Last week Rachael, Joseph and I made a presentation for one of our Digital Humanities modules. The presentation had to be on an open access resources so we chose to focus on hashtags. In this blog post I want to go over what exactly we focused on and expand on some of the points that were made.

Hashtags are used on social media or blogging services to link together content with similar themes. Recently we have seen them being used as tools to further political agendas. There is a lot that can be said for the socio-political effects of hashtags. The examples we used were that of #blacklivesmatter and #prayforparis. The former began as a result of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. In 2014 The American Dialect Society voted the hashtag as it’s word of year. More recently of course there has been the terrorist attacks in Paris. These attacks saw the hashtag utilised in a tremendously helpful way.

People all around Paris opened their homes to people stranded or too scared to move through the city using the #PorteOuverte hashtag on Twitter. Straight after the attacks people took to social media; Facebook, Instagram as well as Twitter to express their feelings of solidarity towards the capital and its citizens with #prayforparis. The hashtag has received its fair share of criticism though. The Dalai Lama said “I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical.”[1] The Richard Dawkins foundation took to Facebook to ask people to not pray for Paris but to ‘Fight Against Hateful Ideology’.[2] It must be said though that the hashtag was of course well-meaning.

Rachael decided to focus on hashtags in relation to healthcare and science. The main point was that scientists are taking more and more to Twitter and social media in general as a way to share their work with peers and the public. It brings new meaning to the concept of open access. If scholars can receive peer reviews from a huge pool of their colleagues online in social media then will they start to choose a more open access avenues to share their work?

At the start of our presentation we decided to create a hashtag to demonstrate live-tweeting. We chose #pearlsofwisdomjb and asked the class to tweet to the hashtag with their thoughts during the presentation. We concluded by saying that the power of hashtags is a very powerful trend with the power to make big changes.

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