Twitter Week 2

So my experiment continues. I try to log in to my twitter account once a day at least, which is not the optimal method of using twitter I’m sure, but it’s what I can do. Usually, I do it at work, I mean I do work in e-learning services right? It’s work yeah?

Some quick observations – brilliant way to spread a website virally. In fact I can see that niche being filled nicely. It was kinda cool to be able to respond to some people who I respect and get a response back. Sort of a quick phone call or instant message (coincidentally, two other things I don’t really like doing – talking on the phone or using IM software like ICQ or AIM). Twitter seems far more interactive. Alec Couros posts his student’s work to his twitter account, I go check some of them out, comment and leave a link here. Web connections happening quite organically. No wonder marketers have jumped on board quick.

One downfall is the lack of context. Unless one posts several tweets one after the other in quick succession, then there’s not much context to draw from an individual posting. I always love the why and how, maybe that’s why I’ve always thought about the career choices I’ve made and will make. So I can see the allure of a quick posting that may not need much elaboration – sort of the thing that my RSS feed gives one is a good tweets.

I’m actually enjoying the interaction so far. We’ll see if I continue to enjoy it, or will it become cumbersome?

Twitter Week 1

OK, I decided to give twitter another go, now that I know some people that use it (and use it regularly). You can follow me @dietsociety. I did sign up for it a year or so ago – I’m not sure the initial reason why – maybe to investigate the usefulness of it (or even what it was).

I’ve found that lots of edutech people use twitter – I’m getting the sense that it’s as a microblog type deal. It’s also being used by a lot of businesses that I frequent for records or Japanese ephemera or marketing that seems to update their brand, I mean, product lists with new products. I’ll keep it up for a month or two – tweeting about what I’m doing at work mostly, and see how I feel about it. It certainly seems to be a little more useful than a year ago where I logged in and couldn’t find anyone interesting to follow (that doesn’t mean that they weren’t there, I didn’t necessarily know about them yet).

Today’s Horoscope

I’m not a big believer in chance or higher powers, even if I can’t explain something, someone out there probably can come up with a reasonable explanation. Much like conspiracy theories, sometimes people invent connections where there are none, to explain otherwise inexplicable things. My horoscope today is kind of interesting, uh, piece of advice? Maybe it’s a parable for the information age?

Libra (Sept. 23 — Oct. 23)

Information on its own is of limited use, and if we rely on it exclusively, we end up dithering over possibilities and ramifications. Instead, use your heart and intuition to make a big decision, and trust it.

Twittering Connections as Volatile as the Wind

I’ve never been a huge fan of Twitter and as such, I don’t think too much about it. Although this entire morning I’ve run into several articles talking about it. One of the major reasons I don’t like Twitter is that it’s not deep. I like reading something that gives me context, something to mull over, thoughts to consider, links to other content and more. Twitter is less. And rightfully so, that’s the purpose of it.

Nevertheless, this article mentions Twitter and uses it as a comparison to blogging to see how social networking enacts power laws. It’s interesting, because it grabs everything under the Web 2.0 umbrella and while that’s maybe useful for an overview, it does a disservice to the entire thing. Web 2.0, like every complex structure is made up of differing parts, many times operating with different objectives, if any at all. I don’t think Twitter works like blogs at all (certainly they can, but for the most part don’t) and I don’t believe that social power structures in each system work the same.

The value of being followed is important, yes. It doesn’t mean that communication is enacted. I could be followed by several thousand others, it doesn’t mean that what I’m saying is understood or even further something that anyone would act upon. That requires real power. So when @BarackObama is followed by a hundred thousand…. that’s power and the cult of celebrity – would hundred thousand follow his blog? Or would a million watch his vlog? Oh wait, maybe they will – it’s called the State of The Nation address… Sure Web 2.0 has created it’s own celebrities, who in turn have influence and power, but really we’re not changing the power structure at all. While social networking is allowing people to connect more freely, real power acts as it has done for hundreds of years.

Clay Shirkey’s article about Power Laws, Weblogs and Inequality talks about this, especially well summed up in the concluding statements:

In between blogs-as-mainstream-media and blogs-as-dinner-conversation will be Blogging Classic, blogs published by one or a few people, for a moderately-sized audience, with whom the authors have a relatively engaged relationship. Because of the continuing growth of the weblog world, more blogs in the future will follow this pattern than today. However, these blogs will be in the minority for both traffic (dwarfed by the mainstream media blogs) and overall number of blogs (outnumbered by the conversational blogs.)

I see the value of Twitter as a method to deal with quick messages (the idea that a language teacher could use twitter to provide new vocabulary each day that student could subscribe to is interesting), I don’t see the power laws enacted with it. Perhaps that’s because the power of Twitter is in the instantaneous nature of it, the connection is gone in a second… the lasting impression is not always long lasting.

Bad Vogon Poetry

See, see the ugly sky
Marvel at its big moss green depths.
Tell me, Nathaniel do you
Wonder why the vogon ignores you?
Why its foobly stare
makes you feel tired.
I can tell you, it is
Worried by your farble facial growth
That looks like
A peaches.
What’s more, it knows
Your smack potting shed
Smells of mucus.
Everything under the big ugly sky
Asks why, why do you even bother?
You only charm festering garbage.b

Singularity and Connectivism

Last week, I watched a documentary on Alan Moore, who’s a fairly interesting fellow. One of the things that he said was the rate of information was growing at an exponential rate. For anyone who knows calculus, you can half any number an infinite amount of times and never equal zero – you only get so close to zero that you approximate it. In this case, zero is the length of time it takes for human knowledge to double. So doing some internet research brought up this article about the law of accelerating returns. That article refers to the moment that the double exponential growth of human knowledge and the moment when knowledge grows almost instantaneously as the singularity. Mindblowing, especially so considering that it was written in 2001. If you’re familiar with The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, you know the Vogons come and “pave vogons!over” the Earth at the moment that the Earth (as computer) is to uncover the meaning of life, the universe and everything. So maybe everyone’s read a few too many good books?

As a total aside, if you want to create some bad Vogon poetry, the BBC has decided to allow that to happen. I don’t think they understand what they have unleashed…

Now what does this all have to do with education? Well, clearly, a new paradigm will be required for knowledge growth that expands immediately.

In connectivism, it’s more important to know how to access data, than what the data is. Getting information and assessing it is crucial to applying that information in a successful way. It also addresses the concept of singularity and instantaneous exponential growth of human knowledge. Now, the Kurzweil article talks about how artificial intelligence will be able to exceed human intelligence in the next twenty years or so (although this isn’t a fixed number by any stretch). It certainly is only one hypothesis. The article continues on to speculate about what might occur to allow for this singularity.

Bringing it back to Alan Moore, he also talks about the singularity and addresses it in a more spiritual manner – where this singularity might be seen as a spiritual enlightenment. Kurzweil also points to this as some sort of transformative incident, although the article doesn’t really speculate that much about the future beyond the singularity.

Busy Time Of Year

Sorry for the lack of posts. I did want to check in and say I’ve been busy working over here now, as opposed to within a department at the college. I’m hoping I can bring forth a few new projects to implement that will enhance what goes on here. It’s a good time to have moved on, and the new work is going to be a bit more challenging and hopefully some of it won’t seem like work at all.

Also, I’m beginning my fourth core course at Brock University in the Adult Education program. This time around it’s “Work and Learning in Organizations”. Considering my life as a punk (“and I like Sham”), I have always had an aversion to corporate life, it’s probably why I thought academia was a good place for me (having heard about all these radicals teaching and such). I can’t say I’m looking forward to this course. The reading list looks fairly uninteresting, and the materials look to be laid out the same as the previous course that I didn’t particularly like. Part of the problem was that the essays closely mimicked the work that we did in class. The first and last assignments particularly covered the exact same stuff we did in class, it felt that it was a waste of time. Maybe the connections between the in class work and the assignments were not closely tied enough…

Needless to say, I know from some of the previous readings and getting to know some of the authors, we’ll at least have a pro-labor/union standpoint, as would be expected from an emancipatory education perspective that the whole course has taken.

The New-New Literacy

Happy New Year! I’m not going to do a top ten or predict (ala Karnak or Kreskin) the future. Instead if that ripe old adage is true, I’m going to look back to look ahead.

We’ve all heard about digital literacy, and how it’s going to be important going forward from here on out. George Siemens has published a couple of blog posts that I wanted to comment on, and I think that it might be a bit more coherent to do so here. George wrote a little bit about the Pirate Hoax and it’s implications for what digital literacy means. I think his commentary is dead on, in that people must adopt a very skeptical approach to what they read (even here!). A problem with a skeptical approach is that it can lead to a very silo’d way of thinking, where anything that is outside your particular view can easily be dismissed by finding minor problems with the data or information, or holding information to such a high standard to meet that it never climbs the mountain, so to speak. Skepticism must be tempered with an openness, a willing to suspend belief for a period of time to accept an alternative point of view.

George then writes about the New York Times Visualization Lab, and their adoption of more visualizations. While this isn’t new, (all the news that’s fit to visualize?) we’ve been hearing about declining text literacy for years, the contextual arguments about visualizations certainly exist. Is there a difference in a pie chart versus a bar chart? How far apart are the variables spaced? Colors of pie pieces influence funding? Most people don’t consider how these factors influence or can influence decisions. The new new literacy has to include this sort of thinking, and understanding of how we can be manipulated by visuals.

Two of my favourite sites Flowing Data and Infosthetics deal with this sort of visual literacy, in addition to highlighting the creative, artistic sides to data. If you haven’t visited either site, please take a gander at them, they are really spectacular.