(By Dr. John A. McArthur, assistant professor in the Knight School of Communication. To read the original post, visit Dr. McArthur's blog.)
Amidst elements that threaten to oxidize, cleanse, sear and scar, the bronze statue of Young Diana nobly stands, keeping watch over those who pass her by. Cast by renowned sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington in 1924, the bronze was a gift to the university from the artist herself in 1940. This year, Diana celebrates her seventieth anniversary as a fixture on the idyllic Queens University of Charlotte campus.
Over the past seven decades, she watched as her beloved Queens grew, fashioning itself into a leading comprehensive university. She famously donned a tie to welcome the first resident men onto campus in the 1980s. She remained the college's stalwart icon in a transition from small liberal arts college to thriving university. And, in her prominent location in the (appropriately-named) Diana courtyard, she is, perhaps, the most photographed location on the Myers Park campus.
The silent observer of her domain, Diana has often served as a gathering site, a model, an element in art projects, and a marketing icon for the institution and her students. And in 2009, Diana combined all of those roles together as she began speaking for herself, through the advancing technology of Twitter (@QueensDiana, Diana's Twitter profile).
A tweeting statue is not an original idea. A pair of enormous lions tweet about the events in and around the Art Institute of Chicago (@ChicagoLions). The Statue of Liberty shares insights and information for visitors (@StatueLibrtyNPS). The Eric Morcambe statue in Lancashire, England even tweets the weather twice a day for the convenience of locals (@ericsstatue). Yet, Diana is a hyperlocal example of the type of interaction that Twitter and other social media can provide, even among the inanimate.
In her early days on Twitter, Diana socialized primarily with other statues and the professors and staff at Queens University of Charlotte (@QueensUniv), but her appeal quickly drew the attention of Charlotteans. In a city influenced heavily by social media, she was a fast friend for area social media leaders, even tweeting out photos at The Charlotte Observer's first Social Media Conference. As a result, the kings of Twitter's inanimate beasts - the Art Institute's Lions - crowned her "Queen of the Inanimate Twitterverse."
The true identity of @QueensDiana has been a well-kept secret in her first year of social media fame, but those who follow her tweets know that she is more than a marketing ploy or info-bot. She tweets according to the day, the mood, and the circumstances of life at Queens University of Charlotte. She shares anecdotes of love, faith, strength, and wisdom; but more importantly, she connects with her followers directly, often re-tweeting their ideas or the events they think are important.
On campus, she has always been a physical site for making connections. Perhaps it is fitting that her role in the digital world is no different.
You can follow Diana on Twitter @QueensDiana or friend her on Facebook. For Queens University of Charlotte's official social media presence, follow @QueensUniv or visit Queens' Facebook page.