Author Archives: crhunter

Social Media has a Place in Higher Ed.

smMy final paper presented social media as a form of emerging media that allows higher education faculty to enhance instructional methods.  It presented background information on what it means to be a digital settler, immigrant, and native, and specifically addressed how to consider teaching our many natives that come into the classrooms today.

I think my future recommendations nicely sum up some of the most important thoughts for educators to take with them as they embark on their use of social media to improve student engagement and success, so I will include them here in this final blog posting, too.

As more and more students come to us having grown up in a digital era, it is only fitting that we utilize their propensity for technology and social media and use it to our advantage.

Emerging media forms and digital technologies have changed our classrooms and online learning environments and the students who fill them.  Faculty of higher education institutions will need to continue to change with them in order to best serve the students and prepare them for the continually advancing digital world.

Social media tools can improve student engagement when used properly with learners, and faculty members can utilize varying social media forms to benefit their instructional methods.  Resisting the use of technology and social media for educational purposes may leave those educators falling behind in a time that will continue to address the needs of our digital learners.

With extremely accessible, network-based tools, technologies are more than ever empowering students to create, customize, and share content with us and each other online.  This digital era and emerging forms of media open up to educators new opportunities for us to implement socially enriched pedagogies because it can allow for varied means to encourage student interaction and strong ways to manage a collective body of knowledge.

Faculty who decide to utilize social media can begin to design a socially empowered learning environment for their learners, and this can lead to greater student success and retention.  Given the growing role of social media in education, it is vital for educators to gain knowledge, insight, and training for how to effectively use social media for instructional purposes; furthermore, they must know how to solve problems and consider negative risks before its use.

For faculty willing to recognize the powerof social media to transform learning,they are able to offer teaching and learning that allows learners to create, co-create, and share knowledge sometimes with a global audience beyond the classroom walls.

 

 

 

 

On a personal note:

Thank you to all for making this term such a valuable learning experience!  Take care!

Christin

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Frames and Ethical Implications in a Digital Being World

This week, I was really into reading about “The Digital Being” as discussed in regards to the Being Frame.

I became engrossed in the idea of how ever-growing and expanding ranges of technologies “continue to sweep over culture and into our organizations” so much that as noted, practitioners and scholars must learn to understand and address the ethical implications (241).  One way, according to Digital Literacy this week, is to understand the ethical frames of technical relations.   And I could not help but think here about Mr. Clinton for some reason, denying any “relations” with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.   It is just where my mind unexpectedly wandered when I read the word relations.   I suppose in the context of living in a world where we now must consider our technical relations in addition to our personal relations, it does seem appropriate to connect to the idea of ethics and how this inevitably will always come back to any relationship we have.

One of the most powerful ideas, for me, was this about our digital being from Katz and Rhodes: “Digital being has enabled us to forget that our values, our thinking, and our work are heavily defined by our technology, and that much of our life now exists outside our flesh, essentially in digital bodies” (239).   Suddenly, just after reading this, I had a vision of my family, friends, and colleagues as these digital beings, and then I thought, how much of their real selves do I really know?  What ethical implications does this have on my relationships and the way we might treat each other?  Do their digital beings treat others differently than their flesh selves?   I basically sat with lots of questions on my mind, and I saw the world almost in a very Matrix-like fashion where I am not sure who the real person is when I meet someone compared to the digital person.

Another idea developed under this one is that the digital being has now taken over in a way that we are not as capable as people of the past, and our “digital machines have literally replaced our ‘mental storage’ of ‘information’…” (239), especially when it comes to the workplace and writing.  The specific example was how new employees struggle with writing and spelling because we are so programmed to use spell-check and grammar check systems that we no longer store the necessary information to become efficient writers.  I see this with students, also.  I also see it in math with the use of calculators.  I have a friend who teaches math prep courses, and she tells me often of students who do not know their multiplication tables without the use of a calculator (these are adult learners.)   And so now, I see that their digital being has learned these skills in a digital fashion, and when stripped of the technology tool, they are left lacking fundamental skills to survive in the work world and world in general.  Are we to expect that is okay because it is the way they have learned?   I find a little bit of an ethical struggle right here alone.  What is the responsibility of humans today in these contexts?

The other ethical frame I want to address briefly here is the Thought Frame and quickly tie it into the Digital Being.  The last questioning thoughts from the section on “Thought  Frame” really had me thinking about my organization: “Does your organization conceptualize or refer to communication as a transmission of information from sender to receiver? Does it regard emotional response in the workplace as noise in the system?” (237).    If we are very much defined by our digital beings in the workplace, and we communicate via email, videos,  webinars, podcasts, social media, and texting more than we do f2f, isn’t it much easier to become just a receiver in the system?   When our authentic selves present an emotional response to something, do we just become noise that interrupts the system?  When are we allowed to present our deep, meaningful self versus our digital being?  Is there a more appropriate time for one than the other?  I find that I am weighing heavily how technology has changed relations and ethics together on a very basic human level: how we see how our selves and how we then communicate with each other.

Oh, how the audience has changed!

In our Digital Literacy reading this week, I found much interesting content, and I got stuck on the idea of audience in the digital age from Chapter 8.  Now with technology allowing writing in the digital age readily accessible to potentially all Internet users or to anyone who can access  an online document, this much broader sense of audience really does cause some serious consideration for technical communicators.  Who, exactly, are they trying to reach and why?  Are they friends, fans, or followers?  The idea of considering the target audience has taken on new meaning in our Internet, user-driven, and social media run online world these days.

I found that the five case studies offered to us by Blakeslee were helpful in gaining an understanding when thinking about the much bigger “audience” a tech writer now must consider.  She notes, ” …we still need to approach audiences as contextual, unique, and particular, just as we have been doing all along” (202).    This finding made me think of the old adage, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”    I cannot help but think that audiences will  always be very specific, very particular, and  very clear in what they want.   I think this line sums it up nicely, “Such evidence also points to the need to tease out the unique and complex characteristics of modern digital audiences” (202).    It seems that digital communicators these days, much like in days past, should still seriously consider their audience and its needs to really reach the users.

This idea of heuristics was brand new to me; “the digital environment gives writers various mechanisms, or heuristics, for this learning–in other words, it provides them with alternative methods for understanding user needs and a means to solicit user feedback during both early and later phases of learning and research; it also helps them respond to and interact with users” (204).  It is this new age of interaction that really has me intrigued with today’s digital communication age.  The entire concept of audience in the online arena has changed with the way we can and do interact with each other on the Internet.  Now, digital communicators work in a world where they know their audience might prefer interaction and the opportunity to offer feedback right away compared to earlier days where this was not necessarily possible.   The audience of today is a bit more demanding.

With the demands and desires of audiences today, digital communicators who realize that this process is much more user driven today will benefit and be able to target and retain their audiences. Those who ignore their audience needs or oversimplify their needs will not achieve success at reaching their audience.  It must be acknowledged that digital audiences are complex and will require a bit more than what we might have called an audience in former days.

I think the audience has more power today than ever before to affect how digital communicators must write.  Noted by Blakeslee are three very important ideas about how digital communicators must continue to gain a contextualized understanding of their audiences, and I think it is worth it here to point them out again:

  • 1) need to know how readers will read and interact with their documents
  • 2) need to know how and in what contexts readers with use their documents and
  • 3) need to know what expectations readers will bring to their digital documents

I am not sure that in the past authors in the print or early digital realm really considered point three very much.  However, in this time of heavy user interaction, those who fail to realize and address the expectations brought by the reader will not reach them the same way others might.

Audience has really opened up quite a bit with the Internet and its power of interaction and immediate feedback.

Join ’em, have some pie, and release control…

Reading Qualman this week, I began to think about big businesses and how they stay big.  They adapt usually.   I had heard of Viacom previously, but this week’s reading allowed me to really understand why giants stay giants, such as Viacom.  Instead of fighting or resisting the changes social media brought to the world of business, Viacom chose to embrace it after realizing it was useless to attempt to beat social media and its power.  It just wasn’t going to happen.  I thought the shift from attempt to impose a “no” strategy to “let’s derive some benefit” really demonstrated a point:  resistance is futile.  Why waste time and money suing social media sites, such as YouTube and MySpace when one can turn around and devise a business plan to make some profit or gain some PR?    Therefore, that is why Viacom will continue to be a giant.

I thought it was interesting that some companies have entered into this “world of yes” in terms of social media and allowed everyone to “play” while others refused to release control of the “ball” as Qualman would call it.  Furthermore, I loved this line from Qualman, ” History repeats itself because no one listens the first time” (199).  What a great way to put it!    Then he provided the example of Associated Press, which took the resistant path as opposed to Viacom’s eventual path of least resistance.  Because AP went into panic mode, refused to let others “play with its toys,” and became fixated on the failure of others, it most definitely did not embrace social media and the idea of working together for profit.

I thought the comparison of these two companies was a great demonstration of this point made by Qualman:  “Companies that keep a level head will be fine and in some instances better off as their competition self-implodes” (201).   Those that do stay calm will enjoy a piece of the pie (even if it is smaller at times); it is better than no pie at all.

Now, we see the majority of businesses embracing social media, or rather, using social media to propel business and involve the customer.  I can’t help but think about the examples Qualman provided to show that “this is all about becoming part of the content and enhancing the user experience rather than an interruption model” (204).    I thought the example of Green Mountain advertising that asked viewers to complete this line by texting their response and then waiting to see if theirs would appear as the line was ingenious as a business tactic.  This type of advertising has customer appeal and a real-time pull-in effect.    And the billboards by Mini-Cooper with the ability to read chips in

Mini-Coop cars and then welcome the driver by name to downtown Chicago–what a hoot!   Who wouldn’t get a kick out of that one?   These offer some powerful examples of embracing the changes technology and social media bring to the world of business and the way it can now offer an engaged experience.

Finally, I think Qualman was right here:  “Also, part of being successful in the socialnomic world, as we have discussed, is for companies to be more open and comfortable in letting go of the ownership and control of their brand.  It’s not going to be perfect every time, and the end user is smart–they understand that user generated content is beyond a brand’s control” (204).

Businesses and large companies that allow some of the control to be in the hands of its consumers and the use of social media are going to move forward.  Allowing the users to see what is good and what is bad gives them the respect they want as consumers.   The positive will outweigh the negative in the end, and if the businesses let the users alone to experience the ups and downs without trying to dictate their experience, then in the end, those users will stay with them.    Otherwise, what Qualman notes will take over for the business:  Fear of failure is crippling in the world of Socialnomics.  Those who let the fear control their choices will inevitably lose the consumers, the pie, and control.

Digital Footprints Leading to Necessary Information Governance (and more fiber in our diets)

This week’s readings contained much about information.  I actually started to feel a bit of information overload just thinking about how one would have to govern the amount of information now created living in this technological age.  The column chart on page nine under “Call of Action” from “Systems of Engagement and the Future of Enterprise IT” really caused me to pause for several minutes as I thought about the years of change and how we have stored information.   The chart presented major changes from storage of information on microfilm to social content.  When I think about microfilm as the primary means of information storage some time ago and then compare that time to today and its use of social content as a way to store content and information, I imagine researchers pouring over microfilm in former days in comparison to future researchers years from now pouring over Facebook status updates, Tweets, and emails as a way of garnering information.  The amount of information digitally recorded these days is steadily growing.

This brings me to information governance, which is something I really hadn’t given much thought to until our readings this week.  How do we govern information?  Who has to govern it?  When I think about businesses and their needs to maintain content and information in this digital age, I can’t help wonder how many job positions have been created these days purely to take on this type of job?   I especially thought about these questions when I read from “Systems of Engagement” this idea in relation to businesses, “Meanwhile, over on the business-to-business side, the attraction is more about cutting the time it takes to reach closure on any key issue, be that a product design change, a customer complaint, a late shipment, a pricing dispute, or the like. Here again, even though the communications are often in real time, they are leaving their trail of digital footprints — emails, for sure, but also Tweets, recorded web conferences and other types of tools (or other types of content). What is the right policy for storing or deleting such records? What preparations must one make for the inevitable e-discovery requests that our litigious society will surely generate?” (Moore, 2011).

I thought it interesting that businesses now need to consider that while they often have live conversations to resolve issues, indeed there is usually some trail in the digital world.  I found it even more interesting that the final thought here revolves around the idea that without proper preparations, businesses can open themselves up to legal action and loss of money.  This is a key reason why businesses will likely get serious about information governance as noted in “Eating More Fiber and Getting to the WHY? of Information Governance” (digitallandfill.org, Oct. 17, 2013).

Businesses will need to find a way to properly govern the amount of information now coming in via many sources, both hard copy and digital.  If businesses must worry about reducing risks and costs but must also reduce the amount of information being saved, I am not sure how they can avoid possible legal action without making sure they save everything.  And how would they save everything if the system to save information went automated in an effort to reduce costs as “Eating More Fiber” suggests?  Without capturing the digital footprints accurately, a piece of the trail may be missing that could prevent the businesses from losing time and money.

Maybe the inaction to really take information governance seriously comes more from people just not knowing how in the world to manage the incredible amount of information we have available to us these days.  As noted by the author of “Eating More Fiber”, “… but I feel the real reason for inaction is that the WHY? of information governance is not fully understood – at a gut level – by executives.”  The gut that may require more fiber is also the gut that may not fully understand the impact of not properly governing the information available in this age.

On a side note, from both readings, I also was led to AIMM and its upcoming conference; just the title alone sounds interesting: Information is the New World Currency.    Businesses and organizations can also learn about information governance by taking a course available through AIMM.

Twitter: An Artifact in Activity Theory

When I began Chapter 3 in Digital Literacy, I paused for a good minute on the title alone: Shaped and Shaping Tools.  My mind wandered back into a time when man used mostly his hands to shape things.  I got lost in thought down a path of tools and how we use them to shape so much; then I thought about Twitter and how it is shaping people, communication, and businesses.

Clark writes, “As I’m writing this in the spring of 2009, my current techno-rhetorical obsession is with Twitter, an increasingly ubiquitous ‘micro-blogging’ tool that is capturing the popular imagination” (85).  For some reason, Twitter has never been able to capture my imagination fully, and I continue to be resistant to the Tweet, and I don’t know why.   All around me people are Tweeting.   I fully understand its rhetorical implications, and I actually appreciate it as a tool that has massively changed social media and the way we communicate, yet I just won’t get on the Twitter ride even now when I know I should.

I found it interesting that Clark noted that Twitter was accused by some as “stupid, pointless, narcissistic, and over-hyped,” and “it therefore shows all the signs of a real cultural phenomenon” (85).   Why would something that possesses such negative traits become a phenomenon?  But indeed it has. Twitter has certainly taken the world by storm, and it has forever changed the way we can interact and communicate with each other.  I cannot help think how interesting it would be to capture our century in an archive of Tweets, but goodness, what a large archive it would be.

Twitter is a real cultural phenomenon, and I do not expect it to stop any time soon.  Our readings forced me to think about Twitter as a tool of rhetoric, and I began considering how this tool fits into activity theory.   When I consider an “activity system” with “ongoing, object-directed, historically conditioned, dialectically structured, tool-mediated human interaction,” Twitter fits right into this theory.  Clark cites examples of activity systems as “a family, a religious organization, an advocacy group, a political movement” (98).    Twitter has offered quite a new approach for any system to communicate with the world.  It’s really allowed us to “follow” anyone, anywhere, anytime.

The example given by Qualman of CNN Anchor Rick Sanchez illustrates the Twitter’s ability to “shape” human behavior.  His experimental use of Twitter was as Qualman noted “an overnight success.”  Sanchez was able to use the Twitter platform to capture his audience by asking them to help “produce” his show in some ways.  By asking thought-provoking questions and eventually getting his followers’ tweets scrolling on the byline, he effectively encouraged his 75,000 to watch just to see if their comment made the show.  Talk about a shaping tool!

Now back to theory.  Activity theory calls for groups and individuals to be analyzed with a triangular approach that emphasizes multidirectional interconnections among subjects (the individual, dyad, or group), the meditational means or tools they use to take action (machines, writing, speaking, gesture), and the object or problem space on which the subject acts (98-99).  Twitter is a tool that utilizes a machine to work and allows for writing and promotes interconnectedness; people use Twitter to take action.   Then somehow I found my way to Triangulate, and I was further convinced that Twitter (because we have a method to charter its hidden networks) really is a cultural phenomenon that activity theorists can use for broad cultural understanding.

Clark writes, “Activity theory calls for active attention to analysis of artifacts, whether written genres or digital technologies” (99).  I find Twitter a fascinating example of an artifact from our time that is both a written genre and digital technology.  Twitter is capturing so much of our lives, history, movements, and human experiences.  It is most definitely “an analytical tool in the workplace studies in the rhetoric of technology” (99).

I cannot help wonder about those who will come years and years from now…will they sit around lit up screens and read about us in 140 character Tweets and fully understand our time?  I imagine a timeline in front of them.  A caveman and his hand or club will be present and so will a 21st century man holding a mobile device.  The tools of man have changed!

Facebook Friends (Businesses’ Best Friends, too!)

This week, I found myself thinking about my Amazon book purchases after reading Socialnomics: “Death of a Social Schizophrenia.”  Quite a bit of interesting material caught my attention, and for this entry, I ended up thinking about social media and its selling power.

Qualman notes that Amazon introduced us to the selling technique of “People who purchased this book also purchased these other ones.”   I immediately thought about the times I have skimmed the titles of books brought to my attention in this way after having bought another title.  Social media has really transformed the way we receive referrals.  Therefore, I was more and more interested as I read Qualman’s description of “Referral Programs on Steroids” and how this holds true in my own experience.

The Amazon model provides to users a list of titles they might want to buy based on other people with similar tastes. Yet as users, we don’t know these other people.  In fact, “they are an aggregation of thousands of others who happen to have the same purchasing patterns” (131).   They are not our friends or family or close acquaintances; only we might share similar buying habits, and that is the connection.  It’s a marketing technique.

Qualman describes social media as taking this referral program “one giant step further” because while social media will continue to offer what the universe enjoys, it allows us a much deeper and closer referral program: our specific network.  Within our networks, we have circles of trust.   Qualman gives to us the example of a friend who normally reads romance who then refers a sci-fi book.  Because we know and trust this friend, we may be much more likely to want to read this book after we read her post proclaiming her love of the book.  We buy the book; we have just been sucked into the power of social media to make a purchase because of the referral by a known and trusted source.  I have done this before.  Have you?ED Book

However, I have ignored countless recommendations from Amazon.  I am little affected by the note that others (like me) have also purchased these others items.  It rarely influences me to make another purchase.  I might look (window shop), but have never bought in this fashion.  If Amazon found a way to connect my friends and family to my purchases, I might be more easily persuaded to buy.  Social media definitely “beefed up” the referral program.   The implications of this power for companies and businesses are great, and as Qualman writes, “Well, the referral floodgates have been opened my friends” (132).

One of my most recent purchases influenced by social media did indeed come from my Facebook page.  Emily Dickinson is a “friend” of mine, and as a result, I was referred to this collection of her letters.  I bought it within a week of reading the post.  Thus, social media’s referral program within my network worked!  Sale complete on my behalf.

I happened to find another book on Amazon while searching for books on the power of friends: Friendfluence.   Of course, my eyes then wandered down to the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” section, and I did in fact look at the titles to see the buying patterns of those who bought Friendfluence.    The book actually does reference the power of social networks.  It might be an interesting read.

Phase Five (Not Complete) What’s Next?

As I think about readings this week, I am struck by the phases.  Carliner notes, “Over the past 30 years, technology has affected technical communications in profound ways” (29).  And indeed I stopped to consider this thought and the profoundness of the past 30 years and the ways in which technology has affected us.  For a minute, I just thought about my last 30 years, and then I thought about how many of those years I have been using technology.  Then I began to think more in depth about the five phases in this development of technology for technical communication.  I ended with questions:  what makes one a technical communicator? And what phase most affected me in profound ways?  What I found to be true is this (and this will date me): I have really only been fully involved in three of the five phases. The first two were periods of my life that were not necessarily times of my life when I was 1) aware of all the world’s technologies and 2) using them in my daily life was not something I connected to my literacy skills in the sense that I was learning how to become digitally literate.

I was growing up in “The Desktop Revolution”, so Phase Two would be the time I began to become literate in the use of computers.  By no means was I a technical communicator during this time, ancomputer-storage-timelined I was not “automating publishing tasks” in any way, shape, or form.   I was simply a child and then a teenager in the 80’s and the 90’s.  So, yes, I am a child of the eighties, and I did not own a desktop computer during this phase of my life, and now reading about this aspect of that time period made me think quite a bit about the technology changes that were rapidly occurring around me.   I did, however, immediately connect to some of the technical aspects that I read.  As a matter of fact, I felt a certain sense of nostalgia when I began to read about the first PCs in the early 1980s, which used 5.25 diskettes.   I remember the diskette clearly and vividly.  I know what it looks like, I remember what they felt like, and I held them in my hands when I was in elementary school.  What I could not have told anyone until now is that those disks only held 360,000 bytes of information.  Then when I read that “by the end of the 1980s, systems had internal hard drives with up to 50MB of storage capacity,” I began to really connect to the phase of my life that I clearly remember using PCs: the 1990s.   Floppy_disk_2009_G1

From Phase Three: The GUI (Graphical User Interfaces) Revolution, I remember mostly this major development mentioned by Carliner: “…the movement of the Internet from a limited-use network by those working in the defense industry and at universities, to a ubiquitous communications network” (37).   It was this phase of my life that I was just beginning to feel the omnipresence of the Internet.  Wow!  I had never seen anything like this world of information before, and now to consider the implications of how this medium affected communication really causes me to pause for a moment and appreciate the enormity of the Internet.  I also found it quite interesting to reflect on this idea that the “rise of the browser” also created standards for sharing information.  Sharing information during this time period was not the same as it is today.  The standards for sharing information continue to evolve as we enter new phases of technological advances.  This makes me think of Netiquette rules I share with my students.  While these go bwwweyond standards for sharing information, they arose from the same concept: a set of standards needed to address working in an online environment, much to do with sharing information.  Furthermore, even the idea that some organizations did not necessarily want to download the plugins needed to run video and sound at the time intrigued me because now we function in a world where, I find, plugins are accepted as a natural part of the system.  There might be some reluctance to download them, but for the most part, anyone using a computer or technological device knows that plugins are part of the deal.

From Phase Four: Web 1.0 came the power of the Internet and the World Wide Web among other things.  I fully remember exploring the WWW, and now reading from the perspective of how it profoundly affected the world of technical communication, I am struck by how rapidly people were changing with the technology.  Email made its emergence as the primary means of interpersonal communication, and it continues to thrive in the business world and, for me, the educational arena.  But now I cannot remember exactly where I read it (maybe from last week’s readings),  it seems that more and more often other emerging methods of communication are becoming the mode for newer generations, such as texts, tweets, and live chats.   When I think about my own email communications, they have taken over much of my world, and yet, I long for good ol’ face-to-face talking.   I have a love-hate relationship with email these days.  I love communicating, but sometimes I would rather just pick up the phone or visit the person.  Another aspect of this phase that I can easily connect to is the ability to display ever-changing content and increased capability to display both audio and visual content.  When I think about how and when I first began using the Internet, I was in awe of the content available, and now thinking about how the technical aspect of it all was developed, I have a greater appreciation.  I simply learned then that a hyperlink was a clickable link, and navigation bar was at the top or side of a page.  I now know that those features were by design.  The interface was changing and becoming what it is like today while I was learning to use the Internet and explore the Web.  I could not have told you what HTML code was when I was living in this phase, but I can now.  I must select to work in HTML or not in most messages I compose and most assessments I create. Before I would not have had a clue what that meant.

Finally, Phase Five: Web 2.0 is the time of my life I most connect to my technical communication skills.  I was fresh out of college in 2001, and I had my first professional job at my current institution, but I was only part-time then.  I began working and using a computer daily at work.  As I progressed in my career, I became more and more responsible for using technology to communicate with students, staff, faculty, and others.   In my personal life, I heard about MySpace, although I did not get it at first….I thought, “What the heck is MySpace?”  And of course, I was drawn to social media as a form of communication.   Back at work, I was communicating via technweb2_0-y7zjhkology every day, and eventually I learned to use our Learning Management Content System and Learning Management System.  And at another point, I was in charge of creating a Writing Center webpage with our college web developer, so I would say I was the content provider for the web page.  Honestly, I did not know how to develop web content; I had to learn to do so.   I also became familiar with the term Web 2.0 tools much later when I began taking classes in E-Learning and Online Teaching.  This phase for me really extended from the mid-2000s into my more recent years.  Web 2.0 tools really became present in my life when I was working on my graduate classes here at UW for that program.

On a final note, from Phase Five of my life and technology for technical communication came the blog and the wiki.   I am a bit embarrassed to admit I did not know that wiki originates from a Hawaiian word for fast, but now I do.   And I always think of Wikipedia first when I hear or read wiki.  This makes me find a way to connect to Qualman here.  He notes that “Wikimoocimagepedia proves the value of collaboration on a global basis (24).  I find that I have spent many phases of my life in collaboration, and more and more, this collaboration involves massive use of technology.  For instance, I am now involved in the creation of a MOOC for my college; this is a recent project I have been asked to join.  I consider myself a novice, and I am learning more and more as I go.  I am not sure I am a proponent of the MOOC, but I am forging ahead with the project in an effort to understand the MOOC and its educational value for varying audiences and populations.  I have only just begun, but I can say that from the blog to the wiki to the MOOC, I am constantly moving into a new phase of my technical communication.  I have lived through a wiki-world in a sense that everything seems to be moving so fast.  Each time I turn around, a new phase is starting somewhere.  It just keeps moving, and somehow I keep finding myself blogging or wiki-ing away.   BTW, my wiki experience is limited.  Yet again, another phase that I must explore more fully.

http://tjm.org/2013/05/

References

Carliner, S. (2010). Computers and technical communication in the 21st century. In Rachel Spilka (Ed.)  Digital Literacy for Technical Communication. New York: Routledge.

Qualman, E. (2009). Socialnomics. Hoboken, New Jersey- John Wiley and Sons.

Social Media=Today’s Relationship Cultivator

Social media has changed the world of relationships, both in personal and business relationships.  I was struck by two very important concepts: the sphere of influence (something I seem to be hearing about often lately) and the analogy of courtship and dating. The moment I read these ideas in Socialnomics Chapters Two and Three: Social Media=Preventative Behavior and Social Media=Braggadocian Behavior, I stopped and thought about the impact of social media, and I was indeed struck by thoughts about the scope of influence and impact of social media in our times…just like I am struck by the fact that spell check does not even recognize the words “socialnomics” and “braggadocian” as part of today’s word base.  Social media has changed the world of relationships and, furthermore, the world of language.sphere-of-influence

Before I delve deeper into the dating and courtship analogy, it would be beneficial to also bring to attention some key points of Chapter Two; how does social media cause preventative behavior and why is that so relevant to this idea of cultivating relationships or perhaps preserving our own relationships in some way?

I was immediately interested in this idea of “the sphere of influence,” and as noted, “The difference with social media is the speed and ease in which this [responding to customer unhappiness] occurs as well as the sphere of influence.”  Qualman introduces us to this concept in relation to how businesses will adapt their behaviors in response to customer dissatisfaction and frustration.  Now companies assign employees to find and handle customer complaints via social media. In essence, they seek and find the problem to avoid losing a customer, or better yet, to prevent that customer from posting a video or status that could potentially go “viral” and affect future customer base growth.

I was especially intrigued when I read the section about Comcast, a nemesis of mine.  I have had plenty a battle with Comcast, and had I known that I should simply post a rant on Facebook or post a YouTube video to get someone to contact me instead of waiting endless hours on the phone and getting frustrated, I might have done so, but it never occurred to me to complain via social networking.  If I knew that the company might reach to me to repair a broken relationship because I might spread bad press to others in my sphere of influence (or followers,) I might have tried it just to see if it worked.  I found that Comcast cares (see ComcastCares article). I am still in disbelief that a Comcast member would seek me out when I have a problem.  I am not sure I believe this yet. I am left wondering if it would still happen today or if Comcast has grown too big to care since Socialnomics was published in 2009.  Should I try it the next time I want to “break up” with Comcast and see if my date comes calling?

Back to the sphere. Social media is much about followers, and the more followers one has, the more influence one might have on those followers.  I can see how companies must be in tune with their customers’ use of social media.  Company behavior definitely changes in light of this new method of sharing positive or negative feedback.

Those same followers and members of our social media sites can also “see” and read our every move.  Social media does force preventative behaviors beyond just companies altering how they treat their customers…as described in Chapter Two, students, teachers, parents, and more must be aware of what is placed “out there” for the world to view. Social networks are “powerful enough to cause an adjustment in personal and corporate behavior on a macro level.”  Our relationships have certainly changed in this way. What do we want to share?  What ghosts do we want flying out of our closets? We must know and realize what could come back to haunt us now that social media has taken over.

Next, I was immediately drawn into Chapter Three’s “Are You on Facebook?” Is the New “Can I Get Your Phone Number?” section.  Wow! Talk about the evolution of dance!  How about the evolution of dating?  And taking this courtship idea into the world of business makes sense, too.

I was entertained by the idea that we can become somewhat creepy if we present to people that we already  “know” them on a first date because we have already “Facebooked” him or her.  Qualman notes that the first date could actually feel more like a fourth date now that we do not have to “court” each other because Facebook offers that preliminary information we want before we even get to the dating part.   This is not how I grew up dating.  I did not Google anyone or Facebook anyone or Tweet anyone while I was dating.  It is weird to me to think that might be the norm now for courtship….I guess I am a true face-to-face romantic at heart…but if I could have Googled some of my former dates, I probably would have avoided one or two of them totally.

I really enjoyed this analogy in terms of dating and businesses.  Many businesses try to suck customers into their homepage via social media.  They become the creepy dates.  Qualman writes, “It’s analogous to meeting a pretty girl in a bar and asking if she would like a drink. When she responds, ‘yes,’ rather than ordering her drink from the bartender, you grab her and rush her into your car and drive back to your place; because after all, you have beer in your fridge. This is not a sound courtship strategy….”  Now that would be creepy… “Hi, may I buy you a drink?  Okay, come get in my car and come to my house.”    Thanks, but no thanks!  I am not really into jumping into cars with strangers.

I really see that both personal and business relationships have been so very affected by social media, and part of me longs for simpler days with less technology involved in our relationships, but these two chapters really had me thinking about all of this…and I am just so not socially connected compared to younger generations growing up in a world with constant status updates and posts and videos and tweets and all of it.  I can only handle so much information streaming into my life from friends and family.  I am married, so I get actual updates in person from my husband…no real courtship going on there anymore (just good ol’ husband and wife conversation).

There was so much in these two chapters that I am taking with me.  Two more key points that really grabbed my attention from Chapter Three included Assess Your Life Every Minute and The Next Generation Can’t Speak.  Social media makes me feel like I must assess my life every minute (and the reading here supported this feeling), but I am so involved in working, schoolwork, and taking care of my family that I cannot keep up with my own social media. I don’t. I am lucky if I check Facebook more than twice a week; it becomes a weekend activity most of the time. Now with my Smartphone, I can do it more easily, but, honestly, I do not want to read constant status updates that feel superfluous to me at times, never mind trying to post the tasks and routine activities of my days and nights.  Why post this: “I am so tired I could just fall over right now”?   Do my family and friends need to know this?  Will I even remember the context of that post long days from now?  Probably not.  But most of my friends and some family members post these updates multiple times a day.  I find much of the “all about me, me, me” braggadocian behavior present in the status updates of my younger cousins (all young adults in college at this time.) I love them just the same; they have less complicated lives than I do, so I even envy their ability to find importance in posting the fact they are going to get a coffee from Starbucks (I end up thinking: wouldn’t that be nice right now?

I did, however, think about how social media allows me to go back and review life’s minutes (I LOVE this idea.) When I do post, they are definitely the moments I want to capture.  I love the idea of somehow scrapbooking my year in status updates…I am sure there is an app for that somewhere.

Finally, it is difficult for me to spend much time writing about how the next generation cannot speak because I am teaching them daily.  I see it in every form of communication I have with them, and my instinct is to try to help communication then and now meet in the middle somehow.  The entire section from the book had me thinking about how to address their needs in every communication arena from chat to email to personal face-to-face interactions.  And I could not believe that public speaking is feared more than death these days….Whoa!  A fear greater than death…that is a giant fear, and I can actually sympathize because I was secretly feeling better about myself when I read that fact.  Put me in an auditorium or room of more than 30 students (whom I can control) and I am “outta” there.

And so, I know two very important things right now:  no one is viewing my social media sites in an effort to date me (just not happening).  Furthermore, now that I know some businesses might treat people like dates that they wish to continue seeing and courting, I am going to think about how this impacts daily living and business relationships of all sorts.   As my grandmother would say if she were here, “Interesting, very interesting.”

P.S. – My grandmother never Facebooked anyone in her entire life, and part of me wishes I had her life in status updates, so I could keep them forever as an example of real “courtship”.   She and my grandfather would have had the best status updates…I can “hear” them now!

Gram and Pop Vintage

References:

Qualman, E. (2009). Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business. Hoboken, N.J., John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Blogging Basics…where it began….

BloggingBasics2

It has been a while since I have used WordPress, but I was introduced to it and other blogging sites back somewhere between 2006 and 2008.  A close friend and colleague of mine offered a several session course (mini-workshops, if you will) called Blogging Basics through our Lifelong Learning Institute (generally aimed at our senior crowd in the local community). She asked if I would be interested, and I said, “What the heck? Why not?”  She was really excited to share her blogs and experience, and I shared in her enthusiasm.  She was already blogging about jewelry-making, crafting, and beading at the time; plus, she was new as a faculty member, and she was all about getting others to see the value of blogs in the educational arena….blogs and blogging were quickly becoming popular around campus during this time.  I did not understand what blogging was at all until I took the course with her and some other very friendly senior citizens–I remember them pretty vividly since they all had varying technological skills, and I learned much just from listening and watching them in the whole process of learning how to blog.

In the course, I learned primarily how to use WordPress and Eblogger, and it was truly the basics, but I found, as a lover of reading and writing (especially journaling), I was immediately attracted to blogs and what they had to offer.   For some reason, at the time, Eblogger attracted me more than WordPress, and it became my go-to blogging site for future use.   As a result of completing the course, I went into the next semester with ideas about how to use weblogs in the classroom to supplement my developmental writing courses.   I had also begun my master’s degree during this time, and blogging became the basis of several different course projects, research, and, finally, part of a practicum course.   I stuck mostly to using blogs in the classroom with students versus blogging in my personal life.  I was drawn to their use for learning.

I remember doing much research at the time about blogs and feeling like quite a novice when I started and just moved forward with using one in the classroom with my developmental writers… I needed something to liven my classroom, and the blog seemed like a perfect medium for my students at the time.

As I began to read through the blog literacy readings, I was immediately attracted to Learning With Weblogs, and I continue to see the value of using blogs in the learning process.   I was caught by this: “More than traditional learning logs, weblogs offer students the opportunity and encouragement to actively participate in the continuous learning process of social knowledge construction in a number of ways.”   For me, it was this idea that really made me love the blog and its purpose for my students….social knowledge construction was definitely the goal.

One of the specific ways mentioned included that blogs provide “Sustainable knowledge stock: Student weblog posts are not only shared but also stored as the community’s knowledge asset for all participants to revisit and reuse.”  Again, I love the description here in relation to forming a community via the blog and allowing those members to revisit and reuse the knowledge base.  It was those things that drew me to the blog in the first place…the social nature of them and the way authors could store knowledge, share it, and offer threaded comments continuously.

I maintained the class blog for at  least one academic year before my life went into a whirlwind of having babies, going on maternity leave, finishing my master’s, and changing disciplines.   When I shifted into teaching developmental reading, the curriculum was so packed I left out the blogging.  I have used blogs more recently in the classes I have been taking….almost every class I just completed here at UW for the E-Learning Certificate had us using a blog for a project-based portfolio or for reflection purposes.  I will be truthful and reveal that I do not do much blog reading on my own these days because I spend so much time on the computer for work, and now with the two little ones, time is always the problem.   When I find myself looking at blogs, I get immediately sucked into them, and I love exploring all blogs….tech ones, writing ones, authors and musicians, and more. Some colleagues along the way have been naysayers about using blogs for educational purposes, and I have heard varying opinions, especially from “old school” English teachers at times who refuse to believe blogs can offer much to the writing world, but I am a fan.

I am excited to begin a new journey here with blogging, and I know this experience will fire up my love of wanting to use them in the classroom.   I look forward to our experience together.

References

Du, H.S., & Wagner, C. (2007). Learning with weblogs: enhancing cognitive and social knowledge construction. 50(1), 4.