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reflections…

April 15, 2011

I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn about various social media tools in this class. I feel kind of lucky that I wasn’t taking a full course load, because I had some extra time to play around with different applications… In some cases, it took having a class assignment to challenge me to really examine a new social media tool (mashups… ugh!). And it seems to me that social media has never been more timely – it seems to be playing a significant role in the current election. Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and Facebook are being used to promote the website shitharperdid.com, which apparently received 3.5 million hits in the first 36 hours! It’s been fascinating to watch this go viral, and to imagine the impact it could have on the outcome of the election.

I feel like the class lessons really made me take social media more seriously than I had previously. And the assignments helped me to understand how social networking tools can be used for promotion and communication – what works and what doesn’t. I know that I will continue to use Twitter, and I’m hoping to start a new blog soon…

Thanks to Diane and all my classmates for making this a great class!

(P.S. Here’s a link to the first YouTube video I uploaded. It’s an xtranormal video that I made with my daughter two years ago. And also, feel free to check out the Flickr photos of bread that I made. It’s organic sourdough bread.)

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Games

April 13, 2011

“Six or seven years ago people didn’t use search engines. Just three or four years ago, people didn’t use blogs or podcasts. The world is changing very dramatically very quickly, but videogames might give us a hint of what’s to come” (Kurzweil, 2008).

Last week I saw the documentary Transcendant Man about the ideas of future theorist Ray Kurzweil. While he’s easy to dismiss as a bit of a nut, his ideas are definitely provocative. His principle theory is that computer technology is going to advance to a point where every aspect of human life will be profoundly affected by computers. A lot of his theories discuss artificial intelligence and virtual realities – and the impact they will have on human life. Instead of carrying around smart phones, he believes we will have nanocomputers inside us which will connect us to information, much like the internet does, and which will be able to modify our bodies and our experiences. I’m probably not doing a very good job describing his ideas. But I can see how these ideas relate to gaming technology… Undoubtedly the competition to create more and more realistic virtual game worlds is helping to push forward the development of computer technology.

Kurzweil’s ideas have been fresh in my mind while I’ve been looking at the week’s lesson. I have to say that I am pretty shocked by the realism of some of the virtual worlds in video games today – the violent ones anyway. And it worries me to imagine the effects of playing these violent games for long periods of time. I know that some people talk about the benefits of gaming – hand/eye coordination? – but I have to say I have doubts about the value of gaming. Video games do seem to be preparing people to accept increasingly artificial environments, but I wonder – are they actually good for us?

A friend of mine recently told me about a book called Last Child in the Woods. In the book, author Richard Louv links the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression to the lack of exposure to nature in today’s wired lifestyle. His ideas are based on a growing body of research indicating that exposure to natural environments is essential for healthy childhood development, and emotional and physical well-being in both adults and children. While I haven’t actually read the book yet, what I do know about Louv’s ideas rings true to me. In my own experience, I can say that I feel much more relaxed and healthy after going for a walk in the woods than I do after sitting in front of a monitor for a few hours.

So I’m thinking that maybe libraries should do something to support healthy childhood development. It’s quite likely that public libraries are going to lend games and develop online gaming programs – we all know how popular video games are. But recognizing that children are already spending too much sedentary time inside in front of screens, I think we should encourage them to get outside. If libraries provide video games, perhaps they should also develop some outdoor projects or programs – maybe a community garden or a summer outdoor reading space. Wouldn’t that be great?

Anyway, this week I tried an online game. I would have tried Second Life, but my computer is on its last legs so it wasn’t really an option… Instead, I went with a new Facebook game, America 2049. The game was created by Breakthrough, a human rights organization – it is supposed to raise awareness about human rights issues and social change using popular culture and social media. I was surprised at the sophistication of the game (it’s probably not sophisticated at all, but I don’t play video games so I’m not a good judge). The game is set in the future (2049!), and my character was a spy who was supposed to track down a Ugandan terrorist. I really wasn’t sure what to do; I gathered a few clues and actually broke a (very easy) code, and then I ran out of fuel. While I was waiting for my character to refuel, I checked out the Agent Exchange, where players can communicate with each other. Honestly, I just played because we were asked to try out a game for class; I couldn’t wait to be done. The game seemed to require a significant time commitment, and I just wasn’t up for it. Perhaps the game really will be a “transformative” educational experience for some; I have to say that it was not for me.

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podcasting and mobile technology

April 5, 2011

Podcast is up… take a listen here.

I didn’t actually talk about podcasts in my podcast, but I’d like to mention that I found a site, Library Spot, that links to a number of library-related podcasts. The podcasts are organized into categories; some are from public and academic libraries and are aimed at patrons, but a lot are for library professionals – including book talks, presentations from library conferences, library technology news, training, etc.

I have to say I love podcasts – we listen to a lot of podcasts in our house – but I have never subscribed to any before this week. And I have never listened to them on a mobile device… so I don’t actually associate them with mobile technology. I was happy to find my podcast surprisingly easy to record and upload!

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QR Code

April 2, 2011

Here’s a QR code to my Twitter profile:

qrcode

Check it out – I can’t, because I don’t have a smart phone.

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#tags

March 30, 2011

If you think about it, tags make a lot of sense in a social media context. We can apply personally significant tags to content that we upload – tags that are meaningful and useful to us in a given context. It wouldn’t make sense to use a set of controlled vocabulary to organize user-generated content, because the controlled vocabulary would limit the way we could meaningfully identify items we have uploaded – whether we are talking about images, videos or text. I was struck by the significance of tagging social media content in a recent interview of Dan Savage speaking about videos that have been uploaded to a YouTube channel as part of the “It Gets Better” campaign to support LGBT teens. He talked about the need for these thousands of videos to be catalogued – by tagging them – so that they could be searched and accessed by teens for support for years to come. In the interview Savage explains, “Now the goal is to get them all [the videos] tagged, make them all sortable, create playlists so that, for instance, the trans kids who come to the website can more easily find the videos from trans adults speaking of their experiences that are relevant.”

You can take a listen to the whole interview here.

Over the last week or two, I finally got comfortable using Twitter. It has been remarkable watching Twitter users responding to some of the big events unfolding in the world and in Canada. For instance, I was on Twitter when Jack Layton announced that he would not be supporting the Conservative budget – to the surprise of most political analysts who were predicting he would wait a day to consult with his party. It was interesting to observe the tweets coming in over the next few days, leading up to the election announcement, and how the popular hashtags changed over time – initially people were using #bdgt11 but then switched to #elxn41, #elxn11, #cdnpoli, and now #coalition. I’m sure there will be new hashtags that emerge over the course of the election campaign in response to whatever new developments or scandals make the news. Hashtags appear to very fluid – evolving and responding to current events – in a way that a controlled vocabulary never could.

Summarizr is an interesting site I found that tracks Twitter hashtag statistics – I used it to find out statistics for the hashtag #cdnpoli. You can check out the results here.

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Sara Wiseman: is lifestreaming

March 14, 2011

Although I signed up for Twitter last fall, I hadn’t used the service much. So this week, I really tried to learn how to make use of it. I found more people to follow, I connected my Facebook and Twitter accounts using Tweetdeck, I uploaded a photo using Twitpic, I retweeted, and I made my first tweet directed @someone.

Here’s my Twitpic.

To me, Facebook and Twitter are very different tools. Hardly any of my Facebook friends are on Twitter. Facebook, to me, has been a great way to stay in touch with old acquaintances across the country and to keep connected with friends I see every day. My Facebook connections often post links that interest me – I have found out about new music, documentaries, events, and news through friends with common interests. When I signed up for Twitter, I couldn’t imagine what use another social networking site could be to me. I was, however, quickly impressed by the things it could do that Facebook couldn’t. By following high profile people, Twitter gives me greater direct access to information on topics that interest me than Facebook can. For instance, I follow Steve Silberman, a writer for Wired magazine and also a gay activist, Buddhist, counterculture representative from the San Francisco Bay area. Throughout the semester I’ve been reposting on Edmodo some of the interesting links he has tweeted. Twitter makes it much easier to connect with high profile figures – in any area of interest – than on Facebook. My husband (who doesn’t have his own Twitter account) has me following a number of Buddhist rinpoches. And during Canada Reads last month, the constant flow of tweets from across the country really felt like a national conversation.

But probably the best thing about Twitter is the search function. With this function, I felt like I could connect with a “global chat” – as cliché as that sounds. And before this week’s assignment I didn’t know about the Google Realtime search – a great function for people who aren’t using Twitter because it allows you to search public tweets. Like a regular Google search, a Google Realtime search or Twitter search is not a bad way to start researching a topic of interest – the latest tweets on a subject can provide links from people who are already doing the research. It reminded me of the power of connections we read about in last week’s assignment – only now we can be connected around the world in far less than six degrees! I searched for “deficiencies in a gluten-free diet”, which linked me to a blog which linked me to information I’ve been trying to find for ages. (It’s an obscure interest of mine, and not a lot of research has been done on it yet. Regular Google searches – and even searches on UWO’s library databases – mostly return information on deficiencies caused by a gluten intolerance).

Here’s a cool image I found depicting the “six degrees of Lois Weisberg”:

six degrees of Lois Weisberg

And for the record, I found out about Owsley Stanley’s death on Twitter way before anyone posted about it on Facebook… RIP Owsley.

Owsley Stanley

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Social Networking

March 8, 2011

I joined LinkedIn this week. So far my only connections are my old boyfriend in Montreal, my ex-landlord, the woman who runs the Ancaster farmers’ market, and a software developer friend. I must say, I have a deep aversion to the idea of posting an online resume with no control over who might view it. And it upsets me that this might be expected of someone looking for a job. Honestly, isn’t anything private anymore?

My husband’s Facebook profile was hacked again this week. It’s not like he had top-secret information on his profile, but it still feels like a violation. Somehow, someone accessed his account and hijacked his profile picture and replaced it with another image. Here’s a screenshot – you can see the “rogue” profile photo in the top left-hand corner:

We couldn’t get rid of the image because Sean didn’t upload it; it wasn’t in his photo album, so he couldn’t delete it. The funny thing is that the picture was only showing up on our computer, and only in Internet Explorer (I tried Safari and Firefox, and they were okay). I tried to do a bit of troubleshooting – but no one I talked to had heard of this particular problem before. I did a Google search, as well as searching the topics in Facebook’s Help Center. Contacting Facebook about the problem felt like approaching a monolith – I sent screenshots and described the problem but, as expected, I received no response. I ran a virus scan, which came back with nothing. We thought, perhaps, that Sean would have to close down his Facebook account entirely if he wanted to be rid of the unwanted photo. In the end, I’m ashamed to say how simple the solution was – I deleted all recent browsing history, and the rogue profile picture disappeared!

Which brings me around to the idea of using social networking in the workplace… Certainly, security and privacy are important issues for organizations to take seriously when using social networking sites. Ultimately, organizations should recognize that they have less control over social networking profiles than websites that they create and manage themselves. Even Mark Zuckerberg was a recent victim of hacking on Facebook. One has to ask, “If the Facebook CEO (more accurately, the PR team that’s handling the page for him) can’t keep his Facebook account safe from intruders, who can?” (Schroeder, 2011).

Off hand, I’d just like to mention that Sean was able figure out where the mysterious profile image came from. On Facebook, the image was tiny and difficult to see. It looked a bit like a blown-out car window and a bloody backseat – which is kind of freaky to have as your profile picture. Anyway, Sean remembered reading an article in the Hamilton Spectator about the assassination of the only Christian minister in Pakistan’s government. The article ran with this photo:

So, like a Lois Weisberg of obscure knowledge, Sean made a connection between the car in this photo and the car in his hacked profile picture. He was able to track down a copy of the image on the internet in less than five minutes. Here’s a bigger version:

Pretty gruesome. Needless to say, I’m not feeling enthralled with social networking this week.