We live in an intense and noisy world. We live with and through gadgets, social media and mobile apps. Our brains are now oriented to consuming multiple forms of information through what we know as a newsfeed. Younger generations are already adapted to this timeline/newsfeed mentality, often from early childhood. The challenge is to identify how innovative educational processes and projects can resonate with this new model of thinking.
We asked ourselves what would be the best new way to teach history in the social media era? How can we engage an audience used to snaps, tweets, developing situations and breaking news? So we decided to create a large-scale Twitter role-play that re-enacts history, in real time. #1917LIVE is an experimental project that tells the story of the Russian Revolution through real-time tweeting from a network of linked accounts.
One of project's key objectives is to educate and inspire the audience to learn, while setting new best-in-class Twitter standards. With #1917LIVE, our task is not only to recount historic events in Twitter's dynamic style, but to introduce a new format which can be effectively adapted by schools and universities in history education courses globally.
#1917LIVE brings together dozens of separate accounts in the name of key historical characters from the time (Tsar Nicholas and his family, Lenin, Stalin, Kerensky, Imperial generals, military police, transitional government officials, but also factory workers, business owners, students and farmers).
#1917LIVE characters create an alternative 1917 reality that unfolds in a historical Twitter universe but around the flagship feed of the Russian Telegraph (RT), a fictional media outlet.
Developing in real time, the narrative seeks to engage – our audience gets a unique chance to follow and interact with historic figures themselves, take part in polls, Q&As and many more via this digital time machine.
To keep our audience as engaged as possible, to transmit that surreal feeling of witnessing 100-year-old events in real-time, we use all possible tools, formats and features the Twitter platform can offer. All major events are tweeted as 'Breaking News' updates; event coverage is consolidated in Twitter Moments; key historical characters are interviewed by The Russian Telegraph in real time and every Twitter user has a chance to submit their own question to (and be answered by) Lenin or the Tsar themselves.
A key project element is #1917CROWD – a community hashtag which allows anyone to create their own #1917LIVE avatar and relive the events of 100 years ago. So far dozens of community accounts have been created that interact daily with each other. Almost 100 Twitter handles are now building this innovative, community focused, digital, historical re-enactment.
In the few months since launch (January-May 2017), accounts have gained over 100,000 followers. More than 120,000 tweets used the hashtag #1917LIVE generating over 25 million impressions. And the community is expected to rapidly grow by October when events reach, as it were, their climax.
#1917LIVE is already being followed by media influencers, reporters, politicians, researchers and history enthusiasts. Journalists from different global media such as The Guardian, Bloomberg, La Stampa, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, France 24 are subscribed to #1917LIVE feeds.
But, #1917LIVE enjoys a truly special place with educators: professors, teachers, students, post-grads and generally history buffs. Scholars at universities such as Oxford, Georgetown, Cardiff, British Columbia are following the project. Some professors are even using it for teaching Russian history.For example, students at Zagreb Faculty of Philosophy are learning from the project: "Today it is impossible to teach through a classic one-way lecture and to keep students concentrated. #1917LIVE is incredibly interesting, I showed it to students and they are very enthusiastic. Every innovation not only popularises science, but also improves pedagogical approaches" - Dept of History Professor Hrvoje Klasića tells leading Croatian newspaper "NOVI list".
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