Getting swamped online and feeling left behind versus Space to connect, probe, reflect

A story often repeated from a friend’s family:  It’s the 1970s.  The older son, aged about six, is keen on stories about rockets and astronauts.  From the car window he sees a billboard and cries out: “Dad, dad, stop, look:  ‘Space to rent’!”

Well, it’s neither outer space nor the space on billboards that this post is concerned with, and it is not something one can get by laying down money.  It is the space that gets squeezed when we get swamped with online input as we try to avoid feeling left behind.  Spend a little time in a connectivist MOOC or following people on twitter and you’ll probably feel swamped or fragmented or unsure that you can synthesize or keep in mind all the interesting items you are coming across.

The first response is to turn off and tune out.  Another approach is to allow yourself a delimited amount of time per day, say 30 minutes, to explore online offerings or sharings and also carve out equal or more time (preferably when you are fresh at the start of the day) to gather your thoughts based on whatever is currently in view or in mind, which may be quite different from what you have to do for your work or project or studies.  Such “refractive practice,” in which you give yourself space to  “connect, probe, and reflect” (http://wp.me/p1gwfa-sr), makes it less likely that you feel left behind when you don’t follow or respond to every thread that is offered, however worthwhile they seem at first sight.

Eventually or ideally, we would like to go further, for our online interactions to support us in lifelong development that combines—gives integrity to—our personal, professional, and friendship realms.  Instead of having to set limits or worry about being left behind, we feel clear about what we are choosing to get involved in and thrive in the involvement.  Another way to express this is to say that we are well scaffolded and provide sustainable scaffolding for others (http://wp.me/pPWGi-wJ).

Today I happened to revisit the principles of the Burning Man festivals and their worldwide offshoots: http://bit.ly/15y5Nxf.    I haven’t seen a more fully developed view of what I would call scaffolding.  But, when I think about this as a model for scaffolding in work and life, I realize that these festivals duck the problem by building emphemerality into the name and the symbol — the giant Man gets Burned at the end, the site is cleaned up so as to leave no trace, and everyone goes home.  Some relationships formed at the festivals continue and mini-burners are arranged in local communities, but the festival scaffolding doesn’t have to address the challenge of how one helps people (oneself included) open up or see alternative paths in the complex conjunction of people (and their component strands: body, cogitation, unconscious), community, context, tools and processes, and focus on a product (see http://wp.me/p1gwfa-xv).  Are there useful translations to the non-emphemeral that can be made?

Today I started to reread Vivian Paley’s The Girl with the Brown Crayon.  There is sustained and open-ended scaffolding going on in the kindergarten classroom she describes.  Are there useful translations to the case of working with adults that can be made?

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When the Social, not the Medium, is the Message: Community-building and Research Collaboration in Virtual Spaces

On the internet, individuals, groups, and communities try to create–or to contribute to–spaces where they can communicate and build knowledge in ways beyond what is possible in the daily round of face-to-face interactions. Yet it can be difficult to navigate the changing technologies of social media, each with its own interface and device configurations. Read more of this post

New Social Media: From technologies to spaces we make for virtual and face-to-face interactions

Although my initial post in this series suggested we think less about the technological side of New Social Media and more about the kinds of interactions we want to cultivate, the first consideration when using internet technologies should be maintenance of the infrastructure.  Many new websites, blogs, and twitter accounts begin with a splash only to be left untended, becoming like the fraying fliers we see stapled to telephone poles or noticeboards—at least, when we bother to look.  Read more of this post

When the Social, not the Medium, is the Message: On the spaces we make for virtual and face-to-face interactions

Periodically I find myself confused about my online presence and contributions.  Am I using wikis, blogs, twitter, social networks, and email effectively?  Effective by what criteria?  Indeed, who am I trying to influence?

My explorations of what others say about this recently has led me to a position—albeit a provisional one—that I don’t see expressed elsewhere.  The social, not the medium (or technology), should be the primary consideration. Read more of this post

When the Social, not the Medium, is the Message: A Workshop on Community-building and Research Collaboration in Virtual Spaces

On the internet, individuals, groups, and communities try to create or contribute to spaces where they can communicate and build knowledge in ways beyond what is possible in the daily round of face-to-face interactions. Yet it can be difficult to navigate—either as a designer or user—the changing technologies of social media, each with its own interface and device configurations. To better facilitate personal development, group collaboration, community engagement and inquiry, designers need to find processes and mechanisms that are at once integrated but flexible and adaptable to multiple purposes and audiences.

When the Social, not the Medium, is the Message (the title a gesture to McLuhan) will be a day-long workshop at UMass Boston, consisting of a series of explorations, dialogues and conversations will bring together people who share an interest in community-building and research collaboration in virtual spaces—as well as in the wider social world. The sessions are designed to build on the experiences and practices of those who participate. Although a minimum of on-line technology will be used in the sessions, a small number of participants from a distance can join the workshop via skype.

Hosted by the new Science in a Changing World graduate track.  For more information, see http://sicw.wikispaces.umb.edu/SMWorkshop

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