What is it?

Twitter is a microblogging platform, which allows its users to post updates of 140 characters or less. These updates range from the serious to the humorous, and can feature anything from pictures of someone's lunch, to a funny cat video, to a link to a worthwhile article. Users form networks by following other people with similar interests, celebrities, or branded accounts, such as news outlets, university accounts, businesses, and websites. The tweets of the people you follow show up in your timeline and people who follow you will see yours. Twitter is an informal form of communication where it's easy to interact with people all over the world and in any layer of society in real-time.

Why can it do for me?

Twitter is a tool for conversation, not just for broadcasting and receiving information. This can make it akin to the office water cooler, only in this case it’s an international one, not just one shared with your immediate colleagues. This allows for the easy discovery of information by word of mouth from a much bigger pool of people. It also allows you to follow conversations from a distance; many conferences have an official hashtag which people will include in their tweets covering the session and talks. It's an easy way to keep up with events you aren't able to attend. Due to its informal and conversational nature, Twitter is also a great outreach tool. Due to the low barriers of contacting other users, it's easy to form connections not just to other researchers and academics, but to the general public as well, which allows you to put your work into the spotlight.

Privacy issues?

  • Twitter timelines are public by default, though they can be made private, which means people can only follow you when you approve them and only your followers will be able to see your tweets. However, people will still be able to retweet (RT) your protected tweets by copy/pasting the text and RT-ing it.
  • If not disabled, Twitter will display a geo-location with each tweet you send, thus enabling your followers to know where you are any time you tweet. While not inherently harmful, it might disclose information you might not want made public. If, for example you tweet 'I'm Home!' with your locations on, people will be able to trace your home address to street level and almost to your front door via Google Maps.
  • Despite its extensive privacy policy it's not completely clear what data Twitter collects through its services or what it does with the data collected.

Pro’s & Cons


  • Easy to manage
  • Informal discourse
  • Information discovery tool


  • Can be a time sink
  • Amount of information/interaction can be overwhelming

Who in Leiden?
Prof.mr. Carel Stolker (Rector Magnificus University Leiden)
Prof. Dr. Remco Breuker (Korean Studies)
Prof. Dr. Marc van Oostendorp (Leiden University Centre for Linguistics)
Dr. Corinna Jentzsch (Institute of Political Science)
Bart Schuurman MA (Institute of Security and Global Affairs)
Mr. dr. Bart Willem Schermer (Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of the Law)