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Week 5: Participatory Culture; Interrogating Twitter

With Unit #1 behind us, it’s time to turn our attention to Unit #2 and the process of using technology to write about … well, technology. Here’s how we’ll get started:

  • On Monday, we will discuss participatory culture on the web. Please read Chapter 3 (pages 111–45) in Net Smart no later than Sunday night, then add a comment to this post with a specific passage you’d like to discuss in class. (Bonus points for extending or refuting one of your classmate’s comments!) Don’t forget that Sunday night is also the deadline for emailing me with your list of preferences for the Unit #2 project. I will do my best to make sure that everyone gets one of their top-four choices, and I’ll announce everyone’s specific assignments in class on Monday.
  • On Wednesday, we will spend the day “interrogating” Twitter’s official interfaces and several third-party Twitter applications. Before you come to class, you should install one of Twitter’s official applications on your laptop, your tablet, or your phone, then install at least one third-party application on one of these devices. (There are lots of ways to find third-party applications. You can start with Wikipedia’s list, or you can search for “Best Twitter application for [insert your platform]” to find recommendations from other Twitter users.) This should probably go without saying, but just in case, you should come to class with whatever device (laptop, tablet, or phone) you used to install these Twitter applications. [Update: Here is the Google Doc we will use to compile our critiques.]

If you have questions about these plans, please let me know. Otherwise, I’ll see you in class on Monday. Have a great weekend!

Posted in Weekly Updates
29 comments on “Week 5: Participatory Culture; Interrogating Twitter
  1. Eli says:

    “Attention is not only an inward-pointing instrument that you can learn to control; it is an economic factor that others seek to control. Every Facebook update, tweet, Flickr photo, and YouTube video you upload contributes clues to what kind of media and media content might get your attention–clues that are detected as well as analyzed by enterprises, individuals, and political actors who want to sell you a product, service, or idea.”
    -Net Smart, page 135

    I prefer to keep most of my personal information to myself, specifically to prevent this kind of thing from happening. My family does not take a liking to companies trying to sell them products. Have there ever been any people who release so much personal information that they can’t get a moment’s peace to themselves?

  2. Johva says:

    Regarding the few who provide their information…

    There are those who would mindlessly divulge their information out of ignorance–like my elementary school principle who, while working with the class during our computer lab, got excited when an ad popped up offering a “FREE GATEWAY,” to which I simply replied, “Wow…”; and then there are those who like to put themselves “out,” simply “because,” without realizing they’re jumping in with the sharks.

    As standard practice, I always use a pseudonym to cover my tracks, unless I’m purchasing something from a site that I trust: Amazon, ebay, and ebooks, to name a few. I don’t have to juggle what personal information to submit to Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and the like simply because I don’t use them–aside from this class. I deleted my Facebook profile about two years ago because it contained little more than useless, personal information and the occasional, malicious post that has the potential to ruin ones professional image, if not managed properly and which requires more time than I was willing to commit.

    I find it strange that I am one of few, if any, in this class–and at this school from what I’ve encountered, who favors solitude to the “always-on” lifestyle. Rheingold seems to be opposed to the “recluse”–and I speak relative to the network-fanatics, my colleges. He glosses over those with a “private voice” and discusses in detail the procedures and significance of having a “public voice” (122). I realize the purpose of this book is to instill “net smarts,” but in omitting those who find social networking more of a burden than a boon, his argument is a bit one-sided. So, much of what he says is biased, I think:

    “I find that the help I receive far outweighs the energy I spend helping others: A perfect fit of altruism and self interest” (128). In saying “a perfect fit of . . . self interest,” he’s assuming much about his audience.

    • Jonathan Roberts says:

      Rheingold isn’t showing as much a bias in this text as he’s simply writing about popular culture and how the vast majority of the population interacts with social media. It’s easy for young people that grew up with the technology to become early adopters of things like Facebook, Youtube, etc.

      But the difference is, we’ve moved past that as a culture–perhaps into this “always-on” idea. Parents, grandparents, the baby boomers– they’re all on Facebook now. It’s an expected social norm, that obviously everyone doesn’t follow, but it is pervasive in our society and something to work with rather than against.

      It already basically is, but in 5 or 10 years it will be mandatory to have an online presence in social media in order thrive in many industries and careers. It has to be kept professional and managed, but it still has to be there. If I were hiring people for, say, a PR position, and I looked into an applicants online presence and didn’t see at least something on Facebook, Twitter, etc. that put them in a good light then they would become less competitive in my mind. If they can’t manage their own online identity in a professional manner, how can they manage a company’s?

      • Johva says:

        If a company based it’s recruiting on how well I manage my social life as a bachelor, for instance, then I wouldn’t be interested in the company in the first place, since it seeks to control things about me that’s really none of their business. A future where success is hinged on ones identity online is a future in which their exists a fine line between dynamic human being–one who actually has secrets, GASP!– and droid-like brown-nosers wanting “in” with companies and corporations that seek absolute control.

        Here’s Rheingold on the matter:
        “We have had friends since our species evolved, but Facebook now forces us to inscribe our friendships on our profile pages . . . No only does Facebook enable and require us to publish this information that was formerly oral and ephemeral, we cast our digital characteristics in formats that are findable through search engines, and this information is much more difficult to remove than most people are aware. As it turns out, we can learn a lot by inspecting people’s Facebook profiles” (139).

        And to this I say, screw Facebook and screw having an online identity! I refuse to be one of the ‘sheeple’; and ironically, I have in-turn ruined my online image by saying so.

        Where the hell does freedom of speech play into a society where the smallest infraction of ‘civility’ costs someone their fucking career?

    • Molly says:

      I think this is a really great point that you bring up, the more I read the more I can see how he is assuming a lot about his audience. Then again, when he was writing this book who did he want his target audience to be? That’s a question that has to be considered, I think he is maybe targeting a specific “always on” generation for his book.

      I still value having the ability to be turned off. In a world of technological connections to almost anything we want, being able to know when to say, “That’s enough for now.” can be one of the most powerful tools we can have. Rheingold has yet to express this but I’m not sure that is a goal of his to do. It would seem almost counteractive to mention turning off when he is discussing net smarts.

    • Dylan Amick says:

      While his opinions maybe overlooking those who do choose solitude in this lifestyle of “Always-On,” I feel that he is correct to do so. The majority of the world is online-as such we as a society need to learn ‘Net Smarts’ to teach ourselves and others how to properly conduct themselves on the internet. He is speaking to the majority, because in the end, we live in a society where the majority rules.

      Consider this: in the 1920′s many people considered drinking to be immoral, so despite the fact that this was a minority opinion they passed the prohibition amendment-how did that work out? Now we had dangerous people running illegal operations to give the masses the illegal substances they still wanted; organized crime ran rampant and the supplies and consumers both engaged in dangerous and often destructive behavior to meet the demand. If you try and ignore a problem, rather than educate and rehabilitate people to know how to properly treat said problem, than they will simply treat that problem even more self-destructively than before.

  3. “Wikipedians are constantly healing the erasure of vandalism on their pages. An you could put yourself to sleep for the rest of your — or run screaming from the room — by watching the truly terrible videos people put up for the world to see, or reading the excruciatingly mundane minutia of unfiltered Twitter. The good news is that learning to participate effectively online (like learning attention and crap-detection skills) is a matter of mind-set and practice — and the payoff can be big”

    Net Smart, pg. 114.

    I have to say that something about this particular chapter really bothered me, and specifically this section. Rheingold talks about the fact that there is a ton of waste on the Internet and that we need to really focus on and practice our attention skills in order to make the most of the resource. He talks about the fact that it “can help you land a job, find a mate, organize a movement, or sell a product or service.” But I think Rheingold is being too close minded here. I think it’s impossible for someone to determine what should be included in “effective online participation” and what shouldn’t be.

    Clearly, it makes sense that there are more positive ways to use the resource than others. Some people tweet messages they shouldn’t and spend hours uploading videos that may never be watched, but I don’t think anyone has the right to be so black and white and determine what is effective and what is not.

    Plus, if people stopped uploading random videos to YouTube, I have to admit that I would be extremely disappointed. I love watching homemade videos that have gone viral. We are a community that loves to share and I think we have to accept that we have to sort through a ton of boring videos in order to find those special ones that make us laugh so hard, but I think they’re worth it.

    If we’re going to be literal here, how can we say when someone’s participation online is effective or not? If someone is going on Wikipedia to spam it their purpose was to make incorrect changes. So wouldn’t that mean that their participation — even though it wasn’t necessarily positive – still effective? Their end goal to spam the website was met.

    I’m not saying that Rheingold doesn’t make a good point that there are some videos, blogs and information that are probably inappropriate for the Internet, but that doesn’t mean that they are ineffective. It’s not what you mean, it’s how you say it.

    • Marcus says:

      I think I agree with you. I’m not sure I would say “no one has the right…” because they sort of do.

      But, this is the problem that I also had with this chapter. I couldn’t actually tell what he was talking about at all, other than the fact that online participation can be useful and productive in some cases. That is literally all I got out of it. He went on and on about how efficient or productive things can be, but what if your interests don’t lie in the realm of efficiency or productivity? Or, like, what is “effective?” What if the concern is not whether something you posted is “effective” or not?

      I just think that his neighborhood of thinking is very focused into this weird type of big-picture stuff that doesn’t really matter to me.

      • Marcus says:

        (I sort of expanded on this in my post below)

      • Liana says:

        Agreed with both of you. Rheingold seems to be gearing this chapter toward someone who just got hired as a social media manager for a company and needs to know how to do their job. His extensive discussion on how to curate a Twitter list or similar type of public bookmarking service was interesting, but I felt like it was very narrow and honestly impractical for the majority of readers. I do agree with his statement on p. 140-41 that if you have done something “bad” online it’s difficult to delete it but can be counter-balanced by “good” things…but it seems that his suggestion for the counter-balance is to become the king of Twitter cultivation. I don’t feel like that’s a very practical solution for most people, as the steps he outlines about how to be a good cultivator would probably seem like too much work for most people.

        Then, I got kind of confused at the end of the chapter. He’s spent this entire chapter talking about how to be effective and successful, and brushing purely-social (not work or professional related pursuits such as curating Twitter lists) activities and sites like cool kids and wannabes hanging out on Facebook to the side and seemingly making an active judgement that you have to be capitol D Doing something on social media to be deemed an effective and successful user… then, at the end of the chapter on p. 144, he says “again, you have to spend some time tuning and feeding in Twitter is going to be more than an idle amusement to you and your followers (and idle amusement is a perfectly legit use).”

        And when I read that I was like, really? Do you really think that, Rheingold? Because it seems to me that you’ve just spent an entire chapter preaching that if you aren’t actively and professionally using social media to its fullest capacity, past idle use, you basically suck as a social media user and are not successfully participating. So I’m really interested to try to figure out what his actual stance on what “successful participation” really is…. and if he thinks using social media for “idle amusement” is actually “a perfectly legit use.”

        Personally, I’m reminded of this Maya Angelou quote (cheesy but indulge me): “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.” If user X likes using Twitter just for “idle amusement” and is ok with not being a super-user, are they truly successful? Or must they be participating as much as possible to be up to Rheingold’s standard of success?

    • Brooks says:

      I’d have to agree with you for the most part here. Rheingold does seem to have his own definitions of what he considers worthwhile contribution and what he labels as garbage. I kept thinking of the idiom “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” so what Rheingold may consider worthless information that needs to be filtered might not be true from someone else’s point of view.

      As for being “effective”, I’m not so sure he was speaking in the plainest sense of the word, because like you said a spammer can be quite effective at spamming, mission complete. I think Rheingold’s effective is defined by what he considers a positive contribution – I think we can all agree that spammers are not positively contributing to the greater good – but then again, Rheingold might consider a YouTube video that we love, non effective.

  4. Molly says:

    “One may ask to what extent the many user activities that were first described as a process if emancipation have been integrated into new business models and subject to the corporate control…The specific qualities of the technology stimulate or avert certain users and thus influence the way technologies are used and implemented by consumers in society.” – Net Smart pg 136

    This is something I constantly have to study in my other classes, especially with an advertising focus. It is vital that almost any company have some sort of social media presence. This is crucial if you want to target a young audience.

    In another sense, consumers have the largest voice, how often do you consult internet forums before making a hesitant purchase? Internet users certainly have a large influence on me before buying something especially online, I like to do my research. It has since, changed my purchasing power and buying habits.

  5. Victoria says:

    “many people will cooperate if the medium makes it easy enough.” -Net Smart (p. 112).

    This particular statement caught my eye because it reminded me of our discussion of web design and how it contributes to the legitimacy of a website. Certainly, I think that the way a web page is crafted will motivate an audience to use it. However, to me, to say that simply making a medium easy to use will translate to actual use is a bit far-stretched. It puts too much power in the designer’s hands. I’d still like to believe that, deep down, that many internet users have an innate sense of judgement that can indicate the value of a website in spite of it’s design. Certainly a well-crafted site will draw a large initial audience, but if it’s purpose is either a) not useful or b) somehow malicious/a detriment to its users, it will not have any kind of longevity.

    • Astleigh says:

      This caught my attention as well and I found it a little bit alarming. It seems that today’s theme is centered on a fast pace. It’s focus is all about what provides a faster route to accomplishing/finishing or finding something. It isn’t necessarily about the content or effort involved; there is no need for in-depth anymore. And because there is a lack of in-depth content, does that mean that social media presences and other community websites are lacking substance? That their content skims the surface and doesn’t touch upon important subjects/matters? Or is it simply a new web etiquette to keep things easy and quick? Something to consider…

  6. Augusta says:

    “All the cool kids and wannabes are likely to be found in a friendship-driven community. Interest-driven participation, however, is full of people who are not popular or mainstream in their local youth culture, the kids we see at the margins of teen social worlds.”
    -Net Smart pg. 118

    This is a huge generalization that Rheingold makes that I strongly disagree with. His statement is full of stereotype and insult that cannot be backed up.

  7. Marcus says:

    “Ito studied online fan cultures such as the young people who create online forums devoted to the face-to-face card game Yu-Gi-Oh. She also observed the community that gathered around the making of anime music videos (repurposing Japanese anime animations by reediting them to new sound tracks),and viddrs who reedited mainstream cultural products to create new meanings and grow a decades-old worldwide community.” (Net Smart, 117)

    I think this is a cool thing to emphasize when talking about online participation. Remix culture is a super hip idea that has a large presence in contemporary art circles. I wish, though, that Rheingold would kind of delve deeper into this type of communication and conversation because it could probably help him talk about what he means by effective participation.

    I found myself wondering about a lot of his examples “why do these things matter?” I realized that its because he doesn’t tell you why that matter. He just tells you that they matter. If you are on bored with what he’s saying, then its obvious why his examples matter. But I’m a bit skeptical a lot of times, mostly because he is talking about systems and big-picture stuff, so I wish that he would show me where he’s coming from.

  8. Brooks says:

    “A life in which these boundaries between play and work have become less distinct could be a richer world for the individual who participates in it, or it could be a subtle form of enslavement or exploitation.” (NetSmart 137)

    This comment got me thinking about the ethics involved in the blurring of the “play and work” boundaries. I’m not really sure how I feel about the trade off of entertainment as work for a company. My initial reaction is that this is a great idea – making work fun is a genius way to increase productivity but not when “fun” is the only compensation for the participant’s time.

    When I consider the “subtle slavery” angle of things, it makes me very uneasy. The example of the AOL purchase was very sobering when considering the possible repercussions of free labor:

    “When the Huffington Post, a platform for unpaid bloggers, was purchased by AOL for more than three hundred million dollars, AOL began laying off professional journalists.” (NetSmart 138)

    I’m not entirely sure about this (because the participants seem willing to accept that their time and work is given for free)but I’m leaning towards this being unethical as peoples livelihoods are at stake. I can’t help but think this might be new form of slavery, only its wearing a much nicer hat.

  9. Sarah says:

    “In the world of digitally networked publics, online participation—if you know how to do it—can translate into real power” (Net Smart, 112).

    While society has conformed to the digital world in all forms: through networking, researching, reconnecting, or even just applying. Participation to online sites may not always necessarily mean “participating & sharing comments.” To me, participation could also be viewed through a web analytic standpoint. How many people have visited the site, where are most online visitors viewing from (location), and what is the most popular aspect about the website that draws online readers attention?

    “Knowing how to do it” may not necessarily be described in the best light, perhaps instead “wanting to do it” would be a better statement. Users don’t have to technically “know” how to use digital technology from its core, but share the pure curiosity to gain what is said as “real power.” Real power shouldn’t be viewed based on knowing how to use certain technological gadgets, it should be based through share pure interest.

  10. Astleigh says:

    “Full participation in contemporary culture requires not just consuming messages, but also creating and sharing them. To fulfill the promise of digital citizenship, Americans must acquire multimedia communication skills and know how to use these skills to engage in the civic life of their communities.” -Renee Hobbs, Digital Media and Literacy 2010 (pg. 114 Net Smart)

    This originally reminded me of our class discussion on producing and consuming digital media. It seemed that our class, overall, decided that there can be no consumption without production and vice versa that without consumption there is no need for production. Seemingly, this passage says to me that without participating in both acts of consuming and producing an individual cannot be a beneficial participant in multimedia communities. That in order to be have “digital citizenship” one must be well-versed in both.

    Thinking about it, I don’t know that I disagree or agree. I feel pulled in both directions, seeing both sides of the argument. I feel that to be fulling engaged in an online culture, a person should need to produce content as well as consume other media. But on the other hand I don’t feel someone should be rejected from an online community for only consuming. I feel like a conclusion to this issue is one that rides the fence.

  11. Erin says:

    “People have always made choices about what to pay attention to. In the online world, they also make choices that influence what others pay attention to.” p.127

    I thought this section was very interesting. Anyone with a computer and internet access can recommend things to read online. It’s an entire new way to advertise. Every product/article I read on the internet wants to me “recommend” it to a friend. I watch a show on Hulu and I’m asked to post it to my Facebook wall. I donate money to the Obama campaign and there is a button for me to Tweet about it. With so many people being able to recommend things, how do you weed out the unnecessary?

    • Alex says:

      I completely agree. I love receiving recommendations from friends (real life friends, not FB friends) because they know what I like, what I don’t like. But when you’re receiving recommendations or seeing another random person’s “likes” that you knew through a friend of a friend in high school 4 years ago, the process all becomes a bit overwhelming.

  12. Kyle says:

    “Until it became possible to create videos with laptop computers and distribute them through inexpensive digital networks, video was something created by a small, well-paid guild of professionals and passively consumed by people who paid others for their prepackaged cultural products.”

    Two points are being made here. The primary point is that video (and implicitly other forms of media) can be made by just about anyone in front of a computer. It becomes the responsibility of the consumer in our technological culture to produce as well as consume. I suppose that is part of the contrast Rheingold is trying to imply here as it is no longer “passive” consumption. We actively consume by producing in return, in some cases maybe to the same extent. I would, however, make the argument that the vast, and I mean VAST, majority of people consume far more than they produce in terms of public media. Although, the sheer number of active producers online today is enough to sustain a flow of new content to any one person indefinitely.

    The other, less obvious point, is money. Video content is free all over the place now. You can get a glimpse of just about anybody’s opinion online for free, given your own virtual resourcefulness. It’s a far cry from the “prepackaged cultural products” of the days before our universal ability to contribute. The market is less about money and more about equal contribution, although even if someone were to glide about the internet and never even create a single piece of new content, they still have access to more content than they could ever possibly absorb. As long as there are tons of people producing (as they are enabled by cheap technology and public content forums), the content remains free and the fee for the non-producers is collectively paid by the producers.

  13. Ethan says:

    “The World Wide Web has become, for those who know these skills, a personal learning tool and instant expertise finder, and at the same time, a free, global, automatic aggregator of facts, documents, and media that grows in value as well as volume every time every social bookmarker tags a site for later retrieval.” -Net Smart pg.132

  14. Ashley says:

    “Facebook is a friendship-driven digital place to hang out for many young people” (118).

    If I could I would copy this entire paragraph. I never heard Facebook described as a “friendship-driven” but it makes perfect sense. It goes along with mankind being “social creatures.” I thought the wording in this paragraph was spot on and 100 percent agreeable.

  15. George says:

    Net Smart pg 139
    “Life is a performance, online and face-to-face. Who doesn’t behave differently in front of their parents, boss, drinking buddies, Facebook friends or World of Warcraft guild?…Especially useful for understanding online behavior is Goffman’s assertion that people “give” information to others in order to represent who they want others to think they are – “impression management.”

    I never thought about life being a performance with theatrical metaphors but Goffman makes a great point here. In terms of online, with the influx of social media, especially Twitter, people can choose to act inherently different when they are not face-to-face with someone. Behind a computer screen in the comfort of your on home you can act however you want. I know some of the people I follow on Twitter are nowhere near the way they act in person. Many of them try to be really funny on Twitter when in actuality they are one of the more quiet people in person.

    On the other hand, we obviously don’t act the same in front of everyone. In the classroom, I’m sure many of us are more respectable than when not. Or in front of our parents we won’t say the same things we would say in front of our peers. I wouldn’t say we are “performing” necessarily, but we are just conditioned to act, speak and interact differently in front of different people and in different situations.

    A good example of Goffman’s theory of impression management is acting differently on Twitter than in person. We can reach the masses through social media, so essentially we are giving information to a large amount of people in order for others to think of us in a different light, when in reality we are totally different in person.

  16. Dylan Amick says:

    “Participatory media cultures like anime fandom have unique dynamics that are based on a very particular genre of participation embedded in a whole fabric of community life and social communication. While the specificities of these practices are unique yo this fandom, the turn towards amateur cultural modes aided by digital media and networking is a much broader socitechnical trend.”
    -NetSmart pg 117&118

    This is the quote I choose, btu really my comment has to do with that entire section, especially the reference to fan based remixed videos (Like the Star Trek ones) talked about on paged 116.

    I find this fascinating, because theater was going through a very similar transition in the late 80′s and early 90′s pioneered by Suzan-Lori Parks and the Wooster group called ‘Deconstructism’: The idea was that theater could start doing play out of order, or in an ironic fashion to project their own ideals on top of an already established piece of theater. In simple terms, using the words of a play against itself to produce a different moral or message than the playwright originally intended.

    The most famous example of this is the live stagings of “Reefer Madness” as a pro-marijuana legalization campaign: The play would be preformed as a melodrama to show the ridiculousness of the accusations about marijuana being deadly.

    It ties into this lesson because we are producing media online to express our own opinions, share jokes, and all around simply give a different perspective on information. What makes the internet and social media so powerful is the variety of opinions and ideas it makes available to the masses. Once we take the power of production away from only the elite few and give it to the masses, information becomes truly equal; we all have a say in what is said.

  17. Alex says:

    “Participatory culture is one in which a significant portion of the population, not just a small professional guild, can participate in the production of cultural materials ranging from encyclopedia entries to videos watched by millions.” (NetSmart, p. 115)

    This quote sort of sums up everything that has been posted above. Web presence doesn’t HAVE to be on Facebook…that’s the glory of the Internet; everyone can find their own niche. But Rheingold still presents a solid argument, that web presence is becoming necessary to survive in an ever progressing technological world.

    One person may want to be represented to employers or peers through their witty tweets. Some may want to be represented through their perfectly manicured and polite Facebook pages. Others may steer away from those more mainstream forms of social media and go with Tumblr that gathers their favorite quotes or typography or photography.

    The bottom line is, PARTICIPATE…in whichever way you feel most comfortable, because if you don’t, the day and decade is gonna pass you right on by.

  18. Eric Avissar says:

    “Interest-driven communities are not formed from people who already know each other, and use digital media to hang out and share media online; rather, they are created by people who had not previously known each other but use digital media to find each other, hang out, and share the products of mutual interest (Net Smart, p. 119)”

    I could not agree more with this statement. As someone who’s been involved in various online communities pertaining to my favorite sports and T.V. shows, I’m constantly astounded by the people that I connect with over the web, and how much we have in common. It never ceases to amaze me how I’m able to feel like I know certain people that I never have, and in most cases never will meet. Sometimes people have friends that they know post in the same online forums, but for the most part connections are made over the web between strangers when its a common interest that brings people to discussion. Thus, I have become an ardent believer in the power of networking via the internet.

Where am I?
This is the class website for English 3984: Writing and Digital Media, taught by Quinn Warnick at Virginia Tech in fall 2012.
Worthwhile Reading
The links below are the most recent additions to my collection of bookmarks that are relevant to this course. You can find a complete list of ENGL 3984 bookmarks on Pinboard.

  • Buffy vs Edward Remix Unfairly Removed by Lionsgate
    A long, carefully documented saga about fair use. Great case study.
  • The Always Up-to-Date Guide to Managing Your Facebook Privacy
    Nice guide from Lifehacker: "First, we'll walk through the basic privacy settings that determine what you share, then look at a few lesser-known settings you'll want to tweak, and finish with a few third-party tools that will help keep your Facebook information private."
  • The enduring mystery of Roberto Clemente's bat
    Great writing by Kevin Guilfoile, but also a beautiful example of multimedia storytelling.
  • tapestry: a new way to write
    John Borthwick explains what tapestry is and collects some examples of great tap essays: "When we started developing tapestry it struck us that there weren’t many native reading experiences on the iPhone or iPad. Our goal is to build such a tool. A space to slow things down and let you create or experience, short, tappable stories in a simple, clean, distraction free reading environment."
  • All You Need Is (Facebook) Love: ‘Compliments’ Accounts Go Viral at Colleges and Universities
    Time magazine reports on an encouraging trend: college students setting up Facebook pages to collect compliments for/from their fellow students.
  • Demand a Plan
    Online effort to improve gun control, started in response to the Newtown school shooting.
  • Causes.com
    "Causes is a free online platform that provides easy-to-use tools for driving change. We help passionate people share ideas, find supporters, raise money, and make an impact."
  • What Ancient Greek Rhetoric Might Teach Us About New Civics
    Ethan Zuckerman: "If we want to prepare people to be effective citizens, we need to think about teaching this new civics as well as older forms of civic participation. Citizens need to do more than watch or read about the issues and then vote. They need to know how to report, to advocate, to coordinate, to propose and test solutions."
  • SPOT Survey - Fall 2012
    Students: If you haven't completed the SPOT evaluation for this course, please do so during class on Wednesday. I take this feedback very seriously, and I use it to revise my classes each semester, so please be specific about the aspects of the course (and my teaching) that you found successful and unsuccessful.
  • Popcorn Maker
    New web-based app from Mozilla: "Popcorn Maker makes it easy to enhance, remix and share web video. Use your web browser to combine video and audio with content from the rest of the web — from text, links and maps to pictures and live feeds."
  • The People's Bailout
    David Rees explains how the Rolling Jubilee works: "OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you’re a debt broker, once you own someone’s debt you can do whatever you want with it — traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We’re playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)"
  • Understanding Digital Civics
    Ethan Zuckerman: "I’m beginning to think that certain types of civic participation are simply organic to the internet. Once we have the ability to create and share our own information, we create and spread media to promote the causes we care about and raise money to support the causes we value."
  • Google Docs Stories Builder
    Fun little tool to create text-based stories in which various characters interact within a Google Doc. (Sound confusing? Yeah, you kind of have to see it in action.)
  • Twitter Is A Truth Machine
    John Herrman: "Twitter is a fact-processing machine on a grand scale, propagating then destroying rumors at a neck-snapping pace. To dwell on the obnoxiousness of the noise is to miss the result: That we end up with more facts, sooner, with less ambiguity."
  • The Fallacy of Digital Natives
    Amen to this: "Sure, there may be a larger percentage of Millennials that tap into technology first compared to their elders, but oversimplifying the division of generations to suggest one prefers an all-technology learning style whilst the others use it when necessary is preposterous. Learning and technology has nothing to do with generational divides."
  • Click and Drag
    An amazing, endless xkcd comic.
  • Nice piece in Transom explaining Cowbird
    Annie Correal: "Our goal is to build a public library of human experience, so the knowledge and wisdom we accumulate as individuals may live on as part of the commons."
  • Being Online Has Become So Common That Some People No Longer Identify It As Being Online
    Techdirt, quoting a study by Forrester Research: "Our analysis revealed that 'being online' is becoming a fluid concept. Consumers no longer consider some of the online activities they perform to be activities related to 'using the Internet.' In fact, given the various types of connected devices that US consumers own, many people are connected and logged on (automatically) at all times. The Internet has become such a normal part of their lives that consumers don’t register that they are using the Internet when they’re on Facebook, for example. It’s only when they are actively doing a specific task, like search, that they consider this to be time that they’re spending online."
  • Reddit's balance of power: community values are tested as a troll is unmasked
    Links to all of The Verge's coverage of the Violentacrez debacle.