Twitter: A Tool for Academia to Connect, Share, and Grow Relationships

04/28/2009

Twitter: A Tool for Academia to Connect, Share, and Grow Relationships
John LeMasney
Digital Media Convergence
COMM 563 SP09


Introduction

Twitter allows individuals to send out messages to followers as well as the public about any topic, without editing, complete with what a power user of the system named Andrew Korf calls “ambient intimacy” or “to follow or be somewhat intimate with people without needing to directly engage them” (Salas, 2009). It is a very direct way to broadcast, relatively easy to do (comparative even to blogs), and allows for an asynchronous audience and interaction (Siegel, 2007). It allows for the following of others in the thousands and the ability to be followed by thousands (Johnson-Elie, 2009). As a result, it has the potential for greatness as a mass communication tool, as well as a one-to-one communication, often simultaneously (Johnson-Elie, 2009). While it was first envisioned as a fun way to keep in touch with friends, its ability to meet much more serious needs is being quickly realized (Shropshire, 2009; Antlfinger, 2009). Given the right context, training, and support, it can transform the ways that organizations, businesses, and communities communicate (Robinson, 2009; Ferak, 2009; Antlfinger, 2009). I’ll demonstrate in this paper that Twitter is a yet-undiscovered powerful communication tool for academic staff, faculty and students to connect, share, and grow relationships.

About Twitter

Twitter is a system by which one can send 140 character messages by way of web sites, phones using Short Messaging System (SMS), or bridged systems, such as email (Johnson-Elie, 2008). The 140 character limit is one that appears because of SMS’s precedent limitation of the same number, and is one of the endearing quirks of the system, which allows phones to send and recieve messages over a commonly available system (Conan, 2009). Twitter is comprised entirely of status updates, where people post, or tweet, about what they are doing, thinking, eating, experiencing, or wanting (Bennet, 2009), however, given that you can trigger tweets from data based events, it can even be used to let plants tweet when they need more water subtly or urgently (Ahmed, 2008). An example of a hman tweet might be “Writing a paper for COMM 563 about Twitter” while another might be “On my way to the hospital for baby Jim’s arrival” (Shropshire, 2009). It’s broadcasting worldwide, in real time, whatever you have to say, as long as it’s under 140 characters per tweet (Siegel, 2007). Following is a way of showing that you like someone’s tweets, profile, ideas, or product (Bennet, 2009). You follow by clicking a button that says ‘follow’ on another’s profile, which you find at http://www.twitter.com/username, where username is that user’s chosen name. Very often that username is expressed as @username. On Twitter, I’m known as @lemasney. Once you follow me, you see all of my tweets as part of a default stream of tweets from people you follow (Bennet, 2009).

Review of Literature

I found a great deal of relevant and recent literature talking not only about Twitter itself, but very specifically about how it’s being used by organizations to communicate effectively with stakeholders and constituents, though I found that studies and literature on the specific use of Twitter by academic organizations other than Libraries to be lacking. I’ll focus on six organizational use articles here, but please refer to the references section for more articles on effective uses of Twitter for sociological purposes.
Sarah Milstein writes in Twitter FOR Libraries (and Librarians) (2009) about how Libraries are sharing news that patrons want. They help followers discover events such as readings, lectures and book sales. They tweet about new resources and changes in hours. They give tips and tricks on how to find or access information in the Library’s systems. They link to interesting Library or literacy related news stories, or even new posts to their own site.
Milstein argues that since patrons are already using the system, that it provides one more point of contact with patrons. At just a few sentences a day, it is not much of an additional task for librarians to tweet (2009). She reminds us that while the core use of Twitter is as conversation, many libraries use it primarily as a broadcast mechanism, and reminds libraries to keep the conversational aspect in mind by asking followers questions, answering queries from followers, and making deeper connections through interaction (2009).
The article discusses many other ways in which libraries are using Twitter to communicate announcements, collection additions, events, observations, editorial, humor, and laurels such as recently acquired awards. These kinds of tweets go beyond advertising to start conversations about the topics, and potentially deepen connections with patrons (Milstein, 2009).
In Anoka gives Twitter a Try, Alex Robinson (2009) talks about a county that has begun using Twitter to communicate with its residents an other stakeholders. The article discusses how tweeting about county traffic, construction, accidents, and lane closures in order to inform and protect constituents can help to develop deeper relationships with followers, provide service, and create value for Twitter followers.
Martha Weaver, the county’s public information officer, currently uses the system to broadcast information about park and library events. She foresees using the system to tweet about police emergencies, such as kidnappings or robberies (Robinson, 2009).
Robinson notes that because the system is free, and requires no special hardware or software aside from a phone, that there is a low threshold to participation. However, because of Twitter’s reputation as an illegitimate source of information, Weaver has been ridiculed by some for trying to use the service in a legitimate way, despite its potential (2009).
Another civil Twitter account is documented in Ferak’s City of Papillion joins the Twitter Movement (2009). The City of Papillion advertises attractions, events, and also reminds city residents about registration for various upcoming opportunities. The city expects great growth in their followership as the word spreads about their account’s existence. They want to use the account to keep constituents informed about community events and local government. They see it as a way to give more people an opportunity to get their messages.
Police department use of Twitter is documented in Carrie Antlfinger’s Police forces all a-Twitter to get the word out. An example of a police tweet is “
Latest homicide in the city is NOT a random act. Male, 33, shot in 1500 block N. 39. More details as we have them (2009).”  There is a danger in this kind of official use of an informal tool, in that anyone can sign up as “Austin PD” and stick an official city seal on their account (2009). Other police uses for Twitter are to alert people to traffic disruptions, explain police presence in neighborhoods, or offer crime prevention tips. Some tweet about bomb scares, wildfires, lockdowns, or evacuations (2009). Police cite the same reasons that these other organizations are using the system: They are trying to connect with people where they already are.
Sports teams are also using Twitter to connect with fans, as explained in Tatalay’s Sports World Embracing Twitter (2009). Sports teams allow follower fans to get score updates, stadium parking tips, injury news, ticket sales numbers, last minute promotions, and free gifts.
I see immediate connections and parallels to the ways in which these methods could be used for academic purposes, especially in regards to event tickets, text book sales, parking lot updates, and faculty sick day tweets.
As a final entry in this fun if not thorough literary review, we look at a food establishment’s use of Twitter. Raasch explains in
Local restaurant’s ‘Twitter Tuesday’ draws social networking fans (2008) how by advertising 25% off meals on Twitter Tuesday that they are connecting with customers, giving them something extra for using the system, and rewarding followership with a monetary reward. It is not very clearly stated in the article, but one can assume that the restaurant tweets out a catchphrase in order to get 25% off their meal. Those who follow on Twitter get the discount, while those who don’t pay an extra 25% for their meal.

Research Questions

Given the Literary Review, I wanted to ask some questions that I think are important, but not addressed in the literature. I also wanted to ask questions that I could answer by personal research or by secondary research, since primary longitudinal or survey based research was impossible here.
Question one: Can Twitter be used to follow a select group of people, such as members of a particular University?
This is a concern because the Public Timeline (a list of everyone’s tweets) is wild with activity from everyone, which can be counterproductive if you’re only looking for things regarding your constituents. Since Twitter’s Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are open and publically available, better tools (than the website itself) can be built by developers in order to interact with the system (Silverman, 2009).
TweetDeck, one of these third party tools, makes for better Twitter management, because it allows for the management of groups of tweeters (by school groups, classes, or cohorts, for example) as well as filtering of streams of tweets by keywords or communicated hashtags. For example, we all might all agree (as a result of concentrated communication to do so) as members of a Yourtown University to add the hashtag “#yourtownu” to our tweets in order to allow people to follow conversations that concern Yourtown University. If we want to follow tweets of users who used #yourtownu all the time, we might create groups in TweetDeck based on that hashtag, so that all Yourtown University tweets show up in a single stream.
Question two: How might Twitter make for an effective classroom tool? There are situations in the classroom where you might want to poll the students in order to discover what the general feeling is towards a question, such as “Is A or B the correct answer?” or “What was the way that the main character died?” in order to do a quick assessment of understanding. With Twitter, everyone could answer simultaneously, and you could get a real-time assessment of understanding. There are even tools for doing these kinds of Twitter based assessments, such as the one found at http://twtpoll.com in which you can create the question and answers, then tweet the link to the poll.
Given the hashtag methodology on Twitter, you could easily follow a class discussion by asking students to use a common hashtag related to the class when tweeting about class topics. This class might have used #comm563. For instance, I might tweet tonight that I’m “finishing up my final paper of the semester – yay #comm563 #yourtownu09” in order to keep both classmates, teachers, and cohorts informed of my progress. With Twitter, I can commit to continuous distant learning through the sharing of links, reference material, and current related topics as either student or teacher.

Question three: How might twitter make for an effective student services tool? Student Financial Services could tweet about deadlines and opportunities in addition to other communications like some of the other organizations we read about in the literature. Career services could tweet about upcoming resume and etiquette events. Campus activities could remind students to offer suggestions for movies, outings, and parties. Academic Departments could tweet about the availability of electronic registration for their most popular classes as soon as they become available.

Question four: How might Twitter be used to grow academic relationships?
Twitter works best when it is used to start or continue a conversation (Milstein, 2009), and I see it as a way to have a conversation about campus and institutional culture (Milstein, 2009). One of the cultural phenomenons at Yourtown University, let’s say, is that on Mondays everyone wears Maroon as a way of celebrating the school color, and the way that this translates to Twitter is that on Mondays, Yourtown University Tweeters might tweet what they love about the University and add the hashtag #maroonmondays (Raasch, 2008).  Baker (2008) tells us of a third party Twitter based site called twitstori.com in which the public timetine is filtered to show only what people are wishing, feeling, and thinking. This could easily be modified to show only respondents from a particular university, especially if they are using hashtags in conjunction with the phrase “I feel.” (Baker, 2008)
Analysis via concepts

Twitter is bottom-up media in that it is participated in by anyone who meets the minimum technology of inclusion, a phone or an internet connection (Siegel, 2007). The numbers of people using Twitter to add to the collective conversation is staggering. A series of Pew surveys from February 2008 showed that 11% of online adults used Twitter and similar services, up from 9% in November 2007, up from 6% in May of 2007 (Horowitz, 2009). $15 to $20 million was raised in capital for the company in 2008 (Baker, 2008) and apparently $500 million was offered by Facebook, a rival social network, and was turned down (Johnson-Elie, 2008). In 2008, Baker found that “estimates for the Twittering masses range between half a million and one million active users” (2008). Topper reports that “according to Nielsen Online, Twitter recorded 2.3 million visitors in August 2008 in the U.S., an increase of 422% from the same period in 2007” (2009). Since all of those people are adding their own small bits of conversation, we can clearly see this as consumer driven, bottom-up, social media, as opposed to monolithic, top-down, conglomerate driven media.
Because of its search tools, filtering capabilities, grouping and hashtags, and 3rd party information gathering tools, Twitter is a prime example of a way to tap into collective intelligence. If we can learn to use tools like Tweetdeck, Twitscoop, Twistori, and http://search.twitter.com effectively, we can begin to determine answers to questions by thousands of people who didn’t even necessarily hear the question (Milstein, 2009). If we want to know what people are wishing, thinking, feeling, we can use tools like Twistori which are already filtering for those phrases (Baker, 2008). If we want to know what the most popular food is for dinner, we might do a search on Twitter for the phrase “for dinner tonight” or on the hashtag #dinner. As a result, we’ll likely see a stream of tweets about what people are thinking about having for dinner, with the potential bonus of connecting with those people to get more information, like recipes, cooking methods, restaurant suggestions, or favorite dishes (Milstein, 2009; Baker, 2008).

I feel that Twitter provides agency, or the ability for a user to become empowered in choosing their own path to an answer through the system (Dewberry, in class, 2009). By learning the methods, functions and culture of the system, I gain a framework by which to begin to use it, but due to the seemingly endless flexibility of the system, I can begin to develop new ways of using the system that were not originally envisioned (Conan, 2009).
Twitter exemplifies the glitch aesthetic in that the tweets themselves often take on a broken, condensed, and illiterate look in order to meet the needs of the 140 character limit, while still conveying a great deal of information. There is also a great difference between the beauty of the content of the message and the way in which it’s delivered. For instance, I might be limited to the 140 characters “rly njoyd nite out w/ gr8 frenz in Ytown tvrn go2chkthe pix http://snip.it/gfhr #yourtownu #maroonmonday lets do it agin asap plz chezbrgrs” but this would translate to “I really enjoyed the night out last night with my great friends in Yourtown Tavern. Please go take a look at the pictures I took available at http://myphotosite.com/long/url/needs/shortening/pictures.html. I go to Yourtown University, and I’m very proud of it. Let’s all do it again very soon, please. Next time we’ll have cheeseburgers!”. One appears more elegant than the other, but the content of the message is interchangeable.
Because Twitter is able to be interfaced with from phones, internet web sites, and other methods, it gives me flexibility with which to interact with it. Because the system allows me to send people to text, photos, videos and other media, it gives me flexibility with regards to the kinds of media I share. Because it allows me to connect, share, interact, and respond to others, it offers me flexibility in my communication needs. Because it allows for self-publishing and the selective collection of others’ publication, it offers me the flexibility of production and consumption of media. Because it has technology, social, industrial, and production layers, it offers me flexibility in regards to the ways in which I connect with others. It is an ideal exemplar of the concept of convergence.
Twittiquette for organizations

One thing that was especially useful in the literature (paraphrased here from Milstein’s piece on tweeting libraries) were some pieces of advice on etiquette for organizations on Twitter: Fill out your organization’s profile completely and include a URL and biographical information. Use the system as a way of conversing, rather than simply monolithic broadcasting. Use the search system at http://search.twitter.com in order to do daily searches for mentions of your institution. Follow everyone who follows you. Post between one and six times a day, as less is considered inactive, and more may be seen as overtweeting. Ask questions, solicit feedback, and tweet the results (Milstein, 2009).
Conclusion

Twitter is a not yet fully discovered tool for making “ambient intimacy” connections in academic circles outside those of cohorts, friends, and classmates (Salas, 2009). The no-cost entry, ease of use, and casual methodology are welcoming to all levels of technology user. It allows for an effective broadcast of ideas into a public stream of consciousness which can be filtered, searched, and analyzed for relevant content.
Libraries are using Twitter to connect and converse with patrons. Counties and cities are connecting with their residents, announcing events, sharing information. Police departments are making the public aware of threats, reminding parents of best practices in safety, and relaying traffic information. Sports teams are connecting with fans, sharing scores, injury updates, and other news.
How will academia begin using this tool to connect students, parents, administrators, staffers, community representatives, event planners, technology workers and other higher education stakeholders. We begin by signing up, by not being fearful of the unknown and unwritten rules. We begin sharing what we love about our piece and place of academia. We begin to build our vocabulary, hashtag by hashtag and follow by follow. We retweet the best parts, share links to concept related sites, tweet photos of our athletes winning and our students succeeding. We take our strategic plans, community values statements and best outcomes and share them with the world, 140 characters at a time.


References

Ahmed, M. (2008). This week: Twitter for plants. Times, The (United Kingdom). Retrieved April 28, 2009, from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=7EH3109922385&site=ehost-live.

Baker, S. (2008). Why Twitter Matters. Business Week Online, 15. doi: Article.

Bennett, K. (2009). IT’S A BIRD! NO, IT’S TWITTER: Another phenomenon of social networking. American News (Aberdeen, SD). doi: Article.

Carrie Antlfinger. (2009). Police forces all a-Twitter to get the word out. Toronto Star (Canada). Retrieved April 28, 2009, from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=6FP0985514290&site=ehost-live.

Conan, N. (2009). ‘Ev’ And ‘Biz’ See Bright Future For Twitter. Talk of the Nation (NPR). Retrieved April 28, 2009, from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=6XN200903111502&site=ehost-live.

Ferak, J. (2009). City of Papillion – tweet – joins the Twitter movement. Omaha World-Herald (NE). doi: Article.

Garrison-Sprenger, N. (2008). Twittery-Do-Dah, Twittering Pays. Quill, 96(8), 12-15.

Hansen, L. (2008). How Twitter Can Change the Presidential Debate. Weekend Edition Sunday (NPR). Retrieved April 28, 2009, from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=6XN200806221303&site=ehost-live.

Horowitz, E. (2007). What’s hot online? Techies like Twitter and Mint. Orlando Sentinel, The (FL). doi: Article.

Horowitz, E. (2009). Twitter use grows by tweets and bounds. Orlando Sentinel, The (FL). doi: Article.

Johnson-Elie, T. (2008). Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Tannette Johnson-Elie column: Twitter blends online networking, instant messaging. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The (WI). doi: Article.

Johnson-Elie, T. (2009). Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Tannette Johnson-Elie column: Twitter goes beyond socializing. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The (WI). doi: Article.

Milstein, S. (2009). Twitter FOR Libraries (and Librarians).. Online, 33(2), 34-35. doi: Article.

Parag, N. (2009). Internet industry sees Twitter taking off in Israel: LGiLab GM Ohayon: It just needs a prominent character outside of high-tech. Globes (Israel). doi: Article.

Raasch, J. (2008). Local restaurant’s ‘Twitter Tuesday’ draws social networking fans. Gazette, The (Cedar Rapids, IA). doi: Article.

Robinson, A. (2009). Anoka gives Twitter a try: The county is gauging how a social networking site can help it stay in touch with residents. Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN). doi: Article.

Salas, R. A. (2009). Why Twitter? Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN). doi: Article.

Shropshire, C. (2009). Major life events being broadcast on Twitter. Houston Chronicle (TX). doi: Article.

Siegel, R. (2007). What Are You Doing? Twitter Offers a Megaphone. All Things Considered (NPR). Retrieved April 28, 2009, from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=6XN200705212110&site=ehost-live.

Silverman, D. (2009). Houston Chronicle Computing column: Twitter’s got versatility. Houston Chronicle (TX). doi: Article.

Talalay, S. (2009). Sports world embracing Twitter: Sports franchises have been quick to embrace Twitter’s ability to keep them constantly in touch with fans and the media. Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL). doi: Article.

Topper, H. J. M. (2009). Do You Tweet? Long Island Business News, 56(3), 16A. doi: Article.

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Readings for April 21st, 2008

04/19/2009

1. Provide a quick over view or summary of the readings (3 – 5 sentences) (8pts)

Loving the Ghost in the Machine (http://www.ctheory.net/printer.aspx?id=312) is a beautifully written, poetic, if somewhat verbose, take on the ways in which electronic music, mixology, DJs, and other modern digital music artists are taking what was supposedly fixed in nature (records and other source material) as the starting point to exploit the glitches, and ghosts, in that material. There is some focus near the end on the idea of repetition of a phrase (as in looping) being used as a way to celebrate the small but important additional audio entries into a loop.

The Aesthetics of Failure: “Post-Digital” Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music (http://www.ccapitalia.net/reso/articulos/cascone/aesthetics_failure.htm) argues that the medium that was the message is now replaced by tools. Moreover, it talks about the post-digital pro-failure aesthetic, one in which the traditionally ugly, the throw-away, the glitch, is set upon a pedestal, mixed with other glitches, and celebrated.  It talks highly of the seminal work by John Cage, 4’33” in which the sounds of life are amplified by the silence of the piano combined with the aural expectations of the audience, and many other organizations, sub movements, and ideas related to the glitch aesthetic.

2. Clearly Identify what you feel are 3 key ideas in the readings (8pts)

The glitch aesthetic is a rich source for examining new ways with which to appreciate and create sound.

Audio hackers are forefront in this aesthetic, and are using digital tools to manipulate sound, often as experimental amateurs, rather than as trained musicians or programmers.

The common idea here is the idea of the beautiful exposed and exploited glitch, and the celebration as music as that which is not created by manipulating musical instruments, or by redefining what a musical instrument is.

3. Support your summary and/or key points with three specific references to the readings (7pts)

A digital counterpart to the scratch is the often-mentioned glitch. A precariously vague term, which however captures some of the slipperiness of digital media. If analog phonography has led to some sort of metallurgy of sound, made sound malleable and mutable, digital sound processing approaches sound as molecules. The term microsound is very appropriate for the digital music of today. Or, if we take heed of Kim Cascone, we should be talking about post-digital music, since the medium of digital technology has become so transparent it doesn’t reflect in the expression of music anymore. Instead specific sound processing tools, such as Max, AudioMulch or SoundForge produce an auratic sound, as well as providing amazing detail and accuracy in manipulating sound.

Address : http://www.ctheory.net/printer.aspx?id=312
Date Visited: Sun Apr 19 2009 21:50:30 GMT-0400 (EDT)

A pair of Finnish producers called Pan Sonic—then known as Panasonic, before a team of corporate lawyers encouraged them to change their name—led one of the first forays into experimentation in electronica. Mika Vainio, head architect of the Pan Sonic sound, used handmade sine wave oscillators and a collection of inexpensive effect pedals and synthesizers to create a highly synthetic, minimal, “hard-edged” sound. Their first CD, titled Vakio, was released in the summer of 1993, and was a sonic shockwave compared to the more blissful strains of ambient-techno becoming popular at that time. The Pan Sonic sound conjured stark, florescent, industrial landscapes; test-tones were pounded into submission until they squirted out low, throbbing drones and high-pitched stabs of sine waves. The record label Vainio founded, Sähkö Records, released material by a growing catalog of artists, most of it in the same synthetic, stripped-down, minimal vein.

Address : http://www.ccapitalia.net/reso/articulos/cascone/aesthetics_failure.htm
Date Visited: Sun Apr 19 2009 21:52:07 GMT-0400 (EDT)

Composers of glitch music have gained their technical knowledge through self-study, countless hours deciphering software manuals, and probing Internet newsgroups for needed information. They have used the Internet both as a tool for learning and as a method of distributing their work. Composers now need to know about file types, sample rates, and bit resolution to optimize their work for the Internet. The artist completes a cultural feedback loop in the circuit of the Internet: artists download tools and information, develop ideas based on that information, create work reflecting those ideas with the appropriate tools, and then upload that work to a World Wide Web site where other artists can explore the ideas embedded in the work.

Address : http://www.ccapitalia.net/reso/articulos/cascone/aesthetics_failure.htm
Date Visited: Sun Apr 19 2009 21:53:48 GMT-0400 (EDT)



4. Identify the most difficult or challenging concept for you from this week’s readings. Saying “I don’t know” or “nothing was difficult” is not an adequate response. (8pts)Although I’m familiar with some of the artists that were mentioned in The Aesthetics of Failure, I felt confused about what some of the ideas being described might sound like. I’ve never yet heard a performance of 4’33”, but I imagine it would be an amazing thing to experience. I can’t quite fathom what the effect would be — awkwardness? Would someone who didn’t grok Cage get up and leave altering the respectful space?

5. Provide 2 or 3 discussion questions for us to talk about in class (6pts)

If we follow Cage’s lead and celebrate sound by amplifying what we commonly think of as silence, which he believes is unachievable, how might we use this in our leadership and communication roles in order to celebrate and amplify productivity, motivation, and clarity?

How can the glitch aesthetic be applied to organizational leadership — where is the beauty in failure in the workplace, and can it be brought to light?

How can we use some of these ideas (the positive aesthetic of ghosts, glitches, and failure) in order to influence the aural culture of our workspaces?

6. Discuss how this week’s readings might relate to your upcoming presentation, paper or to the “real world.” Here too, saying “I don’t know” or “it does not apply” is not an adequate response. (8pts)

As both a visual artist who has focused on the glitch aesthetic in my work, and a musician who has enjoyed and appreciated industrial sound and broken sound in the music I listen to and aspire to play, I really felt in tune with these articles. I am still gathering exactly how these ideas can be translated into my leadership roles.

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‘Hyperlocal’ Web Sites Deliver News Without Newspapers – NYTimes.com

04/15/2009
Image representing EveryBlock as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase

The sites, like EveryBlock, Outside.in, Placeblogger and Patch, collect links to articles and blogs and often supplement them with data from local governments and other sources. They might let a visitor know about an arrest a block away, the sale of a home down the street and reviews of nearby restaurants.

via ‘Hyperlocal’ Web Sites Deliver News Without Newspapers – NYTimes.com.

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Finding Utility in the Jumble of Tweeted Thoughts – NYTimes.com

04/14/2009

But taken collectively, the stream of messages can turn Twitter into a surprisingly useful tool for solving problems and providing insights into the digital mood. By tapping into the world’s collective brain, researchers of all kinds have found that if they make the effort to dig through the mundane comments, the live conversations offer an early glimpse into public sentiment — and even help them shape it.

via Finding Utility in the Jumble of Tweeted Thoughts – NYTimes.com.


Critique of Urban Geography (Debord)

04/14/2009

It has long been said that the desert is monotheistic. Is it illogical or devoid of interest to observe that the district in Paris between Place de la Contrescarpe and Rue de l’Arbalète conduces rather to atheism, to oblivion and to the disorientation of habitual reflexes?

via Critique of Urban Geography (Debord).


A Brief History of the Status Message

04/09/2009

Every time you change your status on instant messenger or send a tweet, you’re taking advantage of the simplicity and power

Mundu IM status messages
Image by BigBlue via Flickr

of status updates. How did status updates begin and how have they evolved since their first iterations?

For a brief historical analysis of how the status update as we currently know it has evolved from an early form of instant messaging in the 60s to the multifaceted, rich-media update of today, we’ll take you back in time and highlight some of the important milestones as short-form messages transitioned from static to status.

via A Brief History of the Status Message.

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10 papers you need to read | Science for SEO

04/08/2009
Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Here’s a list of resources about how information retrieval works. Considering our conversation last night about invocational media and devices and the use of Google searches to illustrate the concept, I thought this might be interesting to classmates, if a bit avocational. hehe.

This is a list of my top 10 freely available papers on the topic of information retrieval.  You will notice that they are rather old, but the techniques used described and the findings are not always dated.  Those that dated are important nonetheless because they provide a good foundation to understanding why things are as they are in information retrieval these days.

Source: 10 papers you need to read | Science for SEO from http://www.scienceforseo.com/information-retrieval/10-papers-you-need-to-read/ retrieved on Wed Apr 08 2009 09:45:36 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)

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Two Readings for April 7th, 2009

04/05/2009

1. Provide a quick over view or summary of the readings (3 – 5 sentences) (8pts)

Image of a horse from the Lascaux caves.
Image via Wikipedia

In Walter Benjamin‘s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936) he contemplates the ways in which art as a concept, and an object is fundamentally classified by several factors, including state of uniqueness, state of originality, reproducibility, aura, method of recording, method of modifying, and effort. For instance, Benjamin argues that there is inherently greater artistic value for the viewer in seeing an original painting on canvas than there is in seeing a plate of the same painting in a magazine. He gives a stunning and interesting history of the ways in which technological advances in recording and reproduction have changed between the Lascaux cave drawings and the films of 1936.

Why the Digital Computer is Dead by Chris Chesher looks at the problematic usage of terms like digital images, computers, and analog in order to describe the tools, ideas and functions that they represent, because they are in a disconnect with the actual items or ideas, e.g. digital images may simply be digital representations of analog produced source images, such as paintings. They may also be mixtures of analog and digital ideas, such as a digitally represented word (such as Switzerland) in an analogic representative font (such as Helvetica) and trying to use a simple blanket statement to say that both ideas are part of a single concept, such as digital or analog, may be lacking. Chesher argues that the analogy of ‘invokational media’ where we call upon, or invoke, services and applications to do our bidding, may begin to bring a stronger understanding to those who use it than ‘computing’.

2. Clearly Identify what you feel are 3 key ideas in the readings (8pts)

The reproducibility of a creative work increases its availability while decreasing its uniquity, making it more commonplace, more accessible, and perhaps less beautiful. Theoretically, in a world of Brad Pitt clones (or xeroxed Jasper Johns paintings), anyone of any different facial appearance (or a Bruce Nauman piece) would be either a precious beauty of the highest order or a wildly interesting, though socially (or aesthetically) ugly specimen.

The original representative words for computing concepts from the 1970s are often the long lasting words that we still use today to descibe and communicate those concepts, but Chesher argues that words such as digital, analog, computer, word processor, etc. may be inadequate for representing what those ideas have grown into today, yet the words hang on as representative nomenclature.

If we can move from the idea of computer as simple tool to Chesher’s invokational media as an interface to having your every need attended to (if only you can remember the commands or URLs or click sequence) we may be able to move forward as a technological society. If we envision services as muses asked to meet our societal and cultural needs, we may do better than to simply see the machine in front of us as a hammer, but instead as a microphone with a multitude of winged listeners, awaiting our commands.

3. Support your summary and/or key points with three specific references to the readings (7pts)

Grave of Walter Benjamin in Portbou, Spain
Image via Wikipedia

So the digital computer is dead. I have hopefully shown that invocational media are characterised not by digitality nor computation, but by calling things up. The first order of invocation is the fetch-execute cycle. By putting command and memory into the same circuit, the invocatory device becomes invocational. The second order of the invocation is the invocationary act. Users compose invocations to do things, but in doing so depend upon avocations and invocable domains that pre-exist that event. Finally, third order invocations are the concepts invoked to hold together invocational platforms.

Address : <http://www.ctheory.net/printer.aspx?id=334>
Date Visited: Sun Apr 05 2009 22:05:39 GMT-0400 (EDT)

Works of art are received and valued on different planes. Two polar types stand out; with one, the accent is on the cult value; with the other, on the exhibition value of the work. Artistic production begins with ceremonial objects destined to serve in a cult. One may assume that what mattered was their existence, not their being on view. The elk portrayed by the man of the Stone Age on the walls of his cave was an instrument of magic. He did expose it to his fellow men, but in the main it was meant for the spirits. Today the cult value would seem to demand that the work of art remain hidden.

Address : <http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm>
Date Visited: Sun Apr 05 2009 22:07:41 GMT-0400 (EDT)

The consequent relationship between a human and an electronic invocator is a quasi-magical refrain of the ancient cultural form of invocation. When someone utters a properly formed command, the invocator seems to respond to the user’s command. A web page is summoned. A document curls out of a laser printer. A song begins to play. The general purpose of these devices is to mediate invocations. But like the Muses, invocators are notoriously capricious, not always producing what the invoker had hoped.

Address : <http://www.ctheory.net/printer.aspx?id=334&gt;
Date Visited: Sun Apr 05 2009 22:10:19 GMT-0400 (EDT)

4. Identify the most difficult or challenging concept for you from this week’s readings. Saying “I don’t know” or “nothing was difficult” is not an adequate response. (8pts)

I felt like the reading of the Benjamin piece was gratifying and interesting, but fairly difficult to read. Wrapping my head around concepts like the significance of the original when we are living in a world with YouTube where the original can not only be identically bit-for-bit copied but also transformed into a wholly new work when combined with other original works, or the significance of the role of writer being threatened by editorials in 1936 when we have editorials in the form of comments on virtually every web site, made it far harder to think about these concepts (originality, uniqity) in modern terms.

5. Provide 2 or 3 discussion questions for us to talk about in class (6pts)

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 15: A man holds his hand u...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

If a painting is unique, and the film exposed in a camera is unique but the print from the film is simply a duplicate, and if Benjamin’s argument that duplicates are of lesser value than that of originals, consider the following. In the case of digital video recorded directly to memory hich can be reproduced indefinitely without any difference between the original bit sequence and any copy’s bit sequence, is the reproduced work equal in value to the original or is the original lessened in value with each reproduction?

If you were to design a new interface for what we call computing, in which Chesher’s ideal of the invokational media magical analogy was the framework, what would the invoker look like while using it, what would she be doing, what peripherals would be used, if any, and how would the invokational devices be switched on.

6. Discuss how this week’s readings might relate to your upcoming presentation, paper or to the “real world.” Here too, saying “I don’t know” or “it does not apply” is not an adequate response. (8pts)

I feel like the Benjamin piece puts blogging, digital copying, and digital video in a wholly new perspective. If I pause in the creation of my :30 second clip to consider Benjamin’s thoughts on the differences between a rendering of a hand, a photo of a hand, and a film of a hand, I can take my clip from the utilitarian to the sublime by a change in angle, in light, in lens, in degree of focus, and bring about a new, deeper meaning to the clip.

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

If I discard the notions of computing as we know them, disowning the concepts of digital versus analog, and simply think of the interface as a point of invokation for my needs and my bidding to be done, I may become a more powerful, more spiritual, more connected user… er. invoker.

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How Twitter Makes You A Better Writer — Copyblogger

03/25/2009

By now you’ve most likely joined Twitter (and if you haven’t, you need to, pronto!). Twitter is not only a great place for businesses and marketers, but it’s also a great place to spruce up your writing skills.

Yes. You read that correctly.

Twitter can make you a better writer. Here’s how.

via How Twitter Makes You A Better Writer — Copyblogger.


Additional Articles to support “Twitter is Making Us Brilliant”

03/19/2009
Image representing comScore as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Another article on Twitter‘s stratosperic growth at impressive rates, I’m going to use this to support statistics on how big the phenomenon is.

Maybe it is all the TV news mentions, but Twitter is seeing the growth in U.S visitors to its site accelerating. In February, 4 million people in the U.S. visited the site, up from 2.6 million the month before, according to the latest data from comScore. That represents a 55 percent month-over-month growth rate, compared to 33 percent growth in each of the two months prior. (ComScore has yet to release February figures for worldwide visitors, but for January that number is 6 million).

via Whoa, Twitter Mania.

Here is an article with a list of eBooks that I may or may not be able to make use of, all free, all about some aspect of Twitter, any of which may come in handy:

Approximately 24 hours ago, internet marketing firm HubSpot released its first State of the Twittersphere report for the fourth quarter of 2008, analyzing assorted growth rates, following/follower ratios, and geographic data.

Among the results, we now know about 7,500 people join the Twitter ranks every day; 35% of Twitter users have 10 or less followers; and nine percent follow nobody at all.

Source: 8 Free eBooks on Twitter — AriWriter
from http://ariwriter.com/2008/12/8-free-ebooks-on-twitter/
retrieved on Thu Mar 19 2009 21:56:35 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)
Also, here is an article on the idea that social network users can be generally classified into two groups (obviously playing on Theory X Theory Y construct of leadership and motivation, e.g. http://www.12manage.com/methods_mcgregor_theory_X_Y.html) as a way of introducing that I personally am of the Y type (in both theories)

As sites like Twitter and Friendfeed continue to increase in popularity on the web, so does the potential for users to extract value from these communities. However, while there are many people who love to be at the forefront of it all, others are only there because they have to.

I’ve found there are [VERY] generally, two schools of thought on Social Media and it’s future.   There are the skeptics who I call Type X thinkers, and the believers who I call Type Y thinkers.

Source: On Social Media, Are You a Type X or Type Y Thinker? | introspective snapshots from http://www.sheysmith.com/2009/03/17/on-social-media-are-you-a-type-x-or-type-y-thinker/ retrieved on Thu Mar 19 2009 09:12:07 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)

Here’s a short indication of how Tweeting can inform in ways that you might not expect, or want, but clearly an indication of collective intelligence (italics are mine)

A lucky job applicant tweeted the following:

Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.

This tweet caught the attention of Tim Levad, a channel partner advocate for Cisco. To which he responded:

Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.

Ouch! The person who dissed the Cisco offer quickly took their Twitter account private. But Twitter search retained the record.

Source: socialmedian: How to Tweet Your Way Out of a Job from http://www.socialmedian.com/story/3566274/how-to-tweet-your-way-out-of-a-job retrieved on Thu Mar 19 2009 09:26:30 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)

And here is another article speaking about Twitter’s astronomical growth:

The latest numbers from Nielsen Online indicate that Twitter grew 1,382% year-over-year in February, registering a total of just more than 7 million unique visitors in the US for the month. Not only is that huge growth in one year, but in one month as well, as in January, Twitter.com clocked in with 4.5 million unique visitors in the US, meaning the service grew by more than 50 percent month-over-month.

Source: Twitter Now Growing at a Staggering 1,382 Percent from http://mashable.com/2009/03/16/twitter-growth-rate-versus-facebook/ retrieved on Thu Mar 19 2009 17:21:50 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)

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