Anyone using or observing Twitter will be well aware of the recent purchase of the company, which throws the future of the platform into, at best, uncertainty, and at worst, turmoil.
In response, many scholars have been considering a move to Mastodon, a non-profit, federated alternative social network. Being federated, Mastodon requires access to a server (here’s more on how Mastodon works), which is where we come in.
In response to community requests and our own recognition of the potential in this moment, we are launching hcommons.social, a Mastodon server open to all scholars (which we take to include: researchers, librarians, instructors, students, staff and anyone else with an active interest in research and education.) While we expect this space to lean Humanities-heavy, we leave it up to users whether it feels like the place they want to be. To start, there will be no limit on sign-ups, though we will review that policy over time as we learn more about the costs and overhead of managing the server.
We’ve moved quickly to get this up and running, and are doing so in the spirit of experimentation. We’ve never done this before. Many of the people who use it will probably not have either. So we’re going to have to figure things out together!
To start, we are putting in place:
And if you’re new to Mastodon, a wonderful HC user has created an excellent guide to getting started.
As the server grows (or doesn’t), we will be reassessing what is needed and will want to hear what you need to get the most from the space. There are lots of outstanding questions around costs, level of interest, support needs and our capacity, but we’re of the opinion that we can best answer those by diving in with you all! We’re also lucky to be launching in a moment where more how-tos are being created than ever before, so we encourage you to draw on those as our expertise and support capacity are still developing.
In that spirit, and to help make this undertaking a little more sustainable for our team, we’re inviting anyone who might be interested in becoming a moderator to register their interest. It is early days figuring out what this looks like and what the needs are, but if you throw your hat in the ring we will reach out when we know more.
More than anything, we are excited to see what you all will do with this opportunity.
As a team, we are deeply invested in creating spaces where community interactions are the focus, not just a front for selling advertising, mining data and extracting value. Whatever anyone’s predictions, the acquisition of Twitter by a billionaire technocrat is just another chapter in a long history of platform commercialization and enclosure, which is inextricable from the trend of increasing harm to minoritised users and communities, predominantly Black, Brown, Disabled, Queer, and Trans people.
This history is not so different from the legacy of publisher gatekeeping, platform monopolisation and data extraction that we at Humanities Commons are combating through the provision of open, values-driven, academy-owned infrastructure for digital scholarly work.
In other words, we are always on the lookout for opportunities to create spaces of radical possibility. We hope you all have fun exploring this one.