My Students on Facebook

Just like a lot of other social networking spots before it (youtube, myspace, and even way back in the days where IRC was all the rage), facebook is beginning to get some negative press and there are calls to ban it in the workplace and to ban it in educational institutions.

Some of my undergrad English students have facebook (not all of them) and even smaller number of students friended me when I mentioned I’d use it as another space to deposit lecture notes for them.  It’s not really a course management space though I will trial a few features and see whether there’s any interest from the students.

What is most interesting to me though in light of all the sudden bad press about facebook is to see what sort of interactions the students are having with each other.  I am not spying on them by the way! And I do not have ethical approval to use anything.  But as a friend I am getting notifications and see a little of what they are doing and saying, and which groups they are joining through my own feed.  So its impossible not to see some stuff!

Here’s what I see:

A lot of discussion about assignments, clarification about criteria, support of each other prior to presentations, support and feedback to each other after presentations, and general discussion of their various units

Comments which are fair though perhaps bordering on harsh about their lecturers (x is such a hard marker, I had lecturer y and she is much easier). These comments are ones I often overhear as I walk into a class before it begins though so they do not surprise me

Some of the groups they join are kind of funny:

“If you can’t differentiate between your and you’re, you deserve to die” – oh yeah I approve of that one;

“Keep your f****** hand down in lecture and shut up. No one cares.” – well hmmm… it depends on the question. Once I had just finished explaining something in a lecture and then a student raised her hand and asked the very question I had answered, so I said “well this is a good test of who has been listening and paying attention, who can answer her?” and had another student answer her;

and “If a ginger kid bites me, what should I do” – I know this is a joke but hey, when you teach young kids and this really happens it is no laughing matter I can assure you!

I see some of the students talking and worrying about how much time they are spending on facebook, so they are conscious of balance and fitting things in.

I would never support banning of any form of social networking in an educational or work environment because so much of the talk and interactions are based on sharing, support and community building.  The jokes and silliness and play that goes on are pretty crucial to the sense of community and to developing trust.  As they trust each other more, they support one another more.

What I worry about more is the groups of students are not on facebook and who aren’t getting that same level of support and rapport developing with their peers. Facebook should become compulsory!  Oh wait… then it wouldn’t be fun…

The Semiotics of Perfume and Social Context

I was surprised to see a bit of a debate going on a BBC site about my post on the semiotics of perfume. It’s a bit of a worry when I throw up some ideas in a kind of flippant way and then find them under scrutiny :)   This is a blog after all!

Anyway let’s get serious for a minute about this to address the critique in the debate.  In my first post I shared a taxonomy of fragrance types.  If we were thinking about it semiotically, then this taxonomy realises both the experiential meanings and the compositional meanings.  I talked about what elements were included in different “genres” of scent, and included an overview of what “notes” were the top notes, the middle notes and the base notes.

But clearly scent makes meaning at the interpersonal level – its how the scent makes the wearer feel (errr… and maybe to an extent the other smellers) that is at the heart of the perfume business.  We’re often told by advertisers how we are supposed to feel – young, sexy, fresh, innocent, beautiful, alluring, adventurous, mysterious, addicted, and so on.  I make it a bit of a practice to read the advertising to see what sort of connections and trends scent marketers are trying to make.  Some are sweet and innocent, some are all romance and fluff, others are explicitly sexual, and some are just pure controversy.  Here’s a mixture of all of the above:

I don’t know about any of you, but I am more disturbed by the crazy look in Sarah Jessica Parker’s eyes in her ad for “Covet” than I am by all of the sex and nudity.

I’m also fascinated with perfume bottles and what meanings they are meant to convey about the scent.

and of course there’s the whole celebrity marketing and branding of perfume these days – it must be a huge industry because even Donald Trump has his own fragrance:

So… I guess I am saying that we can’t really consider any kind of semiotics without thinking about the context in which the perfume is created, the culture surrounding the industry, the marketing behind it, and the social trends which are driving it in new directions.  I’d like to write some more on this but I have to go work on a grant proposal!

Creative Conferencing – The “Unconference”

Today I was invited to be a discussion leader / facilitator at an “unconference” on blogging.  Although I am unsure whether I can accept the invitation yet, I just loved the instructions for the facilitator and wanted to share, particularly in light of some of the critique of the traditional conference scene (poor Alan!). Here are the instructions:

This will be an unusual conference. We generally won’t have speakers, panels or an audience.  We will have discussions and sessions, and each session will have a discussion leader.

The discussion leader
Think of the discussion leader as a reporter who is creating a story with quotes from the people in the room. So, instead of having a panel and an audience we just have contributors.  We feel this more accurately reflects what’s going on. It’s not uncommon for the audience at a conference to have more expertise collectively than the people who are speaking.

The discussion leader is also the editor, so if he or she feels that a point has been made they must move on to the next point quickly. No droning, no filibusters, no repeating an idea over and over.

The discussion leader can also call on people.

Think of it as a weblog
Think of the conference as if it were a weblog. At the beginning of each session, the leader talks between five and fifteen minutes. He or she will introduce the idea and some of the people in the room.

Then he or she will facilitate the discussion among all the contributors in the room, inviting others to comment and asking questions of others. It is hoped that everyone who would like to contribute to the discussion will be able to do so in the allotted time.

We have a limited amount of time, and a group of participants whose time is valuable. The leader’s job is to make sure the show stays interesting, even captivating. If it gets boring people will leave the
room and schmooze, or read their email, or whatever. So the leader’s job is to keep it moving. Sometimes this may mean cutting people off.

How to prepare
Since every person in a session is considered an equal participant, everyone should prepare at least a little. Think about the subject, read the comments on the Conference site. Follow weblogs from other
people who are paticipating. Think about what you want to get out of the session, and what questions you wish to raise, and what information or points of view you’d like to get from the session.

Everyone is a journalist
This will be an unusual conference in that almost everyone participating writes publicly. So we assume that everyone present is a journalist.

On the record
All conversations, whether to the entire room or one-to-one, unless otherwise stated, clearly and up front, are on the record and for attribution. You do not need to ask permission to quote something you hear at the conference. Of course you may ask for permission to quote, and you may choose not to quote things you hear.

It’s a user’s conference
Most technology conferences are centered around the vendors. This is not like those conferences. Here, vendors are welcome, and we hope they will help by sponsoring in some way, but they participate mainly by listening.

Most of the people who will be talking are users. These are the revolutionaries. Vendors make a living by creating tools that these people use to change the world. So much attention is focused on technology.

At this conference we turn it around and focus on what people are doing with the technology.

Internet access
Wireless internet access will be available. Each session will also be hopefully be podcast, audio only. You are welcome to bring your own recording equipment and cameras are allowed. You are free to record it and broadcast it any way you like as long as you don’t interfere with the sessions in any way.

That’s pretty exciting.

I like this: It’s not uncommon for the audience at a conference to have more expertise collectively than the people who are speaking.

But this quite true fact is kind of intimidating: If it gets boring people will leave the room and schmooze, or read their email, or whatever.

Sometimes I get very tired when colleagues IN AN EDUCATION FACULTY lecture to students that we should not consider children to be “empty vessels to be filled up” and yet that is the very paradigm they use themselves when lecturing.  Its also very very frustrating when the worst offenders of being lame and uncreative and masters of boring dot point powerpoint shows are lecturers from an education faculty, or speakers in an education strand.  HELLO!!!  We are supposed to be EXPERTS in pedagogy!!!

Anyway  I am really hoping I get to go to this “unconference” as it sounds fabulous, and provides a creative model for sharing, collaborating and communicating with colleagues.

Digital Fiction and a Question about Copyright

Digital Fiction

I’m presenting next week at a conference AND giving a lecture to undergrad students about the same topic – Digital Fiction.  A bit of synchronocity for a change between teaching, research and conferencing with the profession. I wish that would happen more often!  I’ve taken a shot from one of my favourite examples of digital fiction for young people as my cover slide – the story of Inanimate Alice. I will be able to show a chapter of the story to the students but the conference venue has … well, let’s just say I had to actually write and request internet access with my reason for request so they could assess the need.  *coughs*

I’m beginning to worry more and more about copyright with my powerpoint slides though.  Until now I have figured that if I am using images for educational purposes in a conference presentation or a lecture it should not raise any objections, and nor will the original artists / publishers be likely to ever see that I’m doing it anyway.  But then if I want to share my slides on slideshare and link to a podcast so other people can see/hear, the liberal use of images probably does matter.  I don’t have time to write to a hundred different people for formal permission every time I create a presentation though.  So to share or not to share, that is the question!

The Show Must Go On: Vaudeville hits SL

The Show Must Go On

Yesterday I attended Second Life’s famed Vaudeville production The Show Must Go On, which was held as an opening in world event to coincide with the opening of the SLCC (Second Life Community Convention) being held in Chicago right now. It was fun to be there with some NMC friends and join into the conference in a small way, since I can’t be in Chicago. To be honest I am a bit conferenced out AND I have three more conferences coming up in the next few weeks so it was kind of nice to relax, be social, and not have any commitments to worry about.

Here’s my huge photo set of the many acts from the show. There were many acts – from a snarky comedienne that I found very amusing, to a group of synchronised knitting unicyclists who also defied gravity… errrr… and many other weird and wonderful and not so wonderful but still freakishly “only-in-Second-Life-so-interesting-to-experience” acts.

Creativity in Second Life: Educator’s Panel

Educators Panel Closing Plenary

The final panel session for the NMC’s Symposium on Creativity in Second Life was wonderful!  Chaired by Alan Levine (CDB Barkley), it involved a diverse range of educators involved in Second Life, reflecting about the week’s sessions and creativity in SL in general.  Educators included:

  • Lori Bell (aka Lorelei Junot), Alliance Library System
  • Jo Kay (aka Jokay Wollongong), Illawarra Institute TAFE, New South Wales
  • Hilary Mason (aka Ann Enigma), Johnson & Wales University
  • Troy McConaghy (aka Troy McLuhan), ISM Corporation
  • Nick Noakes (aka Corwin Carillon), Hong Kong University of Science & Technology
  • Beth Ritter-Guth (aka Desideria Stockton), Lehigh Carbon Community College
  • Angela Thomas (aka Anya Ixchel), University of Sydney

Despite issues with sound, we managed to combine both text and sound to do this reflection.  Alan blogged details of the session here, including a podcast and a chat transcript.  I had to do my bit by text instead of voice (luckily I was last so I hastily converted the speaking notes I had into close to proper sentences while other people were talking).  Some of the comments seem to have been truncated in the transcript though, so, for anybody interested, I am including my notes (and they’re a bit messy!) under the fold.
Educators Panel Continue reading

NMC Session: Creative Identity Play

Creative Identity Play Session

Yesterday I presented my session about avatars and identity play in Second Life. It was more of a workshop than a presentation, and there were some wonderfully fascinating stories people shared about their avatars: why they created them and crafted them the way they did; what decisions they made about identity markers to include; how other people perceived their avatars; and any identity experiments (gender, fashion, race and so on) that they had explored. I really enjoyed hearing people’s stories, and wish I had had the foresight to log a transcript of the chat!! I managed to crash out 5 times during the session :/ This meant I didn’t have time in the end to really recap some of the central points I wanted to make!! Here are some shots from the session of people sharing and participating:

Creative Identity Play Session

Creative Identity Play Session

Creative Identity Play Session

Creative Identity Play

Creative Identity Play Session

Creative Identity Play

Creative Identity Play

… and a few resources, links, landmarks, copies of slides, free clothes and avatars and so on were given out at the end. If you didn’t get to go to the session (or you missed out because you had to leave early) and would like a gift bag, just send me an im in world!

(My thanks to CDB Barkley, Joanna Trailblazer, Jokay Wollongong, Heidi Trotta, Nick Noakes, Stephanie Misfit, Tasrill Sieyes, Desideria Stockton, Thinkerer Melville, Anne Enigma, Larry Pixel and many many others who contributed in various ways to the session – by sharing stories, posing for photos, letting me use their photos, contributing avatars and giving me freebies to add to the resources kit!)

Transmedia Puzzle Solving Game/Story/Prize

Wow! A jigsaw puzzle with emailed anagrams, clues all over the web, and a 1 million pound prize for the first person who solves it.  How exciting!

But if you want to be amused, read the part in the comments section where one person complained about not being able to get to the site to register for the emailed puzzle bits.  Another commenter remarked  – “If you can’t find how to sign up, you’re not going to have very much success trying to find the 1000 pieces of this jigsaw”. *laughs*

Our NMC Session – Teaching On the Second Life Stage: Playful Educational Strategies for Serious Purposes

(Note: Thanks to Jokay for taking these snapshots!)

Kim and I doing our roleplaying session for NMC

Kim Flintoff and I did our NMC Symposium on Creativity in Second Life session this morning. Our session introduced the concept of educational drama and involved setting up a context and doing some role-playing. Here is the abstract again for anybody who missed it:

Teaching On the Second Life Stage: Playful Educational Strategies for Serious Purposes


Angela Thomas (aka Anya Ixchel), University of Sydney

Kim Flintoff (Kim Pasternak), Edith Cowan University

Theatrical spaces have historically been places used to teach, purge and shape culture. For over a decade, virtual reality has offered a new kind of theatrical space; now, with the rise of social networking spaces, many more people are using the potential of the web to perform, critique and comment on cultural issues. Second Life provides a new and exciting space where students can explore issues that are both personal and global in significance. Teaching strategies which incorporate dramatic and theatrical components are perfectly suited in the Second Life environment for engaging students in playful but meaningful reflection on such issues. This session will involve participants in role-playing, reflection and discussion. Participants will also be encouraged to brainstorm the possibilities of incorporating such strategies into their own educational programs.

We set the drama in a fictional Second Life future, one in which the company of Linden Lab had outlawed anything M rated and above. Setting the drama in a fictional place, space or time allows people to reflect on significant cultural issues from the safety of that fictional distance. Learning can take place somewhere in the space between the fictional and the real.

We provided an open letter to the Lindens set in 2009 for participants to read. Here’s a copy of our letter:

Open Letter to Linden Lab Staff

February 20, 2009

We, the undersigned, are concerned about way Second Life has moved away from its grassroots principles of freedom of expression and participatory culture into a sanitized Disneyland state. We recall in 2004 when Phillip Linden proudly, enthusiastically and energetically espoused his philosophical stance about Second Life:

“So SL poses a new question… what if the online environment offered you MORE freedoms than the real world, in just about every way. I assert … that we might therefore actually behave better in such a place. We might learn faster, interact more deeply, and therefore become better people, at least on some levels. Little has been written about this. I am asserting that this will only occur in an environment in which the freedoms are not a laundry list of experiences, a-la-Disneyland, but instead a fundamental ability to express yourself; these are the real freedoms. I am saying that if you have more freedoms, in an expressive sense, you might have better or at least more complex behavior.” (Philip Linden, Second Life Herald Interview, June 21, 2004)

Indeed, during the first three to four years of Second Life, citizenship grew to several million users precisely because of the liberties and creativities found in such an “infinite possibilities” standpoint. People entered Second Life for a multiplicity of purposes, and its success today is directly related to the opportunities provided by user created content. Collaborative creativity on a global scale was never so exciting and exhilarating, and you might even recall that in 2007, the ground-breaking educational innovators at the New Media Consortium held a symposium on creativity in Second Life.

Yet since early 2007, there has been a steady decline in the freedoms enjoyed by and afforded to our citizens. First of all, advertising and signage related to certain sexual practices was outlawed. Soon thereafter, all casinos and houses of gambling were removed. In early 2008, there was crackdown on all explicit sexual practices – the furry avatar was removed as an option at log-in, and all Gorean sims were shut down. By the end of 2008, all known sims and clubs that offered simulated sexual practices were removed without warning.

But by far we, the undersigned, believe that the most debilitating move on Linden Lab’s part is the new TOS policy issued in January of this year, 2009, to remove all M rated sims and M rated content, even in citizen’s private homes. With 30 million users, all over 18 and adult, we cannot understand this move to reduce Second Life to Disneyland, which serves only to stifle the creativity and personal freedom of expression out of each and very one of us. Second Life is no longer a deeply compelling place for us to live, to work, and to do our business. We therefore call for an immediate return to the terms of service as set out at the beginning of 2007.


Then we gave out role badges (student, teacher, parent, admin) and participants worked in small groups to research a position they would take in response to the letter.

Roleplaying session for NMC

Roleplaying session for NMC

Then we held a TV press conference – the poster advertising the TV press conference had the title: “Disneyland or Jurassic Park: What kind of Second Life do YOU want?” This involved the presenter (Kim) speaking to representatives of each group, while the roving reporter (me!) took commentary from the streets and questions from our studio audience.

Roleplaying session for NMC

Roleplaying session for NMC

At the end people had to submit votes for whether or not they would also sign the open letter to the Lindens.

These are the strategies we used:

  • Text as starting point
  • Group in-role research and discussion
  • Role-play (teacher in role, questioning, mantle of the expert)
  • Decision / Conscience alley

If we had time, we could have also done the following:

  • Teacher in role as the “expert” – the teacher could hold a town hall meeting where Philip Linden (the teacher or a brave student) comes to hear what people have said and talk to their concerns
  • Writing in role / photography in role – students could write a fictional blog post about the press conference – either collectively, or individually, and include a snapshot they took
  • In groups, students create a still image of themselves in the future, to depict what the outcome of their letter was by 2010

The 50 minutes to an hour was nowhere enough to do the subject justice, but hopefully it was sufficient for people to get a taste of how easily and effectively drama and role-playing can be employed to stimulate research, discussion and enthusiasm about a topic. And it was fun – I was laughing a lot and had to toggle my voice off, especially when Corwin Carillon, that rebellious chain smoking anarchist, came to do his “vox pop” soundbyte :) Thanks to everybody who made this session such a pleasure!

Rate My Dorm Room


From the article: Old media targets the facebook crowd comes this:

…many traditional media companies are also seeking to capture the Facebook crowd. But one such “old” media company hoping to make big a youth push that might surprise you is E.W. Scripps (SSP), the newspaper publisher that also owns cable channels Food Network, DIY and HGTV.

The company’s Web site has launched a popular feature called Rate My Space, which lets people upload photos of bathrooms, kitchens, yards and other “spaces” so that people can judge them and offer comments, tips and friendly advice. Charity Curley, the vice president of, said that the Rate My Space section of has 41,000 registered users and has generated 44 million page views since the end of February.

But for the most part, HGTV has catered mainly to an older audience. Now, HGTV is going after the kids as well. The company has quietly launched a Rate My Dorm Room feature on the site in order to attract the people that are most familiar with the concept of social networking and user-generated content.

I’m wondering whether the ratings system is used differently with the younger crowd to the adult crowd.  It kind of reminds me of the research that was done (about 10 years ago now – before myspace and facebook even existed) on how youth websites were analagous to their private bedroom spaces and a form of identity play. But it also makes me want to click on the photos on the cork board to get a close up!  It’s like the web has now moved so close to reality now that we want reality to be more web-like.  Or something.

I’ve been double tagged!

Chris and Alan both tagged me for this “8 Random Things About Me” meme. Gee, thanks guys *grin*

The rules are:

1) Post these rules before you give your facts
2) List 8 random facts about yourself
3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

Here are my “random facts”:

  1. The first digital culture community I participated in (when I was 14, I’m not giving the date) was the local CB radio group and my handle was UT102
  2. The first online community I participated in (in 1992) was a fan list for a hot new TV show called Melrose Place
  3. My favourite board game is scrabble but my family stopped playing with me because I would spent too long shuffling my tiles trying to get 7 letter words when it was my turn (yay for scrabulous!)
  4. I love drawing with compressed charcoal
  5. My grade 5 teacher told me I could be a writer one day
  6. My grade 9 English teacher told me I was too verbose
  7. I’ve always wanted to work overseas (anybody hiring?)
  8. Although I am shy with strangers, my close friends call me a drama queen

Oh dear… now who do I know who won’t hate me for tagging them with this? Do I have any volunteers? I always spread the nice memes and I’ve even happy to do the first part of this because people asked me to and I am very obliging. But I feel really instrusive asking people to join in given that this one is of the “oh no *groan*” variety.


Why stick to the rules? Let’s bend them a bit. I need 8 people to come back here and comment and tell me they would love to reply and link to the reply on their blog. I’ll give big kudos to you 8 people…..



Wonderful person #1 : Ailsa

Wonderful person #2:  KJ

Wonderful person #3: Matt Skillen

Wonderful person #4:

Wonderful person #5:

Wonderful person #6:

Wonderful person #7:

Wonderful person # 8:

My NMC Symposium on “Creativity in Second Life” Presentations Next Week

Creative Identity Play

Next week the NMC is running an entire weeks symposium on “Creativity in Second Life” There are a number of strands: Machinima, Fashion, Sculpture and Modeling, Virtual Photography, and Teaching Environments, social / arts events, and lots of practical and interactive sessions. I am involved in three sessions, all at (sort of) Australian friendly times. Here are the details of these sessions (in Second Life time):

Fri Aug 17 7pm – Fri Aug 17 8pm

Teaching On the Second Life Stage: Playful Educational Strategies for Serious Purposes


Angela Thomas (aka Anya Ixchel), University of Sydney

Kim Flintoff (Kim Pasternak), Edith Cowan University

Theatrical spaces have historically been places used to teach, purge and shape culture. For over a decade, virtual reality has offered a new kind of theatrical space; now, with the rise of social networking spaces, many more people are using the potential of the web to perform, critique and comment on cultural issues. Second Life provides a new and exciting space where students can explore issues that are both personal and global in significance. Teaching strategies which incorporate dramatic and theatrical components are perfectly suited in the Second Life environment for engaging students in playful but meaningful reflection on such issues. This session will involve participants in role-playing, reflection and discussion. Participants will also be encouraged to brainstorm the possibilities of incorporating such strategies into their own educational programs.

Sat Aug 18 4pm – Sat Aug 18 5pm

No More Business Suits Please: Creative Identity Play in SL


Angela Thomas (aka Anya Ixchel), University of Sydney, Australia

Second Life offers a unique opportunity to refashion one’s self and to play with fictional identities. Yet many of us who work inside Second Life feel trapped in our offline identity roles and conform to traditional discourses of femininity, masculinity, appearance, beauty and fashion. Professionals wear business suits, educators cry out for more modest clothing, and artists wear funky coloured skins. In some contexts, people who resist these discourses are discriminated against. This session explores how we might be able to leverage one of the greatest affordances of Second Life—the avatar—for personal, community and professional agendas.



Sat Aug 18 5pm – Sat Aug 18 6pm

Panel Session: Reflections on Creativity in Second Life


Moderator: Alan Levine (aka CDB Barkley), The New Media Consortium
Lori Bell (aka Lorelei Junot), Alliance Library System
Jo Kay (aka Jokay Wollongong), Illawarra Institute TAFE, New South Wales
Hilary Mason (aka Ann Enigma), Johnson & Wales University
Troy McConaghy (aka Troy McLuhan), ISM Corporation
Nick Noakes (aka Corwin Carillon), Hong Kong University of Science & Technology
Beth Ritter-Guth (aka Desideria Stockton), Lehigh Carbon Community College
Angela Thomas (aka Anya Ixchel), University of Sydney


Voice in Second Life

I guess everybody will be blogging about voice in Second Life over the next few weeks. The latest download released has voice fully enabled, and despite my initial experiences with the trial grid being frustrating, I had an amazingly positive experience with the new version.  Last night I tried it out with friends and fellow bloggers Jerry, Sharon and Alja.  I should disclose that I have met Jerry and Sharon in “real life”, they are fellow Australians, and I’ve been enjoying a renewed enthusiasm for Second Life since they joined (I wonder if other people experience peaks and slumps in their enthusiasm?).  I’ve also talked through the live streaming function a number of times for conferences.  So the thought of voice wasn’t in any way intimidating, and didn’t threaten any sort of fictional persona I had going on (I think these are the two main concerns reported to date).

All four of us experienced technical difficulties to begin with, and I have to say getting it working is not for the faint of heart or the (like me) easily-frustrated-when-technology-doesn’t-do-what-you-want.  But after maybe an hour or so, it was all sorted out and we’d launched into a full scale party, with Jerry playing his fiddle (Jerry is an incredible musician!), all of us dancing, and lots and lots of laughter.  Jerry has a photo and a great write-up here. It was lovely to hear Alja’s Slovenian accent and to learn how to pronounce her name properly!  We had a few other people come and go – one guy was practising his English on us – and it was all wonderfully entertaining.  It was fun to share the experience at an entirely new level – so much so that when one of my other friends came along who didn’t have voice enabled, we felt terribly sorry for her because she was missing out on all the hilarities.

I think voice will offer the opportunity for much more full scale immersion, interaction, and engagement. And now that I have such a fantastic experience I can easily see it revolutionising communication.  The only negative thing I have to say about it is that personally, I found it exhausting after a few hours had ticked by – it was quite intense and I couldn’t multitask like I usually do.  Trust me, being chatty and engaging for hours at a time can be draining, especially if you’re more naturally an introvert.  I look forward to seeing how others are experiencing it.

The Cross-Media Self


Yesterday when I added Andy Piper as a friend on Facebook, I flippantly said “now we’re friends everywhere” – since I knew him on Second Life, on Facebook, on twitter, on flickr, on his blog, and through his comments on my blog.

He paused for a while, then replied with a wide ASCII grin:

“friends *everywhere*? 8-) see“ 

I clicked the link, and my jaw literally dropped in astonishment at the number of tracks Andy makes across the web.  How the HECK can any one person do so much?!?!

Right now I feel pretty overwhelmed by the number of social media spaces I seem to exist in: 3 blogs, 3 or 4 roleplaying forums, a fan forum, a zine, flickr, linkedin, twitter, facebook, Second Life (plus an alt), 2 youtube accounts, gmail, work mail, skype, google chat. People keep inviting me to new things but I just don’t have the time!  And each one of these has channels or groups or threads – I am in 63 flickr groups, 19 facebook groups, subscribe to numerous blog feeds, several podcasts and a number of youtube channels.  I’m part of 2 high traffic email lists (Association of Internet Researchers and Second Life Education), and about 10 low to medium traffic ones.

My solution at handling them all is to concentrate on two or three at a time.  The amount of reading and writing and uploading and downloading and viewing and clicking I do every day is becoming ridiculous.  I am a terrible commenter on friend’s blogs, I only blog once every day or two, I barely post to email groups, and I only keep up with urgent emails.  If I tried to fully engage in everything I wouldn’t ever get any work done!
Andy wrote a post about his experiences called The Quicksand of Web 2.0, in which he debates some of the pros and cons of different applications and talks about addiction and his “off switch”.

Its all left me wondering about the kind of identity play we engage in across all of these different spaces we inhabit, and the type of narrative constructions other people are making about us as they make connections between our multiple cross-media selves.

And is it possible for people who read your work across these spaces to suddenly get turned off by a bad case of TMI (too much information)?  Or as one of my literary colleagues is wont to say, “that person just has too much narrative going on.”

But not you Andy :)

Living on Cybermind


I am so excited for my friend Jon whose book Living on Cybermind is due for release soon. We are planning a joint book launch later in the year.  I met Jon through, of course, the email list Cybermind, which is the subject of his book.  He talks about issues of identity, gender, community, ethics and truth in online spaces. He and Jerry were both stalwarts of the list who inspired me tremendously in my research into digital culture. Both of our books are in the same New Literacies series, edited by Colin Lankshear, Michele Knobel, Michael Peters and Chris Bigum.

On Facebook and Twitter: more from me and my new friends


On Facebook:

Here are two fantastic podcasts to listen to about Facebook:

Tama Leaver discusses the recent MySpace / Facebook class meme that has generated a lot of International media attention, on Australian radio

Robert Scoble (and Calacanis and Felder) debate the value of facebook, particularly for the business community and its potential for viral marketing

I am totally hooked on Facebook, well at least for now *laugh*. I think the chance to play asynchronous games of scrabble has a lot to do with it!! But there are a couple of key reasons I find it culturally intriguing:

1. I’m really interested in the way it seems to conflate all my different life groups together and what that might mean. In Second Life there has been some blurring of boundaries between work and play, but there are some pretty clean demarcations of space which construct different areas as one or the other. Facebook on the other hand is much more like one single space, and so everybody you invite in will kind of co-exist. Right now for example, I have family, colleagues, friends and strangers all seeing me interact within and around all these various groups. Now although I have quite an extensive social presence online with my blog, flickr, podcasts, slideshares and so on, I am still quite a private, reserved person in general. So to have people seeing a much wider picture of who I am – like seeing me joke around with my niece, or dedicate a soppy song to a guy I like – is somewhat confronting to my sense of public vs private persona.

Australia has been late to come to Facebook. FB only became international in September of last year (I think) and our Universities have been slow to adopt. Right now there are only a few faculty members in all of my University using it, and none of my immediate Education colleagues have it. I’ve asked some of my students if they have it and have been met by blank stares. So although I don’t really mind for now that all my friends see so many aspects of my identity, I suspect I might come to censor it down the road a bit if it becomes widely used amongst my students.

2. The whole “friending” thing has been theorised really well by others who write about MySpace, and some people have called it a performance of identity that is contrived and fake. It’s also similar to the whole linking on blogs thing – as if who you link to might make you somehow better perceived by others just by association. But Facebook feels a bit different because its a reciprocal thing, so people are only listed as my friends if they choose to be. I have to confess that when Howard Rheingold became my friend I was thrilled, because it opened up a dialogue and we’re now also friends in Second Life. But I am equally thrilled when somebody I don’t know so well becomes my friend because I feel as though I have been invited into their personal domain – the flip side of the concern I had in point 1! People I didn’t know very well before, I now feel a lot closer to. I am exchanging messages with blog friends whose blogs I (shamefully) barely comment on (Scoble and his friends talk about this phenomenon in the podcast I linked to above). I am playing scrabble with people I might only have exchanged 2 emails a year with before! (I get hundreds of emails a day and am terrible at keeping up). Perhaps this is a false sense of friendship or community or relationship because I am just projecting here, but for now I am all wide eyed about it all.

On Twitter:

Here are some great posts about twitter I have noticed in the past two days:

Chris Duke talks about the uniqueness of twitter, what makes it special to him, and further elaborates on ambi-synchronicity

Alja writes a detailed and fascinating blog post titled “What makes Twitters Tweet?”

Cogdog and Andy made some great comments here on my last post in case you haven’t seen them, about economy of words and the multiple ways that people use twitter.

Personally I can’t seem to quite get the right feel for twitter yet, and I think that is entirely because of my time zone. I’ve taken some time each working day from the office to have twitter running – at lunch or in the background while preparing lectures, and its been very active and noisy and would be GREAT if I wasn’t trying to work. But with the new semester and hundreds of students (well ok I have 200 students) and lectures and workshops and everything, I just haven’t had time to join in during the busy times. And in the evening when I do have some time to join in, nobody is there until quite late. I’ve really wanted to explore and enjoy and participate, so its meant staying up a lot later than usual, and I won’t be able to sustain that for very long :) I guess that means I need to expand my twittering network.

The other embarrassing thing that happened to me is that I added lots of people to “follow” (i.e. I see everything they say) – and started twittering back in response to the things they were saying because I wanted to join in… and then discovered that they hadn’t added me so they couldn’t see anything I said to them! So it was like I was chatting away to an empty space and… you know what they say when you start talking to yourself, right?

So the synchronous side of things isn’t quite working for me, but its still been amazing from the asynchronous perspective. I found out about the first four links above to podcasts and blog posts from twitter, for example.

And more on the economy of text – the 140 characters you are permitted to use allows people to really play with their language creatively to get their ideas across. This is not new – sms and texting “language” has been around, debated and discussed for some time now. But I have found that with phones extending the number of characters allowed (and adding email functionality to them) that the creativity of language has become less essential in recent times. I’ve found it very refreshing to see this being rediscovered now with twitter, and I really hope they do NOT extend the character limit. I’m so tempted to give my students an assignment in which they have to respond to an essay question in one tweet, so that they learn how to be succinct and clever with their language, instead of some of the long-winded drudgery I get handed up to me :)

OK, midnight scrabble beckons.


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