Sunday, 30 December 2012

What is your favourite Twitter story? #edcmooc

I wrote this in response to a post by a fellow #edcmooc'er, Nigel Thomas. I originally wrote a reply on his blog, and then realised more than half an hour had passed and I'd written and re-written about five paragraphs. So it was obviously something that I wanted to get down myself! Here is the original post from Nigel and my rambling reply.
I would like to know what your favourite use of Twitter is, and invite you to add this in the comments below. 

Hi Nigel, that was a good post and always good to hear a different opinion from people; I think social media can have a habit of self-affirming itself all the time (like in the very funny video you shared). Myself, I see Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media platform as being just like any other real life social space - you're presenting yourself & interacting with others.

I think they are superb tools. Imagine 25 years ago saying you could (in theory) connect with anyone else in the world instantly and at no cost, you would be amazed. They are all blank canvases, and so how they are used is a reflection of the people using them. Or indeed the social groups & crowd behaviour that people fall into (eg "if my friends are all tweeting what they ate for dinner maybe I should do too?"). So maybe Twitter makes you squirm because it feels like you're hanging out with people who need to let the rest of the world know when they have found a parking space or stubbed their toe?

But there are also innumerable creative & practical ways that you could use Twitter. Try using hashtags (eg #edtech) to get a tailored flow of information on a particular topic. See here how teachers in Northern Ireland gathered tips and advice via their #NIdchat hashtag. That useful conference you went to - it's like having that all the time. People have Tweeted under the guise of historical figures. What a novel way of imagining what was going through Napoleon or Nero's mind on famous historical days. Poets can use Twitter - it's a challenge to construct a poem using just 140 characters. The Swedish government handed the @sweden Twitter account over to a citizen per week this year and let them tweet about whatever. It didn't always work, but it was an original idea to try promote tourism, or just to see how normal citizens would go about representing their country. Has a company ever done that? And would you respect them more for taking a risk rather than towing the predictable "branded" line? And is that a good or bad feature of digital, or human, life that you can assume a different persona than you might present elsewhere?

I thought Angela's points were also interesting about how her shyer students have used Twitter to open up & express themselves. You could spend your entire life on Twitter, and I am sure there have been papers & journals written on it. On the other hand, consider the vast swathes of the world's population who don't use Twitter at all. Are they really missing anything?

It will be interesting to see where these social media platforms are in 10, 50, or 100 years time. Or what will have replaced it? Instead of physically tweeting or posting a status update, you might just mentally do it. All that time you take trying to express yourself in a certain way, language, or form, will be gone - that vague, cloudy thought you have swirling around your head will just pop out clear as you like. All those silly misunderstandings & memory lapses - "I thought you meant this?", "I meant to say that", "I couldn't find the word to express it", "That's not what I was thinking at all!", "What was that thing called again?!?" - will be gone. Everyone will know what each other is really thinking, we will all be happier, and we can spend our time actually solving problems rather than trying simply to articulate them. Well, OK, not really, but isn't that what technology is doing for us now anyway? From GPS & calculators, to pacemakers & x-rays. Saving labour, human error, and helping us see what we'd previously been guessing at (and could you include "a Google search" in that list?). But maybe that's where the fine line between utopia and dystopia lies? (this was mentioned in the EDCMOOC course introduction video remember?) And perhaps how we use Twitter now is a sign of how we might use technology in the future - to better or belittle ourselves? There are some good stories here

Finally, just a different perspective. Have a think where any of your good ideas have ever come from? From Twitter or Facebook? Or is it actually lying in the bath, scribbling on the back of a napkin, or doing the ironing? To some degree, no matter how much technology develops, I don't think there will ever be any substitute for idly gazing off into the distance now and then and thinking about nothing in particular.

Pictures courtesy of Roger Hargreaves and Mr Men

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