Part Two: From Ridiculous to the Sublime – Twitter

Thanks to Marj and Brandy (fellow nomads in the course) for their advice for my second pass at Twitter. Marj passed along some academic research reports on this phenomenon (some of which were hidden behind a wall) which demonstrates the fascination we have with this communication tool:

Java, A., Song, X., Finin, T., and Tseng, B. 2007. Why we twitter: understanding microblogging usage and communities. In*Proceedings of the 9th WebKDD and 1st SNA-KDD 2007 Workshop on Web Mining and Social Network Analysis* (San Jose, California, August 12 – 12, 2007). http://ebiquity.umbc.edu/_file_directory_/papers/369.pdf
Krishnamurthy, B., Gill, P., and Arlitt, M. 2008. A few chirps about twitter. In *Proceedings of the First Workshop on online Social Networks* (Seattle,
WA, USA, August 18 – 18, 2008). WOSP ’08. ACM, New York, NY, 19-24. DOI=
http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1397735.1397741

Huberman, B., Romero, D., Wu, F., Social Networks that Matter: Twitter Under the Microscope. First Monday 15(1), Jan 2009.
http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2317/2063

Honeycutt, C., and Herring, S. C. 2009. Beyond Microblogging: Conversation
and Collaboration via Twitter. In *Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii
international Conference on System Sciences – Volume 00* (January 05 – 08,
2009). http://www2.computer.org/portal/web/csdl/doi/10.1109/HICSS.2009.89

Just like so many of the tools out there, it is not inherently valuable to learning – it is what we DO with it and HOW we use it that makes it valuable. And just as with so many other tools, educators have been at the forefront of creating, innovating, and thus exploiting learning opportunites with the tools. I have learned a great deal from these innovators – twitter has permitted me to have vicarious access to their thoughts and experiences in a way that is more immediate, I think, than blogs offer.

In this screencast, I explore just how viral twitter has become, reasons for twittering and some advice and tips from twitter experts.

I am also attempting to embed Jing in the blog post. However, after multiple tries, am giving up for this time!

Twitter Take Two

Twitter: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

I haven’t yet decided whether it was in a moment of sheer madness or sheer genius that I signed up for a course in emerging technologies two months ago with George Siemens and Dave Cormier as the instructors to the online course (out of the University of Manitoba).

As part of the course, we have been asked to provide a presentation on one of the applications that could be said to represent an emerging technology. I believe I was the only one of the course participants to claim twitter as my presentation topic.

I settled on the title “From the Ridiculous to the Sublime”, although I was tempted to use “How Twitter Saved My Life and Made Me Lose My Job” (this is a joke; I am gainfully employed!).

Twitter remains an object of ridicule and disdain as well as ferocious loyalty and praise.

In my five minute Jing screencast, I demonstrate my twitter home page and show off a few of its capabilities.

However, those five minutes went by screamingly fast, so I wanted to briefly include a few other questions here in my blog.

To understand JUST how viral twitter has become, you might want to look at the links I have collected in my delicious bookmarking.

Why are we fascinated with Twitter? My response is based on my observations of teenage behaviour (I have access to quite a few of those!). The need for instant gratification from our network is huge. Being able to receive almost instant feedback about our thoughts, ideas and experiences, as well as our questions is a powerful force.

Why are we repulsed? For those of us who want more – deeper, and more thoughtful from our communication may find twitter quite mundane and even narcissistic. For some time after I returned from Africa, I found it hard to take.

How is twitter a learning tool? The value of twitter definitely relies on the quality of the network – those that you are “following”. I happen to think that I follow some amazing folks who challenge me and make me think. Most of whom I follow are educators. We help each other out when we are confounded with problems and seek answers. We support each other when we are feeling down or frustrated. We share resources with each other and alert our network to breaking news around the globe. Twitter has become replacement for email because I have found recently that “direct messaging” a person in my network gets there faster than an email (or as fast).

Where does the learning take place? I think the learning takes place in the short, abbreviated conversations we have with each other. We don’t always agree with each other, but we can challenge thinking and offer different perspectives. Often I have to resort to emails when 140 characters just isn’t enough.

Who is twitter for? Twitter is for anyone who wants to build a network of excellent minds whom they can tap into.

Why do I use twitter? I will be honest here – much of what I twitter falls into “social twittering”. However, I am a firm believer that sociability (or sociality) is an important ingredient to learning. I observed this amongst my teenage research participants for my thesis work. My twittering often involves an exchange of information and ideas as well. I try to share as much as I “take” from my network. And I cannot stress enough that it is the quality of folks in my twitter network (those that I “follow”) that make the difference between narcissistic nattering and conversation that matters.

I would love some feedback on this brief presentation about twitter! Apparently, I have to improve this preso for next week’s class, so where did I lack clarity? What information is lacking? Let me know!