Sunday, January 30, 2011

Session 2 response (Online community)

1)    Choose five of the seven assigned readings for this session and point out specific connections or mismatches between concepts within them, examples and/or counterexamples from your research or experience, and one question raised by the readings that for you remains unanswered.

Please note: I color coded my matchings, examples and question to answer the three components of this prompt.
A. Connections and mismatches between concepts within Session 2 readings
B. Examples and counterexamples from your research or experience
C. One question raised by the readings that remains unanswered

Is social media worth promoting or allowing, especially among novice Internet searchers? 
Does the bad outweigh the good?
Some of the negatives are:
·      solipsism/self-indulgence (Rosen) many photos are taken by user or cropped to exclude another; SNS catalog likes/dislikes and personal details
·      commoditization of personal content; Microsoft “consumers”; now content is subject to “monitoring gaze of marketers” “dividuals are turned into productive assets” (Rosen/Bigge) armed with data about consumers, companies can employ price discrimination and quote varying rates depending on previous online purchases or suggest local or gender-applicable items/services based on profile/interests
·      socializing as a form of exploitation and labor; monitoring, recorded, repackaged, and sold (Bigge)  versus gathering data on friends so  experts can be identified and relevant info can be forwarded, i.e. positive means not exploitive means (Bernstein)
·      addictive nature; constant surveillance (Bigge/Albrechtslund) accessing posts from phone; updating OL profile while in the middle of a RL activity
·      disciplinary society/telling on others/bloggers as potential rats; bloggers need not apply; millstones around necks (Weeks/Albrechtslund) friends including photos of you without permission; or posting harmful comments, such as criticizing event sponsor’s beliefs
·      blurring boundaries/invasion of privacy ex: Dateline 19-yr old & affecting hiring decisions (Bigge/Rosen)
·      breakdown real community (Galston/La Rose) activities need to be documented in one way or another online for them to exist/cashed in for socio-technical capital
·      Frustration incited by logistical difficulties/information overload (LaRose) Always encouraged to find new friends, likes, fan more organizations/causes, reveal more personal information (travels, family members, schools, jobs) for not only yourself but for others, too. “Please help XX find more friends…”
·      Incomplete profiles/lack of commitment & genuine sharing (Bernstein/Galston)
·      Does technology limit or impose RL social interactions: bureaucratization of friend management [friend ranking] Epstein: “speak to the vast loneliness in the world” (Rosen) Having 150 friends but still being alone on a Friday night.
·      Status is connected to anxiety: time spent grooming instead of improving; possible collabio clouds “allows users to compare themselves and other users of the system.” (Rosen/Bernstein) Peering into other’s profiles OL instead of doing RL activities with them, keeping tabs on a lot of folks and trying to one up them (competitively) ex: friend counts
·      Real intimacy requires risk/RL friendships demand investment; RL community require obligation/sacrifice whereas SNS makes it easy to keep a lot ties, albeit weak:“It’s a way of maintaining a friendship without having to make any effort whatsoever.” (Rosen/Galston) 
·      Expression of “strong sentiments in antisocial ways” (Galston) In CL there was a lot off-color comments, just for provocation; antagonistic comments perpetuate uncivilized disagreements; disrespectful, provocative undertones

Some of the positives are:
·      Democratizing/Deracinating (Rosen/Bigge) ability to share story with others far away or even in the same area but in different socio-economic circles
·      “digital enclosure and protocol” has capacity to divide or unite [like highway] (Bigge) connect to others via similar interests/backgrounds
·      Recruitment and personnel opportunities: LinkedIn “depends on informal knowledge and contacts, often friendships” (McRobbie cited by Bigge) by sharing needs and experiences online, more people are aware of your state and might be able to help
·      Online presence = Existence/Visibility (Bigge quoting Chris Hughes, Facebook co-founder) express thoughts, opinions to a larger audience

·      “Digital divide assumed that the most important concern was insuring access to information as if the Web were simply a data bank. Its power comes through participation within its social networks” (Jenkins cited by Bigge) form of empowerment, ability to expand potential audience and support system
·      Socialtechnical capital (Bigge) ex: a former academic librarian took a job as marketing director in part because she was able to organize campaigns and events via twitter…for her, SNS experience was instrumental to getting a desirable job. Another example is a former housing resident took on a leadership role when she became an active blogger. She documented injustices she witnessed in her community and caught the attention of fellow district representatives. She recently ran for city council.
·      Friends as status symbol/social capital “stems not so much from what you know as who you know (and who knows you)” “electronic communication with people we know should enhance social support… and in turn decrease[d] depression” (Bigge/LaRose). Asking for help; being able to communicate efficiently with community leaders or maintain awareness of community events/changes
·      Identity construct; digital gardening (Bigge citing boyd) remake identity, not limited by previous impressions
·      Edify users re: social norms (Rosen citing boyd) tolerating/dismissing vulgar commentators ex: CL users warning about antagonistic qualities of other users (possibly regular contributors) – a kind of policing of the cyber bully
2) Join an online community (loosely defined) under your pseudonym, and investigate your unanswered question. Choose a topic and community that is of genuine interest to you, not something made up, and discuss your experience. Make your comments as data-driven as possible (linked to specific actions and interactions), and relate your experience back to concepts you raised from the readings. What did this experience allow you to do that you couldn't have done offline? Provide at least one screenshot or link to your interaction (or relevant portions), and post it on your blog along with your discussion.

Is social media worth promoting or allowing, especially among novice Internet searchers? 
Does the bad outweigh the good?

Adventures in online communities
I chose to post a question about a real life issue I am facing at work and a real life concern with my personal relationship with a social networking site. Because I am not familiar with online communities, I chose several: TeachStreet, Hawaii Talks, Kanu Hawaii, and Craigslist in several cities (Washington, D.C., New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, London, and the Netherlands) and under a variety of discussion forums including computers, education, etiquette, political world, psychology, and philosophy.

Failed attempts
On TeachStreet, I posted about my concern of limiting social network access to users in the disadvantaged community I work in via computer room guidelines. I have yet to receive any comments. On Hawaii Talks, I was unable to share any thoughts as a unique thread, so I decided to not post there. Apparently, the site is for a select group of bloggers to post on a variety of local activities and businesses…not much for contemplating unresolved issues about social media. Next, I went with Kanu Hawaii and created another identity with my alias. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to enter a chatroom as there aren’t any. Instead I was able to post a journal entry, which has yet to receive any commentary. Concerned with anonymity (my program is based in public housing in Honolulu) I changed the post to concerns about Egypt and the absolute cut off of social media and Internet.

Getting feedback from different regions
The idea of getting real feedback from people on a pressing issue that would impact novice Internet users could not be dismissed. Mindful of anonymity issues (as I do not want to reveal my identity or violate any professional ethics by openly discussing potential policies online) was critical to me since it is directly related to my workplace. I decided that I should post my concerns outside of our state and see what kind of feedback I could derive from people who wouldn’t (hopefully!) be able to trace or even assume my project location is in Honolulu. Craigslist is a popular online community and one that I have relied on for employment opportunities, the purchase of my car, and selling and buying of furniture and other household goods. Although I used the site in lieu of the classifieds it offers online platforms to share ideas and common interests. It also has the ability to be separated by cities, in and outside of the country.

In addition to supposedly (there could have just as easily been Honolulu residents contributing to a Seattle posts, for example) limiting the audience by city I tried different discussion forums to get a range of responses: computers, education, etiquette, political world, psychology, and philosophy in a variety of cities (as stated above). Including my responses with the responses from other online commentators, here is the breakdown of the number of comments posted under the various forums in various cities: computers (5); education (9); etiquette (19); politics (17), psychology (3); and philosophy (52).

Forum with the most responses
My original post was related to the basic question:
Is social media worth promoting or allowing, especially among novice Internet searchers? Does the bad outweigh the good? After reading Session 2 readings, I had to reassess my plan to prohibit social media in a new computer lab based in a non-profit, federally funded library based in public housing. Figure 1 is my original post.
Figure 1 – My original post on Craigslist Philosophy discussion forum in San Francisco.

I was pleased to see that there were several people interested my OP (original post, a basic chat term that I had to figure out!) in the Philosophy forum (seemingly) based in San Francisco see Figure 2. But I was shocked at the vulgarity of some of the comments. Yet there were a couple of very thoughtful responses that contributed to the complexity of the question. However, the rude comments disturbed me.

Figure 2 – Responses to post about social media access in a disadvantaged community.

Throughout the session, I quickly learned to not be so reactionary to instigators when sharing genuine concerns in online communities. This lesson supports and doesn’t support Danah Boyd’s theory shared in Rosen’s “Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism” in which Boyd contends that social media allows users to learn about "social norms, rules, how to interact with others, narrative, personal and group history, and media literacy” (22). Boyd’s assertion is true if applied to my own learning curve as a novice contributor. My SNS experience created an informal learning opportunity about the importance of discounting two handles and their irrelevant comments. But it is not so true, if HeyZeus’s comments are examined. The comments were not productive and were intended to undermine the original post. I suppose he has yet to master social norms from his online interactions.
In the same article, Rosen claims that informal learning has a counterpoint with the “coarseness and vulgarity” commonly found on SNS because “it’s an easy way to set oneself apart” (24). I witnessed the irreverence of group members who did not have any obligation or genuine connection with me and therefore they lacked an inclination to be courteous to me or my post. Galston also indentifies the unique computer-mediated communication with its “tendency to express strong sentiments in antisocial ways” as an area that needs to be further explored and perhaps can be attributed to the “absence of visual and tonal cues [which would] make it more difficult to see the pain words can inflict” (200). 
Two people online with the handles: HeyZues and Mister Ellis carried on side banter, irrelevant to the OP. The rapid-fire responses of these two handles and a reference to another thread revealed their previous involvement and past existence with online discussions. Their comments were not particularly helpful for the most part, see Figure 3, 4 and 5.
Figure 3 – Indirect responses and provocative questioning
 Figure 4 – Irrelevant accusations
Figure 5 – Retort to other poster, not a direct response to OP

Figure 6 – Inconsistent feedback from contributor
However, HeyZeus ultimately left a pertinent comment almost two hours into the exchange, see Figure 6. 

Helpful responses
Regardless, there were some thoughtful comments on the worth of introducing or prohibiting SNS to novice Internet searchers. Please read Figure 7, which exemplifies a well-constructed response and address two central issues of accessibility and abuse.
Figure 7 - Valid points shared

This person hits on the idea that the digitally disadvantaged, those on the suffering end of the digital divide, need to be exposed to the positives of SNS. In the article “The Cost of (anti-) social networks: Identity, agency and neo-luddites” by Ryan Bigge, the author quotes Danah Boyd claim that the web’s “power comes through participation within it’s social networks” as opposed to accessing online information “as it were simply a data bank”.
Another response (this time on the education forum) reminded me that of the fact that SNS can help users find employment opportunities, too. LinkedIN, included in Rosen’s article, “keeps people connected with present and former colleagues and other business acquaintances” (17). Another perspective brought up by in the Philosophy forum is which SNS would be blocked. Craigslist, the very forum I was seeking feedback from, can help users find jobs, needed items, and cars, like it did for me. Would I ban Craigslist? Of course, not.
In Conclusion
Taking the advice of a fellow online contributor, I will develop lessons that cover the negative and positives of SNS. These lessons will cover topics such as exposing personal information to marketers (Rosen’s reference to Microsoft’s description of users as consumers, not people and Bigge’s statement that “dividuals are turned into productive assets” who reveal habits and preferences willingly) to the dangers of competitive friending (Rosen/Bigge) to the self-indulgence traps of performing for an assumed audience (Rosen).
Lessons will mention the addictive nature of maintaining a SNS profile and how it can increase social status, but sometimes at a price, as anxiety is linked with maintaining an interesting and up-to-date profile (Rosen). Yet, I will counter this statement with the fact that finding and communicating online with a pre-existing offline group of friends and contacts can also help new Internet users adapt to the expansive sea of information (as revealed in LaRose et al’s examination of electronic communication as a way to decrease stress and depression).
I will warn them of the perils of neglecting the attention and interaction of folks who are physically close for the company of online friends (Galston) and segway into the likelihood that there will be some indecent behavior exhibited in SNS and chatrooms precisely because there isn’t a face-to-face relationship.
Permanency and amplification (or mirroring) will also be central themes, too. Linton Week’s report on the twitter post that resulted in a visit from the police will be shared. As well as Albrechtslund’s cautionary reference to posting something and not being able to remove it ever thus becoming a “millstone around…[the] neck” will be thrown in, as well.
However, I will also balance this frightening possibility with Albrechtslund’s idea that SNS can be a platform to empower users by allowing an opportunity to reach many people with potentially previously unknown issues. This concept will be dovetailed with the “deracinating” of SNS stated by Rosen, where one’s identity can be constructed (and therefore mistrusted and/or simply overlooked or disregarded).
In the end, I will conclude with the great responsibility required to participate in SNS and the importance of exercising moderation, boundaries, and tact. We’ll see if new users will even want to submit themselves to such potential extremes. Upon reviewing the readings, it does seem like the price users pay to participate can be costly. Yet, the cost of not participating is immeasurable (in lost opportunities, notice), too. 


  1. I think yours is a great question. Bigge asked "At what point does not being a member of a social network site become a liability?" and that really struck me. I used to work in the Residence Life Office of a University, and now that I think about it we mostly ran under the assumption that all students had Facebook accounts. We had groups and applications targeted toward different goals - to meet others in your class or residence hall before move in, to find alcohol free events in the community, and to find compatible roommates for the upcoming year. None of these resources were available at the same level off of Facebook. Now that I think about it, those are obviously exclusionary policies. However, it is how those who do have an online presence see the world. Bigge calls it the "self-negation" of not being on a social network.
    So in answer to your question, I don't know if I would call it the "good" that is outweighing the bad - but the expectation that everyone does have access to the internet and social networks.

  2. I like the topic that you chose to investigate; issues brought about by the digital divide are becoming increasingly important. The Web as we know it is deprived of cultural diversity when whole groups of people are faced with barriers to Internet access.

    I know that you mentioned lesson planning in your blog post, do you have teaching duties as part of your work? I think all the issues you brought up, from exposing personal information to falling into "self-indulgence traps" are important for any student of any age to be aware of, but especially children and teenagers.

  3. great post all around ms. T!
    great coverage of the readings and comments, also interesting approach to OC - you went to wild wild world of Craigslist.
    It was very entertaining to see your thread developed, from the screenshots. It duplicates most threads that were able to garner some interest or disinterest from commentators.
    to chime in with your question:
    'Is social media worth promoting or allowing, especially among novice Internet searchers?
    Does the bad outweigh the good?'
    I think that it is worth promoting social media because the good outweighs the bad. As future librarians/school media specialists, we can provide proper guidance and guidelines in navigating the wild wild world of the WWW. However, a dilemma comes up where we might be addressing this matter later than children are getting exposed to technology, the internet, and social media progressively younger in their life. It might be like to teaching a 5-year-old to walk... Perhaps, as part of information and technology literacy, social media awareness and understanding should also be included. This way, a more strategic approach can be applied to address your question.

  4. Your crude weapons insult intelligence and injure conscience?! We don't get to flaming and online misbehavior til the last session of the course, but with norms come deviation from those norms, and with an impoverished mode of communication like text comes an increased ability to readers to project their own interpretations and misinterpretations. Outstanding analysis of concepts within the readings, any one of which could be the jumping off point to a potential final project.

    Your question about whether the bad of SNSs outweighs the good gets to the heart of the ethics of information provision. Policies that deny access to content or services are regularly challenged on ethical grounds, regardless of who is being denied access to what. Your outline of how you plan to balance the pros and cons of these sites incorporates the research literature into practice (a phrase that should be used more often...), and gets to the larger ethic of allowing people to educate and decide for themselves.

  5. @Andrea - I see the expectation for everyone (including those in lower socio-economic classes) to have an online presence everywhere. Laborers looking for work are expected to have an email (that they regularly check and have access to) and also know how to apply online and maintain unique employer site logins and passwords. A lot of employers don't advertise in the newspapers anymore and prefer the free, quick option of online classified, posting on an aggregated job bank or scanning through applicant networking sites to deal with vacancies...and if you are not online, you might as well not even apply.

    @Nana- Because of my work in a disadvantaged community, I do often wonder about the folks getting left behind as everyone with means forges ahead. I wonder about jumping the gun and teaching technology literacy skills while rudimentary reading & writing skills need to still yet be addressed. I worry about the future of one of my 8-year old ESL students who still cannot master 100 basic sight words while a two-year old in Starbucks plays with his OWN iphone, which he has had since he was a year and a half!! He already knows how to play games, listen to music files and view videos on it. So what can I do about this? Ditch my old-school flash cards and plop my struggling student in front of a computer to teach her technology skills before she knows how to read? Can these skills be learned in tandem when she has limited access to technology and access to proper English instruction?

    @Erenst - You are not the only one to outright agree that the good outweighs the bad. My OP on TeachStreet, another online community made up of educators, has received comments pleading me to allow SNS in the library. No worries...I already amended the guidelines.

    @Gazan - Overwhelming as it seems, I will give my program participants a lay of the land and see where they go from there...It would be interesting to note the differences in social computing behavior when users do not actually own a computer. It surely affects more than frequency, as public computers in public spaces are not as conducive to sharing private thoughts/pictures/searches as they would be in the comfort of your own home.