Military History Buffs Converge in Jacksonville for Conference

By Daraskevich, Joe | The Florida Times Union, April 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Military History Buffs Converge in Jacksonville for Conference


Daraskevich, Joe, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Joe Daraskevich

A wave of military history engulfed a hotel in downtown Jacksonville this week where various experts and college students from around the world have been rubbing elbows and sharing ideas since Thursday afternoon.

The 84th annual meeting of the Society for Military History will continue through Sunday at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront with panel discussions and outings meant to further educate those in attendance.

Most discussions cover topics like "The Civil War and the World" or "Aspects of Military Leadership in the Ancient World," but one panel Friday touched on a much more contemporary subject.

"Tweets have power," said Brian Feltman of Georgia Southern University during a lecture. "Facebook pages are capable of jump-starting a movement that may radically alter public opinions."

Feltman sat on a panel with Jacqueline Whitt of the U.S. Army War College and Michael Gisick of the Australian National University to talk about how social media is altering history as it happens. The panel was titled "Social Media at War: New Media Narratives, Identities and Communities in the War on Terror."

The early morning panel kicked off with Whitt breaking down a major speech by President Barack Obama from 2009 when the White House was first starting to use Twitter on a regular basis.

In the speech at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., Obama announced the plan to deploy 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan while also promising to withdraw the soldiers within 18 months.

A White House staff member live-tweeted the speech to engage the world of social media, and the reaction was immediate, Whitt said. She said the idea was to compress the speech into 25 tweets to allow the public to understand what the president was talking about, but the nature of Twitter caused most people to read the tweets out of order.

Whitt said the reactions came from both sides of the argument - whether people agreed or disagreed with sending more troops to fight - but the opinions were usually based on a small portion of the speech as read through Twitter.

When historians in the future look back on that window of time they will realize the impact social media had on what was happening in the world, Whitt said. …

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