• With the brazen privatization, if not pending chaotic collapse of Twitter, millions of people are looking for alternative spaces to share their work, thoughts, and ill-conceived memes. Among the many digital migrants are a significant number of academics who looking for guidance, and familiar faces, as they try to make sense of the many new Twitter substitutes popping up daily. One such substitute, Mastodon (a software platform rather than a singular website), allows individuals or organizations to set up their own server, or instance, among many in what is becoming a growing “Fediverse” – a collection of independent yet federated, or connected, social networking sites.

    H-Net has been the home of moderated scholarly discourse on the Internet for 30 years and the Humanities Commons platform, hosted by DH@MSU brings scholarly individuals and organizations together to share and collaborate on a single platform in new and exciting ways. H-net.social and hcommons.social offer scholars an opportunity to dip their toes into the Fediverse under the guidance of academic organizations they know and trust. This presentation seeks to share our collective experiences navigating this new medium for public discourse and our hopes for what it can become.

    We believe this can become a space where the public sphere isn’t shaped by algorithms and bots. It helps to have an independent (yet federated) instance that we can protect from the worst of Twitter while still valuing and championing free speech and intelligent discussion. One of the strengths of the Fediverse is, as the owners of h-net.social and hcommons.social, we can identify and eliminate bad actors and can likewise, identify toxic instances and refuse connection to them. Now that takes discernment and above all transparency in the process, but if we spread this message/goal and build coalitions of instance admins committed to honest, open, legitimate discourse, we believe it’s possible.