A superhero touched down at the Educause Annual Conference last week in Anaheim.  Experiences were changed, Twitter was twisted, and everyone was asking…

“Who is Educause_Hulk????’

At this year’s Educause Annual Conference, held last week in Anaheim, I got to witness something that, realistically, doesn’t happen all that often anymore.  I got to see an existing social networking tool get twisted and used in a new way.  I got to witness the impact of Twitter, twisted.

It is true that a great many tools – social networking and media ones in particular – are used in new, creative ways every day.  Discovering new ways to use a tool such as Twitter is so common that calling it “reinvention” is almost inappropriate.  It’s almost commonplace.  So this isn’t new in the big sense, but within the particular context of the conference and how Twitter has been used therein, something quite remarkable happened.

Twitter has been used at conferences for quite some time, as both a great way to set up social activities (“hey!  I’m here, who wants to get some food?” or “Let’s have a tweet-up!”) and to share information (“in a great session about topic X where such and such is said”).  Of course, the use of a hash tag is required to organize all of this data, and an easy-to-read interface like that of Tweetdeck makes for a very powerful tool for communication.  If you take a look at the Educause 2010 stream, you see it is littered with all kinds of posts.  I think the first time Twitter was used so heavily at an Educause event was about 3 years ago at ELI, and it has just blossomed (exploded?) since then.

This past conference, however, saw a new twist.  An attendee created an “alter ego” – EDUCAUSE_HULK – and posted on a semi-regular basis as that persona throughout the conference.  This had a huge impact, at least for me, on the overall experience, and it raised a number of questions for the person behind the Hulk, too.

The beauty of Twitter is that it forces one to come up with a meaningful tidbit in just 140 characters.  The beauty of what EDUCAUSE_HULK did was that he had to speak like the Hulk, but still contribute useful information.  I think that for both myself and for the Hulk, the question became not only how to condense a set of ideas, but also how to describe it with a specific voice.  It’s also a game of how often the Hulk should post.  After all, there is an element of fun to what the Hulk is saying, and that can be a distraction to some.

I wonder how much of this was intentional, but there was one tweet, for instance, that I felt commented on the predominance of cloud-computing-based sessions at the conference.  To quote:


This hopefully humorous tweet makes one wonder why there is so much talk about cloud computer, what it means, how different schools are using it, etc.

In another tweet, where the Hulk describes the Educause10 stream to be like “drinking from a fire hose,” one wonders if perhaps there is too much stuff flying around with that tag.  Does twitter lose its usefulness at a conference that is so big?  Are we distracted by the feed and no longer listening to the sessions that we are actually attending?

Someone suggested to Hulk (yes, we eventually got to meet the person behind the big green giant) that the creation of the character and the “voice” created by it is a kind of game-based learning experience.  It’s role-playing, after all, and the decision about when to post, how often, about what, when to be funny, and when to be funny about a meaningful topic is all part of that game.

I wonder what educause_batman would be like.  Of course, it would all be lowercase, because he would be stealthy…

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