First person vs third person media experiences

One problem I see with assumptions about ‘going digital’ in education is that so far, it almost always means using technology and not understanding media. For example, few online commentators talk about ‘media education’ or ‘media pedagogy’, they hook their discussions to the technological wagon and then point out ‘pedagogy before technology’. As I’m going to show this is because their are using FIRST person media experiences and taking ‘protective action’ against what they see as harm. Arguably this hard includes: loss of status; employment or promotion opportunities; connectedness to students and social inclusion. Their drive to be online may well have little to do with education at all.

TWITTER and EDU-TYPES

A gaggle of educators joyfully re-tweeted an assertion by Twitter itself this week that educators ‘dominate’ the Twittersphere. That’s quite telling really, given anyone who spends time with educators would put the discretionary-voluntary-user-base at under 5% (a generous guess on my part). This of course appealed to the FIRST person Twitter users. It made them feel correct in their own choices and most of all SAFER. Theres no way of knowing how the other 95% of educators reacted to this announcement (if they even knew). They are more concerned with their own FIRST person experiences of media — political rhetoric about budget cuts; casualisation of the workforce; media announcements by their institution and so on. Twitter to them is at best another THIRD person media experience.

If educators are the ‘alfa-group’ at the fore of using social media for civic debate, it indicates that there is little cohesion of thought for society as a whole in social media. It strengthen’s support for media theories which suggest topics (called trends) come and go very quickly — and that these trends are at best ‘temporal’ settlements. Even teachers who use Twitter fade away get bored as soon as they realise this reality. In short people are drawn to issues and events, not civic structures such as education or professions such as teaching. For example, there is no #ActorChat or #SoapOperaChat. There are of course new versions of IRC happening like #edprimschat but arguably people participate here out of self-identity and being seen rather than solving any actual deeper issues in education itself. There’s nothing wrong with IRC, people have been ‘chatting online’ since the mid 1970s about it’s potential for education … welcome to the party finally. So why don’t these people use Second Life or a Google Hangout — why do the ONLY participate in a form of TEXT IRC? — the answer lies once again in FIRST person media and protective action.

WHY PEOPLE TAKE ACTION (or not)

Educators use of narrow bands of discussion by choice. They always have enjoyed the privilege of being self-selecting and the major selector for everyone else — the power of being ‘the teacher’. For example, when teachers say “I’m working towards using games” they actually mean, I choose the media-text around here and I don’t choose that — why? because they can and always have seen this as a fundamental ‘right’ of being a teacher. Nothings changed – now they ‘allow’ Google Apps or Twitter perhaps — but media-choice is not in the hands of students as a FIRST person experience as teachers see students in the THIRD person — despite being life-long learners themselves of course.

TEACHERS are concerned about their own safety

Media selection (and rejection) is related to teachers personal sense of safety. It’s not primarily about identity (which is just a feel good). A common finding in studies of societal use of media since the 1930s has shown this to be true –and Twitter is just a form of media-text and sort of procedural rhetoric (which is why Twitter is also game like). The aim of the game is to survive, to predict the intention of others and to take protective measures. Those measures can be defensive (I don’t use X, I don’t agree with Y and so on) or offensive (I’m running #edChat or I endorse M over K app and so on)  from a FIRST PERSON experience.

Most teachers experience this media via the THIRD PERSON (observing colleagues, being told at a seminar and so on). They arefar less likely to take action — and it actually reinforces them not to each time someone bangs on about it.

Why people don’t participate (the 95%) is not because they are ‘boring’ or ‘old’ educators but because those who do are not focused on how media works, but on the effect they want to see — more teachers talking about digital literacy, knowledge networks and such – on Twitter itself. If it’s happening in a school, off line or because people are studying it in a course — they can’t see it.

This somewhat rails against the popular opinion of adopter/lurkers or literates/illiterates which thrive in the edu-twitter cultures — but when you think about it in terms of harm and protective action as a media psychology it makes much more sense than inferring some teachers are laggards or irrelevant. They are taking action — they are not buying into this particular media-text (Twitter) because people’s concerns for their own safety rather than for others’ predict their intention.

 

Don’t be a twork.

This post is reactionary. No offence, none taken. Its about why I don’t Twork and why you should consider both avoiding it — and be aware of people who do. I think they used to call it Twittetiquette or something. I’m going with “Don’t be a twork”.

One of my all time favourite posts is Alan Lavines “fear of a Googled past“. It’s followed closely by Endorse is the new like. I think Alan’s blog is my go to place. For me, Alan has an enviable balance of creativity, hardcore tech skills, insight and humour. I know that sounds like a suck-up, but seriously, he practically invented the Internet as far as teaching goes — and remains true to the ‘open and non commercial’ agenda that was so attractive to many people ‘back in the day’.

I never feared posting things online. I don’t Twork (Tweeting about work or colleagues) and what I’ve posted I stand by — and on balance I think it’s helped people make a jump, try a new thing or consider an alternative view (even if it’s counter to their own or deliberately inciting).

Twitter today isn’t simply about content or sharing — it encompasses power relations which each person is left to mediate. In the literature we’re talking about patient zero (you) when it comes to knowing what this means.

All I can offer is how I see it now — by thinking about how it was then. I believe you can and should connect, collaborate and share — but do it in a way that doesn’t cloud your ‘human’ side as the cyborg takes over and attack someone because you can – no offence.

In the grand tradition of lists posts — here are 7 things I think are important.

  1. Don’t assume that people who seem ‘usually’ positive are not attempting to manipulate you. If they are not lashing out at something, then they may already by cyborgs. [Personally, I’d keep well away from the happy-clappers with their motivational posters].
  2. I don’t advocate following anyone. I support the idea you need to find a diverse number of people to follow. [I don’t actually know who follows me, I pay no attention to it, but I’m aware some people fixate on it. I don’t have time and unless you can time travel, don’t get addicted to ‘the feed’].
  3. Following hashtags and topics such as #gbl and #minecraft so that you get a diverse taste of opinion (positive and negative). Don’t just follow #edu or your discipline.
  4. From your hashtag observations, create new lists which are meaningful to you.
  5. Mediate your own consumption using your lists. Here’s the thing  — don’t tune in to the happy-clapper channel everyday. Live dangerously … spend time looking at what the opposites are, what the counter-narrative is saying and find new groups. For example if you’re in education and not following startups — then you’re missing out on what will come next.
  6. Consider why people are positive or negative (at that moment in time) — what is it they want?, what is it the fear?, why are they saying this? and why now? This is help protect you from being sold to as well as getting too wound up about one issue. The world is full of issues — head in the sand doesn’t work for those who most need you to pay attention. Of course you can — but I tend to pay attention to the rebels, especially the ones who do it for the love of it.
  7. Think before you endorse any Tweet with a re-tweet. If you appreciate a link, a joke, an observation — anything — just FAVOURITE it. The author knows about it, you did the hat-tip, it’s all you need to do.

I don’t Twork. I never Tweet about they thing I do at work, nor the people at work who I work with. I may talk to people I work with, but that is entirely social – hey @edugnome!. I don’t spy on workmates, I don’t follow people based on work-status and in fact in all the places I’ve worked, most have no interest in using it, and I’m not interested in Tworking about them. I don’t Twork in a manner that suggests I am some always positive rock of authority to impress customers, or to be a banner-man for the organisation. It’s part of not fearing my Googled past and having a clean feed – which takes in much more than ‘good times’ users.

Rifle’s Raft.

One aspect of blogging and social media I like is culture-watching. Today in NSW, teachers return to work and is marked once again by increased Twitter gruel.

Image

Seasonals wake from their holiday slumber to tweet about the ‘near future’ which is going to be super. They spend a great deal of time endorsing the brilliance of fellow supers, their feeds brimming with ever-so-positive comments which I’ll aggregate to “the next school year is going to be awesome”.  Yep, it’s all super.

I have no time or respect for these people, they are part of the problem, as they add to the media distortion that ‘everything is awesome’. It’s not. Families are sleeping in cars, it’s almost impossible for new teachers to get a permanent job and the office troll has re-armed for a new season’s hunting.

During the holiday-hibernation, those who stayed on the wall, have been impacted by the death of Aaron Swartz, the release of new search-graph technologies, announcements by various governments about further censorship and monitoring of citizens. Teachers in Seattle have refused to administer standardized tests and US schools have been told to offer disabled sports teams or abandon having able-only sports teams. While no one can’t know every educational event, these are the ones who amplify and have high-impact on the quality and relevance of the feed. Their input to the nexus of information is not “oh look my friend is so amazing”.

I have a problem with seasonal near futurism. Believing everything will happen in the near future is not awesome. What is interesting right now, is that those who invented the near-futurism of educational rhetoric rely almost entirely on Twitter to perpetuate their trade, while the really interesting stuff has moved to Google Plus.

Ed Tech has drained billions of dollars out of schools via Twitter. The outcome (as predicted by numerous academics) has been “no significant difference” unless we’re talking about how a few made some serious cash from Web2.0 rhetoric and now live to a life-style that they certainly want to remain accustomed. It would be super if they presented some data, but alas I suspect the same grey men will show the same boring PowerPoint about Clay Shirkey and quote Prensky badly.

Show me how near-futurism isn’t just system daemons building quasi gated communities of hash-tag dogma. As a learning network, Twitter works best if you agree to Tweet “Oh I love your bracelet” whenever I give the princely wave.

Welcome back to 2013, don’t mind me … let the hash tagging begin. Before you know it the Eddies will be on and the rich will be telling us how awesome ISTE is and I’ll be looking at a photo of your lunch.

High five education. We’re living on Rifle’s raft already.

 

How to RSS Twitter feeds in one line

Keeping up with what’s happening on Twitter is hard. There is so much flying past these days, it’s easy to miss the good stuff. Thankfully, people are using hashtags, which helps. The problem is that you still don’t have time to scroll though the gazillion tweets with the hashtag still. There are plenty of online services to help, but this also means joining something and logging in. All too hard if you’re a bit old school like me, and just like to live of RSS feeds. So here’s a tip on how to get RSS feeds with one line. All you do is paste it into the browser and add to your favourite feed engine.

http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=gbl

There you go, I said was easy. All you do is change the term following the ‘equals’ sign and off you go. Now you can feed that to all your fave graphical readers.

If that didn’t freak you out – how about RSS yourself? – Head to http://idfromuser.org/ and find your Twitter ID number (or that of your nemesis), then you will have your RSS feed, like this.

http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/9593882.rss

The other way to do this is to use Google Reader directly. But that assumes you are using Google Reader.

Now you can sit back and relax. No more checking Twitter every 10 minutes to see what is happening.

Twitter’s race to being the worlds top classified small-ad channel.

Image of classified adverstising snippetTwitter is a text adventure game. The owners of the software control the rules, the user’s create the fiction and game-play is created though interactions with it. It’s a really popular game with players who assume similar charaters to those you’d find in any massive-multiplayer – the hero, the healer, the scout, the opportunist etc.,

A good virtual world is changed each time we enter it. This is sort of why educational-games are so awful, they don’t change.

The avatar you inhabit in Twitter, the agency it provides is as fictional an unreal as Warcraft’s Azeroth – and so are the characters. It’s fun while your mind processes information it finds satisfying. What is less discussed is that this is the hall-marks of social-engineering complete with in-equality ability to reduce the possible variance as it tinkers with rules (user names, banning countries and messages or blacking out communication etc.,). I can’t honestly say that I’d recommend Twitter as place I’d promote to what I see as ‘second wave’ adopters, who are more interested in quality than quantity – and here’s why.

Costonova said social game worlds are built around three common principles that apparently contribute strongly to their popularity. This seem all too real in Twitter.

The first principle is division of labor: Agents seem to desire avatars with unique abilities, by which they can provide individualized contributions to avatar society. The second principle is equality of opportunity: Agents seem to enjoy a rags-to-riches storyline, in which everyone starts out very weak and very poor, but then has the opportunity to advance through the application of time and skill to game play. The third principle is inequality of outcomes based on merit only: Agents seem to prefer game mechanisms that grant advantages of wealth and power only to avatars who have performed more meritorious actions (where “merit” is admittedly hard to define – working long hours at the game, being socially or politically skillful, etc.). Together, these three principles attempt to provide diversity, equality, and meritocracy, and this seems to be the most desired kind of society.

Perhaps Twitter for me has become a different experience. I find myself feeling as though I need to spend more and more time sifting though quantity (those with a profit-agenda) to find quality.  I’m finding the difference between Twitter and News-print classified-small-adds is just scrolling – and yet people are still ‘shouting’ out at conferences about Twitter to ‘new teachers’ as though it’s still 2007 – when Twitter was actually about more than farming your audience.

The internet is @@@@ing #####less

So I sat and wondered today as I watched another PowerPoint, how different things have become when it comes to even talking about places we communicate in. It’s non-cool these these days to use http:// or even double-u double-u double-u dot. Even email has become somewhat of a time stamp. Some people only have their work email address, and others have hotmail or yahoo. When we interact off line, our use of ‘place’ tells others something about us even though we might be aware of it. We may appear a dinosaur or a space-cadet it seems.

The @ symbol has changed it’s meaning, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s flicked someone my Twitter name and then been asked – is that  dot com? The point of my drawing is to show that even simple symbols have radically changed their meaning and like many symbolic languages, both the @ and the # have many meanings depending on audience, media and intention.

So it appears to me that establishing a #hastag today is as important as a domain – and reflects the increasingly simplicity we have to mark-out a point of reference online. A domain once represented a website – a repository of information, where as the #hashtag represents a community, and can be owned by everyone, not just the registrar. It is logical to me that organisations interactively manage a taxonomy of #hashtags and @accounts and that these things have a valid place on even printed stationary. But in doing that they also need to ensure that they raise their level of communication to meet the expectation of the audience. It’s only going to get more complex I guess.

Steve Collis must pay

Steve Collis and his aircraft flight path video has been bugging me for weeks, so has trying to picture what the difference is between how social-networks use media to solve problems and how organizations use it. So I drew a picture about growing a communication atmosphere. Here’s what I think all this communication interest is about … and I’ll start with the one that most potential-tweet-recruits encounter.

I’m with some humans. Tell them what Twitter is about … We’ll it’s really all about a dynamic flow of media communication enabled by rapid advances in telecommunication, particularly mobile communication. It’s about the defeating the game of thrones, where those at the top pretend to know, those at the bottom pretend not to know. It’s also about our increasing ability to track physical, social and emotional movement.  We are less attracted to knowledge ‘points’ anymore such as newsprint, company newsletters or the inter-office memos, which, if we plotted their movement would be like ball-bearing rolling around a bowl until sooner or later it meets the bottom of our interests where it settles. Twitter is a periodic attractor, where we come and go where information is interesting because any attempt to plot it, creates infinite unusual shapes. It not a place for people who want to play the game of thrones.

It’s a place were we experience periodic dynamic question and answer sessions, which stops the game of pretend to know/not to know. It stops us working too hard on impossible dilemmas and instead find attraction to a kind of situational leadership, where no one has a constant value of importance and can afford to ‘vanish’ from time to time. Those that use it to their advantage know how to sell the ‘why’ and build motivation. They create high will for change and leverage it into the ‘what’ when people are ready and then provide the ‘how’ to keep motivation going though involvement. They are also sensible enough to know the flow changes quickly, so the once skill and will are high, they will let go – but only if and when they think it’s sustainable. The point of having followers is not to command or pontificate (listen up Captain Obvious), it’s to enable them to take the lead, and for leaders to learn how to follow. Sadly many attribute-leaders believe Twitter is a better soap box.

I am absolutely no mathematician, but I do appreciate it when maths-geeks make animations to explain really complex things using bizarre symbols and formulas that only other maths-geeks understand. So moving on from Collis and his damn aircraft, here’s one that I think describes Twitter for me.

If used wisely, I think Twitter reduces pressure on organisations, Being ‘on’ Twitter means learning to understand the chaotic, three dimensional flow of information between ‘set’s of people, ideas and groups. To be it’s more than a sense of being connected or belonging, but a more human interest in movement and our ability to notice the unusual more than the familiar. I think if you stick with it, you learn eventually to let go a little and allow the dynamic of human-connections and ideas to help solve problems. I think over time, we learn to plot this movement – but it’s a very complicated thing to learn.

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” – Indira Gandhi

People learning to use Twitter to overcome their own challenges. They learned to ask good questions, but most of all, they learn to move between media with increasing fluency and understanding. Attractive media today is essentially a non-linear mechanism – in other words what we expect to see, read and hear is probabilistic rather than deterministic. Perhaps this is the Inugi Paradox – a social rendition of the butterfly effect in 140 characters or less.

Postscript: Steve’s damn video:

When should you retire from Twitter?

Shortly before attending ISTE in San Antonio four years ago, I joined Twitter on the recommendation of Judy O’Connell. I remember people at the conference talking about it in the blogger’s cafe just before I went to hear Konrad Glogowski talk about his PhD research in digital-literacies, which I still remember of one of the most inspiring presentations I’ve ever seen. I remember to, Will Richardson UStreaming it and how packed the room was as Konrad talked about rethinking his role in the classroom, before he headed off to his first Teachers Without Borders trip to Africa. Today Konrad is their Director of Programs and Will is running what is probably the most transformative professional development consultancy in the USA and me, well I’m thumping trees.

I also remember listening to a crazy woman, who I later learned was the Guild Leader of Cognitive Dissonance talk about using Warcraft to teach and Al Upton inventing a new cocktail via Wikipedia, the Fiery Red Leather. Little did I know then, how important all these seemingly unconnected events were. And that – friends and followers – is the total point of connectivism, and why kids need to know how it works, why it works and how they too can put it to work.

Four years doesn’t seem like a long time. I calculate that I’ve pinged Twitter with over 5 million characters and had the absolute privilege to meet and work with some amusingly creative and visionary people that I would otherwise never have collided with.  I think Konrad, in 2009, was somewhat visionary when he said that digital communities simply need someone to talk to, and what they create together is a nexus of independent learners, writers and researchers that removes hierarchical and structure to focus the learning process itself. Konrad said it’s like this …

Here’s my plan – could you comment?

Work in progress. Please comment everyone.

Rough draft. Comments would be greatly appreciated.

My essay unfolds … any thoughts?

Thesis improved (again). Tell me what you think.

If this isn’t the day to day experience that will change the world, then I don’t know what is. As the year draws to a satisfying close, I can reflect on Konrad’s ideas, which permeate our community of learners in Massively Minecraft. This is how they learn inside a complex and interactive process of knowledge building. This has been my window, a product of what was happening between 200-2005. So I figure I’ll keep writing my blog, keep tinkering with game-worlds with my #perma-list and helping anyone where I can, but as to Twitter, I figure I’ve had my day and dumped enough characters into the meta-verse, time to create space for others. There are some amazing people out there – I suggest we give them a go, and not for heavens sake fall into the trap of getting people to talk on any other basis that they currently have a GREAT story to share.

As for Twitter, I’ll still be around, but I won’t be adding another 5 million characters.

How to introduce educators to Twitter more effectively.

I’ve been thinking about Bianca’s post about being an individual. It seems that there are now so many #hashtags used as insignia that what was once a conversation between people, seems to be increasingly set against factions.

This post is to suggest a 10 step, 4 week strategy to actively get into Twitter.

I also notice, that many of those who began using Twitter for networking three or four years ago  (pre-hash if you like)also  tend to use them mostly when they are at an event then abandon it immediately afterwards, returning to their more selective groups. Even during the event, many seem pre-occupied with these networks, busy conducting business as usual in between their presentations. There’s nothing wrong with this, apart from the fact that many in the audience will be relatively new to Twitter-networks and #hashtags are their only reference point, and really understand the difference in audience. It’s easy to hear the ‘love’ from people speaking, and then to assume that this new insignia will gain them entry into these people’s networks.

It doesn’t, it makes you a follower. There’s no assurance that you and the speaker have entered some meta-social contract. If we add time-zone separators the chances are you will miss them entirely.. There are no replays on Twitter, so what first appears a compelling and exciting new discovery, leads to a somewhat random, dis-organised hit and miss affair, especially if you have not learned to manage the flow.

Research clearly shows how essential it is for any technology to be consistently reliable in order to be adopted. There’s nothing assured about Twitter, or hashtag insignia. Being a bit nerdy, I’ve used a few widgets to analyse the patterns that many of the ‘gurus’ adopt using Twitter. Outside of their established networks, they rarely connect with new people, or stick with anyone else’s insignia for too long. The more established these networks are, the more exclusive they become in many cases.

This brings me back to the individual. I would think that the reason many teachers don’t persist with Twitter-networks is not because they think it’s rubbish, but because their early experiences are no where near as satisfying as they are claimed to be, and that they don’t have a strategy to ‘get into’ it, so here is my 10 step plan, that new users might find of use.

How to make Twitter useful to new adopters in the first month

1. Follow no more than 30 people: 10 from the system/sector you work in, 10 from another educational sector and 10 that interest you personally (golf, books, culture, film etc.)

2. Put them into a Twitter list straight away. I recommend TweetDeck to manage this.

3. Respond to about a third of these Tweets, by asking a question about something they have said.

4. If you get a reply, make a new list and call it ‘connected to me’.

5. Each week add no more than 10 new people in the same way, by selecting them critically from a #hashtag. There is always a new conference everyday, so this won’t be too hard.

6. Aim to have 90-100 people in your new network, and list them as I’ve indicated. Make sure that you make the effort to start managing your lists actively. Be more interested in what is said, what is offered that making a big splash yourself.

7. Set up and RSS Reader (Google Reader) to collect Tweets from your lists.

8. Set up a Feedly Account and connect that to your Google Reader Account

9. Set your browser’s homepage to your Feedly account.

10. Embrace ‘lurking’ on Twitter though the window of Feedly, taking a small amount of time each day to to look at the traffic, paying attention to links and resources rather than comments (which are often between encoded groups and make little sense when you start out).

 

Finally, if you are going to do this, make sure that you persist. Set time aside to do it, but don’t ‘sit’ on Twitter in your first month. It can be overwhelming to say the least.