it here or click through below.
The conference was a learning curve for the committee, and we’re grateful to all the support we had in making it all happen. Work on developing an organisers’ guide, and tweaks to the presenters’ and audience guides are already underway. Looking ahead to the future of the PGF Conference, it would be great to see this event happen again. Of course, we’ll hopefully be attending conferences such as the Mid-Term and Annual Conference in person again soon, but we really feel the Twitter Conference has the potential to continue its success in the years to come! We’re proud to have brought you this event and hope it provided all those who attended the opportunity to connect and enjoy some ‘virtual’ time with other geographers during what has been a challenging year.