Do I want my life easier, or not?

One of my students turned me on to, which supposedly can update your status (or whatever?) in all of your social networks at once. I haven’t really had time to check it out yet and it probably is a good thing/good idea. But I do have two reservations. First, like Debbie (see #7), I sometimes grow weary of the book o’ face. Second, I’m not sure I want to update all of my social networks the same. Maybe I do, maybe not. Actually, I’ve thought recently of setting up a Facebook account that is actually for my “real friends” and not as a “public persona.”

My student learned about at a workshop about publishing and the need for writers to set up their own “platform” for promoting their books/writings/etc. This reminds me that in that conversation I had last week with my journalism friend, he talked about how he used his twitter account to post links to articles he had written. So in the sense of “driving traffic,” perhaps all of these other things do make a little sense.

But before I have time to figure any of this out, I need to get caught up on grading and such….

Steve Krause was surprised by his students’ negative reactions to facebook

Last Monday was Facebook/social networking night in English 516. I had meant to post about this earlier, but it’s been another one of those weeks. In any event, I was somewhat surprised by the generally negative reaction my students had to the ol’ book of face.

As a course requirement, I made them sign up for a Facebook account at the beginning of the term so that they could get a sense of what it was all about. Out of 14 students, I’d guess that about 8 of them didn’t have Facebook accounts already. There were folks who were not crazy about jumping into the Facebook thing at all. And, as became clear last week, the majority of students in the class either didn’t care about Facebook one way or the other, or they were pretty vocally against it. As far as I can tell, there was only one student who considered themselves “addicted” to Facebook, and that student seemed to think it to be a habit like smoking, something that would be best to quit. Generally speaking, most of my class is 20 to early 30 somethings. Most of them are teaching college first year writing or in secondary schools, and they seem more than aware of the extent to which social networks expose them to the world. This is actually quite a bit more aware than my students were just a few years ago.

This group’s reaction makes me think that the Time Magazine article “Why Facebook is for Old Fogies” is surprisingly true, and I think it is also why I predict Facebook is sooner than later going to take a nosedive. It’s a toss-off article, but I think that Lev Grossman has it about right. I am of an age where I like that Facebook allows me to catch up with people from my past (a lot of my students expressed dismay about this), I no longer care one way or the other about high school (though I do like the idea of reunion-type activities), high school and grade school pictures of me are now cute, I’m no longer cool, etc. In contrast, I think that a lot of my students are just young enough to think differently.

And this is why I think that Facebook is going to tank. The original target audience for Facebook, college students and younger, have wised up. I have no idea where they are going to nowadays or what is coming next, but I do know that when the fastest growing group on a social networking site are in the 50+ demographic, you’ve got a “hipness” problem.

A couple of useful (potentially) Facebook links

A couple of Facebook articles that might come in handy for English 516 or maybe even 444:

  • “Why Facebook is for Old Fogies” from Time magazine. This is one of those little blurb articles that is not exactly “news” but it’s still kind of funny and also kind of true. Which makes me wonder: if Facebook has become something that “grown-ups” do, what are “the kids” doing nowadays?
  • Will Richardson’s take on an article from Ed.magazine, “Thanks for the Add. Now Help Me with My Homework.” Here’s my favorite passage for me because it rings very true in my experiences:

    In a recent survey of one of his graduate classes, Blatt found that 100 percent of these future educators were enrolled on Facebook — and 30 percent of them even checked their profile more than once a day. Just becoming familiar with social networking sites, however, doesn’t mean that teachers will be able to directly use them as a tool for formal class discussion or collaboration. In one of Wiske’s classes, in fact, students experimented with doing just that, using Facebook as a forum to “coconstruct” meanings of readings. “It didn’t feel like the place to have that conversation,” says Wiske. “The structure of the tools wasn’t as conducive to that discussion, and the pictures and other stuff on the screen were kind of distractions from that work.”

    On the other hand, there are other social networking tools that may be more directly appropriate for use in class. Some teachers are already using wikis, technology that allows students to take turns editing group projects to facilitate the often-difficult task of working together as a group, as well as to provide a trail of who does what on a project. Another new social networking site called allows organizations to create their own closed networking sites that can be adapted for a school or even a course.

    A more likely use of SNSs within the educational context, however, is to use them as supplements to the formal in-class learning, building upon the spontaneous sharing that students are already doing. “I can imagine teachers saying, ‘I know a lot of you are on Facebook; I’d love to encourage you to share your draft work with friends, do whatever revisions are warranted, and then post your first draft on the class website,'” says Wiske. “That would be a design that took advantage of some affordances and patterns of behavior Christine is noticing without trying to commandeer these social networks as a location for structured class work.”

To Twitter or to Not Twitter

I know, I know, Twitter is all of that. Obama (or rather, his people) twitters. I heard Daniel Shor is getting a Twitter account set up, though there doesn’t seem to be anything there yet. I know that there’s a bunch of people at (or about to go to) the CCCCs Twittering. I know that lots of people are experimenting with Twittering with their teaching. I know, I know, I know. I should care.

But I’ve got to say, I’m kind of in the Comedy Central camp on this right now.

I mean, I’ve got a Twitter account, and now that I have an iPhone, I could Twitter and/or tweet more often. Of course, now that I have an iPhone, I could also just post to Facebook or even my blog. Or I could, you know, call people and talk to them.

Maybe, if I get a weekend or whatever, I’ll figure out how this thing works. Or why I should care.

New Study Shows Time Spent Online Important for Teen Development

This is the sort of thing that might come in handy for English 516: “New Study Shows Time Spent Online Important for Teen Development,” from the MacArthur foundation. Of course we’re going to have some kind of unit on things like Facebook in 516– possibly we’ll set up some kind of thing like Ning just because we could, though setting up you own social network is a little like having a party and not inviting anyone.

Anyway, I might start working on putting together the winter 516 web site in some of the downtime in visiting the family in Iowa. It’s a lot more fun to work on an upcoming class than it is to do the work for things I’m teaching right now….

See? Facebook is useful!

This is an article I might include for ENGL 516 in the winter: from Inside Higher Ed, “Taking Facebook Back to Campus.” This isn’t exactly an earth-shattering article, but a lot of my students last year in 516 still thought of Facebook and MySpace as a place where teenagers exchange pictures of themselves drinking and/or having sex, and where having a profile of your own is akin to going to an orgy. Not all of my students, of course– plenty of them (maybe a majority of them?) already had some kind of profile on one of these accounts of their own. But there was enough of a vocal and concerned minority of students with this view that anything I can share with the message “no really, Facebook is actually useful, at least potentially” is probably a good thing.

My tour to the Food (W)hole #2/Naughty grocery store pictures

Whole Foods Ann Arbor, with typical shopperI had to run a few errands and/or wanted to stall on starting commenting on student essays, so on my way home, I swung by the new Whole Foods in Ann Arbor– or, as the web site says, Cranbrook, which is really the name of a shopping center on the other side of Ann Arbor. It’s a good location for the chain because it’s close to lots of upscale west AA neighborhoods, and it’s also reasonably close to Saline and Dexter. But since we live completely on the other side of town, this visit to the Food (W)Hole was more or less just a field trip.

So, what’s the new store like? Why, it’s like a grocery store–or, to be more specific, it’s another location for one of the “world’s leading natural and organic grocer and we’re passionate about healthy food and a healthy planet,” a place that is “lucky to have a whole bunch of smart, passionate people doing incredible things in areas like organics, supporting local growers, green practices, fair trade, micro-lending and all kinds of food related stuff.” Pretentious? Sure. Am I a loyal customer? You bet.

The new store is pretty much the same as my regular Food (W)Hole: the usual large seafood selection and grass-fed or otherwise organic meat selections, supplements and herbal things, a coffee bar area, etc. Besides the layout (the space is much more narrow and long), I noticed at least four differences with this new store:

  • An even larger prepared/take away food section, and one that features a special gelato and ice cream counter. This strikes me as kind of funny because this strip mall also features an Old Country Buffet. So now you can fatten up either for cheap or for not cheap.
  • A sushi counter, where you can get fresh (and not packaged earlier that day) sushi. I suspect Will will require a visit.
  • A wine/beer/cheese tasting bar. I’m not quite sure about this arrangement (I didn’t ask and I wasn’t around long enough to find out), but it appeared to me that you could buy a glass of wine or a beer on tap and from our own Arbor Brewing Company (made in Ypsilanti), and then perhaps continue your shopping. This is what this video says about a store that opened in Rochester Hills, MI with a similar wine bar arrangement.
  • A rule against taking photographs: at the store’s entrance and next to the “no smoking” and “no roller blades” signs was “no photography.” Now, perhaps this is a policy at all Whole Foods, as this photo and the discussion about it suggests. One of the reasons discussed here says this is so other stores can’t steal design ideas, but it seems pretty easy to get around this. I mean, just go in and look around.

    In any event, I was feeling naughty, so while sitting at the coffee bar at the front of the store, I took this picture of the store behind me with the little camera on my laptop:

    Whole Foods Ann Arbor, "against the rules" inside pic

    Remarkably revealing, isn’t it?

The only down-side of the store for me was the wifi access in there was very spotty, but I suspect that’s something they will work out later.

By the way, I took the picture at the top of this entry after I left. How about my timing in capturing the transportation used by a typical Food (W)Hole customer?

Oh, and while I’m at it, I came across this pretty cool set of grocery store pictures when poking around on Flikr for this post.

“The Dumpster”

This might or might not be “something:”

The Dumpster (2006: Golan Levin, Kamal Nigam and Jonathan Feinberg) is an interactive online visualization that attempts to depict a slice through the romantic lives of American teenagers. Using real postings extracted from millions of online blogs, visitors to the project can surf through tens of thousands of specific romantic relationships in which one person has “dumped” another.

Via my Reader feed and danah’s blog apophenia.

The myth of online predators (and a gramar tangent)

I’m posting this here to remind me that it’s something I need to include in some readings for ENGL 516 about social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook and the like: “Questioning the Notion of Online Predators” from PBS Teachers, though it has been available in a lot of other places too. I heard an interview with the study mentioned in this post; basically, the researchers found (via what I assume was an examination of the records of sex crimes involving the internet and sex crimes prior to it) is that this idea of a bunch of dirty old men posing as teenagers online just isn’t so, that there is a slight decrease in these sorts of pedaphile crimes relative to the past, etc., etc.– in short, that this stuff is basically a media myth.

And yet, it persists, the same as the myth about razor blades in apples and pins in candy bars at Halloween, and the same as static grammar instruction as being the key to the teaching of writing. Why is that? Well, part of it, it seems to me, is one of the potential weaknesses of empirical research over perceptions and fears, especially when those perceptions and fears are red by things like popular media or personal nostalgia, and I guess what people might consider to be a gut feeling or “common sense.” It would make sense, for example, that in order to write well and grammatically, you must have to know the rules, and there is a lot of (largely inaccurate, I suspect) memories among folks of seemingly every generation that they learned grammar and usage rules in school, and, dangit, their kids should too. So often, data loses to perceptions (or hopes or feelings or whatever), and it is very difficult to change ideologies with facts.

But I digress.

The point is that this new and crazy interets are not out to get our kids, much in the same way that the rock n’ roll of my parents’ generation didn’t get them either. It makes me wonder what my bogey man is going to be when Will is a teenager.