The Digital Campus

The Digital Campus

Spring Study Tour: Day 3

Day 3 of the Spring Study Tour is summarized here by guest bloggers Marcel Blattner and Cindy Eggs, from the Fernfachhochshule Schweiz, and Ladina Caprez, from the University of Lugano.

Die Luft der Freiheit weht

Today we discovered various ways in which the winds of freedom blow, as mentioned in Stanford’s motto. Whereas Twitter owes its success partly to the fact that it fostered freedom in some countries, at Stanford they think a little differently about it…

First thing in the morning we discovered Twitter’s conception of freedom right away when Elaine, the secretary, had to abandon her work to allow us a group picture in front of the Twitter sign (on the wall right behind her desk). Before starting the actual meeting, Thomas Arend invited us to serve ourselves at the vast breakfast buffet – including eight different kinds of coffee and at least fifteen different types of cereals – quite unusual for Europeans.

During his speech, Thomas elaborated on different dimensions of Twitter’s freedom: Tweets that spread all over the world in a very short time make it possible to overcome distance and therefore allow freedom of thought and speech no matter where your followers are; giving a voice to a mute girl commenting on soccer games, Twitter allows her to overcome many obstacles; by connecting people’s opinions beyond country boundaries, Twitter creates a platform for the oppressed to gain strength in revolution.

Twitter stream seconds after the earthquake in Japan, March 2011.

Twitter stream seconds after the earthquake in Japan, March 2011.

Creating a platform is also Stanford’s goal with their social media activities. Stanford gives visibility to its excellence in the field by collaborating with researchers, who publish their findings on the various social media channels. Even though Stanford’s School of Medicine encourages its scholars to produce content and to use their own voice and tone, they are still held to certain criteria, such as publishing date, journal standing, etc.

Heading to the alumni center, we became aware that the wisdom of freedom has other dimensions on this very nice and cultivated campus. The Stanford Alumni Association motivates current and former students to join their different social platforms in order to connect to the alumni network once they graduate. The data generated from these networks is used to list people with common interests and to link them with each other and with influencers. From the content point of view, the Association’s priority is to spotlight what their alums do instead of just broadcasting their own news.

At Stanford’s School of Engineering they see eye-to-eye with their colleagues: They tell stories on their Facebook page and collaborate with interns to create content that engages their audience. Thanks to reliable and extensive data, the social media team at Stanford knows what their audience is interested in and no longer have to rely on guessing. However, they keep an eye on the content created and sometimes do need to intervene and confine the freedom they conceded their interns.

To sum up, Day 3 of the #springstudytour showed that, at the bottom line, social media equals freedom, but this freedom can be interpreted in various ways – as with social media activities in general, by the way.

PS: Check out our group’s activity on Twitter using the #springstudytour hashtag – increasing steadily as slowly everybody discovers the freedom of speech on SoM 🙂

Video Recap of Day 3


Author: Megan Williams

Megan Williams is swissnex San Francisco’s Head of Communications. She likes to write about science and culture. A marine biology nerd and a dedicated science communicator, she also loves to hunt for design treasure at thrift stores.