On June 28th, 2014, the University of Kansas (KU) Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies (CREES) and 8 members from the Lawrence community met at the National World War I Museum & Memorial in Kansas City to reenact or rather, “tweetenact,” the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand exactly 100 years after his death.

Click below to read the tweetenactment in its entirety:
#KU_WWI LIVE Tweetenactment

ku_wwi-tweeter-guideUsing a #KU_WWI Tweeter Guide developed by former CREES Outreach Coordinator Adrienne Landry and #KU_WWI Project Leader Sam Moore, in consultation with KU History Professor Nathaniel Wood, students, faculty, staff, and members of the local community developed characters, hashtags, and 140-character tweets that formed a tweetenactment Master Script. The Master Script was then uploaded into an automated system that began tweeting out using the hashtag #KU_WWI at 9:30 am on June 28th, exactly 100 years to the minute (not counting the time difference) that Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, Duchess Sophie, left Hotel Bosna to begin their fateful visit to Sarajevo.

The 8 LIVE tweeters had advanced copies of the script, and were tasked with researching, adding, embellishing, explaining, retweeting and responding to the automated script in the voice of the character or characters they represented.

Twitter users were able to follow the action through the hashtag #KU_WWI, which provided dozens of historical perspectives — ranging from world leaders to members of The Black Hand terrorist group. For those not on Twitter, a Twitter feed was available on the CREES and European Studies websites. Tweets were collected into a series of Storifies, which are still available on the project website: https://european.ku.edu/wwi-twitter-project

What’s interesting about the #KU_WWI Twitter Project is that it included a creative storytelling component that utilized the strengths of KU and the local community. The tweetenactment incorporated historical, geographical, literary and art references both past and present, making the project a humanities driven exploration of the events rather than a chronological timeline.

#KU_WWI tweets were translated into the languages of the historical figures by KU students

#KU_WWI tweets were translated into the languages of the historical figures by KU students

Additionally, select tweets were translated by KU students and local community members with foreign language skills — showcasing the diversity of the languages and cultures involved in World War I, and the languages and cultures taught at KU.

By inviting students to participate, the #KU_WWI Twitter Project created an experiential learning opportunity to use social media as a tool for engaging different academic skills; and integrated students and academic units from all over the KU campus for the study of a single, historical event.

The end result was, as Adrienne Landry liked to describe it, a “historically-inspired, humanities-driven improvisational social media jazz piece” that gave voice, agency and narrative to the people involved in this event, often perceived as the starting point for a war that would result in the death of 17 million people.

From an outreach perspective, the project was more successful than anyone could have predicted. Analytics indicated that the #KU_WWI Twitter Project had 456 contributors, generated 4,600 tweets, reached 623,900 unique twitter accounts, and created 3.4 million impressions throughout the entire twitterverse. The project also reached a global audience who tweeted about #KU_WWI in multiple languages — Spanish, French, Bosnian, Serbian, Chinese, Russian and Czech.

The project received a fair amount of local and national media coverage. Nathan Wood, Adrienne Landry, and Sam Moore were featured on Kansas Public Radio’s KPR Presents. Adrienne Landry was interviewed by Channel6 News. And the project was the subject of 18 online and print articles including in the Associated Press and the Washington Post.

Project’s Co-Sponsors: Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center, European Studies Program, the departments of Germanic Languages & Literatures, History and Slavic Languages & Literatures, University Honors Program, Global Awareness Program, Hall Center for the Humanities, KU Libraries, KU Memorial Unions and Spencer Museum of Art. Last but not least, thank you to the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City.

This project was part of the University of Kansas centennial commemoration of World War I, coordinated by the European Studies Program. Learn more about participating units and upcoming programs at www.kuwwi.com.

Adrienne Landry Dunavin is a member of the Kansas WWI Centennial Commemoration Committee and is the primary administrator of KansasWW1.org. She worked at the KU Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies as their Outreach Coordinator from 2010-2016. During that time she served on the KU WWI Centennial Commemoration Working Group. She continues to volunteer as a representative for CREES and KU WWI on this blog.