‘We’ – my Facebook page and me

Elise Andrew, whose Facebook page ‘I F**king Love Science‘  is followed by over 1.7 million, recently shocked her fans by revealing her gender through posting a photo of herself on Twitter.

Here she talks to CBS This Morning about this reaction and with Michio Kaku discusses sexism in the field of science.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50143686n

Her fans’ reaction is surprising on two counts:

  1. That her Facebook followers had failed to notice her gender, despite the fact that her name is posted on her FB page.  Perhaps Elise is not a familiar name.
  2. That the stereotypical image of a scientist as being male, wearing a white lab coat, having a ‘mad’ appearance – fuzzy grey hair, glasses and the like – and being surrounded by test tubes, bunsen burners, tripods, flasks and the like, is still so resistant to change and updating.

Many children still draw scientists in this image, despite many years of trying to break down this stereotype, dating from  Chambers’ Draw a Scientist Test in 1983

 

What I found most interesting about Elise’s CBS This Morning video was that when asked what the future might hold for her, she replied

Elise: We’ve had people talk to us about TV shows and about books…..

Interviewer: When you say ‘We” who do you mean?

Elise: When I say ‘We’, I mean the Facebook page …… me and my Facebook page…

This is fascinating.  This implies that Elise thinks of her Facebook page as a collaborative effort, a community, despite the fact that she runs it alone. Elise’s Facebook page appears to be ‘open’ to anyone.  Or maybe for her, her Facebook page has a life of it’s own.

But what else does it tell us about how people use social media, or why some people gather such a large following.

In the case of Elise Andrew perhaps the factors contributing to this are her

  • undeniable and contagious enthusiasm for her subject
  • apparent lack of ego evidenced by her surprise by all the fuss
  • knowledge of her subject and of reputable scientists, i.e. her connections
  • communication skills

… all of which come across in this interview:  Elise Andrew on why she loves science

Thanks to Sui Fai John Mak for posting a link to the CBS News video on his Facebook Page.

Life cycle of ‘connectedness’

Last year I wrote about my mother’s connectedness – https://jennymackness.wordpress.com/2008/10/12/177/

When you are 83, connectedness takes on a new meaning year by year. This year my mother’s connectedness is ‘shrinking’. Those who she can readily connect to (albeit never online) are dying. And she is becoming forgetful. Her neural connections do not work as well as they once did,  although she still has a formidable memory for times past.

For me this brings a new dimension to the concept of connectedness. It not only means different things to different people, but it is experienced differently at different stages of the connectedness life-cycle. This is similar to Etienne Wenger’s ideas that a community goes through a life-cycle and ultimately dies.

I can see my mother’s connections waning at social, neural and conceptual levels. She has never used a computer, but that is not the point. My mother was once a highly connected person in her own way, but I can now see a closing down of these connections which is not in her control.

Do online connections make a difference? This week I learned that a past colleague of mine has died – very sad since she was considerably younger than me. But what I find interesting is that her Facebook account is still ‘alive’. People are posting messages to her as if she was still alive.

So what does this mean for connectivity? Can it die – or is it that once it has been initiated, it will always be there, ready for further connection?

The Future of Social Networking

Do you get Stephen’s OL Weekly (or Daily)? I have for some time. I have often thought how does he keep it up. I hate routine. The thought of having to do the same thing over and over for weeks and weeks or years and years just fills me with horror. But of course we all have to subject to routines in some way. This week I am rebelling. I am not cleaning the house. It looks OK to me – so hopefully it will to everyone else too!

But routines and cleaning the house are not what set me off on this post. They are just an aside. It was something in Stephen’s weekly that struck a chord. This was it:

Social Networking Condemned to Die. The Problem Is Commitment.
“Facebook is nothing more than a new version of America Online, with lots of calories but not much nutrition.” I find it difficult not to agree with that sentiment (yet I still update my Facebook status and still check out my Scrabble Wordscraper games. “Creates a major problem for Facebook, and for other Web 2.0 social networks. Facebook has created loyalty without value, quantity that drowns quality.” Yes – but the irony is that today’s political laders still respond to quantity over quality, which is why we keep seeing headlines that read Government backs down after facebook protest. See also Facebook’s Face Plant: The Poverty of Social Networks and the Death of Web 2.0. TonNet, education and technology, December 11, 2008 [Link] [Tags: Books, Networks, Web 2.0, Canada] [Comment]

This has been in the back of my mind for some time. I do have a Facebook account, but to be honest I can’t really see the point (apologies if I am offending my friends here). If I have a close contact I prefer to email them. And I really can’t imagine that even my friends are interested in the triviality of my life. I have similar feelings about Twitter, although the CCK08 course made me realise that Twitter is useful if you want information in the moment, for example when the Ustream sessions moved to Elluminate and I couldn’t find everyone. If I had been using my Twitter account (which I don’t) I would have known where everyone is.

And then there was one of the speakers in the Women of Web 2.0 week who said she was a member of 20 Ning groups. Why? How could you possibly keep up with 20 online communties? Communities involve commitment and reciprocity. I have just been invited to join another online group and I had to join to find out what it was all about. I was invited to join by someone I respect, so I felt obliged to look into it, but I know I will not use it. There are only so many groups that I feel I can belong to at any one time and for me that number has to be small – I don’t want to spend my life online and my attention span is short!

The online groups or social networks that work best for me are those based on the principles of communities of practice. I am an online education consultant and work online all the time with groups of learners. I find these experiences, although very time limited, very fulfilling and enriching – a hugely different experience to posting on Facebook. Why do I find this? Well – for the very reason given in the post that Stephen pointed to in his OL weekly – the reason being that in online courses there is commitment – there is a clear domain – we all join round a given subject in which we are all interested – there is a defined area of practice which is associated with the domain and which we all want to share – and because of this need to share and identify with the domain, we are all keen to ensure that the community gels. Etienne Wenger has explained all this for us in his work on communities of practice. A community of practice needs the type of commitment that Facebook and other social networks of this type cannot give us. In addition social networks of the Facebook type don’t gather round a clearly identified domain and there is no requirement to share practice.

So where does this leave us? How will we move from time-limited commitment and connections made in short online courses, to longer term commitments and connections.? Do we need to? Is it just life that some connections will be transitory?

I have made very many passing connections in my online work. But every so often I make a much more lasting one. Currently I am working on a research paper, which explores learner experiences in an online community of practice, with someone who I met on line and who now is a good friend. This has been a very enriching connection. These are the sort of connections that I would like to make online. Connections that involve more than fleeting, passing engagement and where deeper issues can be explored.

Well I’ve overcome the feeling that I have nothing to say – at least for this week!

Before I finish – just to say that I am still keeping an eye on CCK08 blogs.

Have you seen Viplav, Maru and Carlos‘ final presentation. If not, you must. Isn’t this what connectivism is all about. Three people who don’t know each other, from right across the world working together to produce this presentation – gelling their ideas, accepting each other’s differences, communicating to produce a high quality presentation!

And there  are some more here http://technorati.com/videos/tag/CCK08

And there was one that I found earlier in the week and such are my technical skills that I can no longer find it, but it was a Flash presentation showing how weak and strong ties in the network grew and faded as the course progressed. I am really peeved that I can’t now find this presentation as I would have like to keep a record of it.

Thanks to those who have encouraged me to keep blogging.

One day later – Didn’t realise I hadn’t put a title on this post – so I have added one now

I don’t Twitter or Tweet!

I have a Twitter account, but I’m not yet convinced that I want to go down this route. Apologies to anyone who has tried to connect with me that way.

I’ve had some quite persuasive arguments put to me about the benefits of ‘twittering’. A friend told me that I would only see the benefits once I had a big enough group of people to follow or be followed by. I think the figure he mentioned was over 50.

This article Brave New World of Digital Intimacy (which is quite old now – 2006) is also quite persuasive in many ways. But there are also some scary bits.

The first is ‘time’. The article describes asking someone with 1000 online contacts how she finds the time. Her reply was – that she needs to spend only a small part of each hour actively reading her Twitter stream. But that is only her Twitter stream – presumably she still has her email, her mobile texts, her Facebook, possibly her Flickr, her blog etc. etc. and even if she didn’t have all these, then even a small part of each hour builds up- and worse is the fact that you appear to have to be joined at the hip to your online connection to be connected these days. (I’m beginning to feel a bit like this with this course – spending far too much time online! Can’t be healthy!) 

And here’s another seriously scary part of the article:

“Sometimes I think this stuff is just crazy, and everybody has got to get a life and stop obsessing over everyone’s trivia and gossiping,” she (Ahan) said.

Yet Ahan knows that she cannot simply walk away from her online life, because the people she knows online won’t stop talking about her, or posting unflattering photos. She needs to stay on Facebook just to monitor what’s being said about her. This is a common complaint I heard, particularly from people in their 20s who were in college when Facebook appeared and have never lived as adults without online awareness. For them, participation isn’t optional. If you don’t dive in, other people will define who you are.

This is a real life example of the tyranny of participation that I mentioned in an earlier post.

There’s lots of positive stuff in the article, but I’m still not convinced. However, I’ve always been one of the last to adopt new technologies. Give me another couple of years and I might have changed my mind!

The article is worth reading though.