Binaries, Polarisation and Privacy

White Noise by Scott Joseph CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
White Noise by Scott Joseph CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In my writing, reading and thinking during the last year or so, some of the recurring themes are ethics, learning, diversity, popularity and polarisation in Internet culture.  Encouraged by my experience at the smallest federated wiki, I am trying different ways of writing, experimenting with partially-formed ideas, linking with and building on what others have written.  I have always blogged in this way but the experience of federated wiki has encouraged me to work in smallish chunks of writing that I can link to others’ smallish chunks without any overarching plan of where I am going.

This post is a bit different from my fedwiki writing. I want to set down some different ideas that seem connected to me because I suspect that I can come back to them later and make different connections, with your help.  I did this in an earlier post that is still ripe for connections for me.  If this post generates anything like the richness of the earlier post’s comment stream, it will be productive labour.

In some ways, we are moving away from limiting old binaries and dualisms like real/virtual, global/local in our exploration of (digital) communication and culture.

Polarisation in public discourse online is a theme that has preoccupied me, and some cogs in my thinking shifted a little when I read this excellent article by David A. Banks, Very Serious Populists.

Just like its government equivalent, voting on social networks is also a nice way to give the illusion that anything and anyone can succeed on merit while actually maintaining the status quo through sociotechnical structures. Tech entrepreneurs deploy voting to show allegiance to their fantasy of a color-blind and genderless meritocracy, predicated on what PJ Rey has shown to be an outdated and debunked notion that the Internet allows us to transcend race, class, and gender by entering a space of pure information. Popular posts are good, the logic goes, because only the best makes it to the front page.

David’s critique of voting on social networks argues powerfully that the ‘binaries’ of up-voting and down-voting are inadequate for dealing with ambiguity and divisive topics. They are a tool for polarisation not a means of going beyond it, and as David suggests the status quo of domination of spaces by white males is maintained, and even reinforced by sociotechnical aspects such as ‘voting’. The idea that someone’s popularity lends additional weight to what they have to say is interesting and deserves to be unpicked.

Another ‘binary’ that has attracted much attention is public/ private – which probably never was and certainly is no longer a binary – and deeply embedded in power relations.   danah boyd’s work has revealed that young people can regard online privacy as a strategy, more to do with who’s there rather than the features of the space itself.

We are all finding our way in the complex private/public spaces we increasingly inhabit and so it’s important to reflect, acknowledge our successes and mistakes and think of how we might do things differently.

In a powerful post, based on recent events and her own frightening experiences, Audrey Watters drew our attention to the nasty practice of doxxing, posting online someone’s personal information (such as social security number or home address). Audrey highlighted the network aspects of doxxing.

After all, doxxing relies on these sorts of large networks. Doxxing relies on amplification.

So even if we are reposting something already ‘made public’, we can be increasing the risks of the doxxed person being subjected to threats and nuisances by others. We can become part of that network of harm.  In the example that Audrey gives, both the original poster and the re-poster may well have seen themselves as on the side of the angels in their wish to defend student privacy.

And for me that links back to polarisation, it may be that we are at most danger of being drawn into networks of harm when we are hell bent on supporting a good cause.

The other thing that is puzzling me is whether or not the binary nature of much of our online participation like/not like, friend/not friend, follow/ not follow, click/not click, upvote/downvote, block/ not block might be seeping into our culture,as well as the platforms on which we enact it.  These are hard clickable binaries trying to capture a world where dualisms can get in the way of understanding complex contexts. I am not suggesting an essentialist view that our use of ‘likes’, etc. will cause polarisation of views but wondering what the impacts of ‘binary participation’ may be in different communication contexts. It’s not just about our choice to click/like but also about how that is used by the algorithms that serve up our feeds, shaping our view of what others say and do.

I would love to hear your thoughts or your links to other writers.

Women making social media work for good causes

20141120_130041
On International Women’s Day I would like to highlight the work of three women doing good with the help of social media and those who participate.

Kate Granger is a witty and engaging woman doctor who has used her experience of being a patient with terminal cancer to launch a campaign that has made life better for thousands of patients worldwide. Watch the video of Kate telling her own story.  You can see the impact of the #hellomynameis campaign at http://hellomynameis.org.uk/  and Kate in operation at @GrangerKate.

I met Cristina Vasilica when she was a student at the University of Salford where she is now a lecturer and PhD student in the College of Health and Social Care. She is still in my networks, and so I have seen the good work she does at the Greater Manchester Kidney Information Network (http://gmkin.org.uk/ ) at Facebook as part of her PhD. As it’s a closed group I can’t link to it but if you are from Greater Manchester and could contribute/ benefit, please contact them via the web site or at @gmkin on Twitter.  You can find out more about her PhD work here – she is doing practical good and contributing to knowledge.

I came across Lou Mycroft on an online course last year, and she has introduced me to an area and philosophy of education that I knew little of before – social purpose education.  Lou works as a teacher educator at Northern College but it isn’t just her student teachers who can learn with and from her – you can too.  She is generous in sharing and the TeachNorthern web site is stuffed with goodies and is a jumping off point for even more. Visit the site, follow her on Twitter at @lounorthern

It’s no coincidence that all three of these women are great learners and teachers.

Cyberbullying film as a resource

Cyber BullyMariana Funes pointed me towards this Channel 4 film and I watched it mesmerised.  If you are in UK you will be able to watch it on catch up at http://www.channel4.com/prog rammes/ukip-the-first-100-days/on-demand/58485-001 .

It’s a story of a young woman who is pursued online by someone who wants to expose to her the cyberbullying that she has conducted.  As Filipa Jodelka says in her review “Cleverly, it’s never totally clear whether Casey is the victim or the perpetrator”. And Channel 4 made a good choice as Filipa Jodelka says “The first and biggest thing they’ve got right is casting Maisie Williams – Game Of Thrones’s Arya Stark – as protagonist Casey Jacobs. ”

So by all means, just watch this film and enjoy it, let it make you think, but if you are an educator, then also consider how the film might provide a prompt for productive conversation with young people who will be experiencing all of the ambiguities that the film reveals.  Of course facilitating such a conversation would require an outstanding teacher/educator but I know that everyone who reads my blog is such a person or knows one.

Its life on Channel 4 catch up might be limited but perhaps we should lobby Channel 4 to release it for educational licensing.

For those of you who can’t see the film there is an account of it on Wikipedia (second best).

 

 

 

Using Linked-in to help ourselves and our network

(This blog post is to support a session I am doing today with colleagues at Salford).

Network image

Joining  Linked-in

To get started on Linked-in, the online professional networking site, you will need to go to the site and join up (consider using an external email address if you are likely to change jobs)..

This video can give you an idea of how it works  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVlUwwgOfKw

Uploading your CV

As you create your CV as a document, be sure to add it to Linked-in.

Building your network

You will not build your network in an afternoon but will do this organically as people invite you to connect to them, and you find people to whom you wish to connect.

You can connect in various ways, two of the most important being:

connections

You might find it useful to have a policy on whom you connect to.  Mine is pretty open for Linked-in as it is professional and not personal so I only outlaw spammers. Also when you are on the site, look for people Linked-in suggests and also search for people you know.  Your network will start to build.

recommendations
A really important feature is that of recommendations, or online testimonials.  We can really help each other in times of job uncertainty by giving specific testimonials to those we have worked with.

Lansley’s Health Bill -Lolcatted in No 10

In the UK, many of our cherished institutions are under threat from the coalition government, none more so than our beloved NHS.  Today a petition to “Drop the Health Bill” http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/22670 passed the magic 100,000 signatures that will help it to be considered in parliament.

In celebration of this momentous occasion, I have LOLcatted an image provided by our own dear prime minister of Larry the No 10 cat

Larry protesting Health Bill
Oh noes to Health Bill

Even the Tory pets are revolting!

Comparing two publication channels – academic journals and blogs

Henry Jenkins by Tamaleaver CC by 2.0
Henry Jenkins by Tamaleaver CC by 2.0
Journals on shelves
Journals by Bezanson CC by 2.0

 

 

I am going to throw out a few initial ideas about comparing academic journals and blogs as publication channels, as a kick off to a writing project I’ll be doing with Cristina Costa.

Let me start by saying that it is very difficult to generalise about either academic journals or blogs as channels since they are each in a state of flux, changing and interpreted differently  by different users and audiences. This post has been provoked by recent discussion on peer review and journals within my (albeit limited) network.  The issues that interest me are:

  • development of research and writing
  • the role of peer review and editing
  • dissemination of research

Obviously, I will be collaborating with Cristina and we will both improving our review of the literature to find what is already known on the subject.

development of research and writing

Blogs can play a role in the development of academic writing.  An author can try out ideas and get feedback.  I have tried this myself  (but can’t point to the posts as they are sadly lost) on a paper I wrote for Networked Learning 2010.  Also I recall a learning developer who posted successive drafts of an essay on their blog in response to readers’ feedback (would love the link to this if anyone has it). I think the intention of this was to reveal the sometimes messy journey of writing rather than to recommend this as a method of writing.

I see writing as a process with a product that emerges from privacy to publication with more eyes seeing and commenting along the way. A tweet may take only a minute to write but increasingly this text is wraparound/trigger to click a link to another text /multimedia artifact such as a blog post or video created over a much longer period.

There are different styles of blogging and plenty of tips on how to do it and writing for different audiences is very useful for an author’s toolkit.

Writing an article for a scholarly journal is likely to be a much more lengthy process with commenting and revisions emerging from the exchanges between authors, reviewers and editor(s) not all which are ‘public’ in the sense the article itself is.  The process for rejected articles is private with no publication endpoint. Journals with a commitment to the development of their authors will try to ensure that peer review is as much about development as about selection/ rejection.  I am interested in the role that blogging and other social media can play in writing development.

the role of peer review and editing

Journal peer review can be double blind (where neither reviewer nor authors are known to each other – though it is sometimes possible for them to guess each others’ identities); single blind where the reviewers know the authors’ identities but they remain anonymous to authors.  Usually peer review remains a relatively private exchange with comments and responses sent by email.  Different levels and types of openness are possible.  JIME, Journal of Interactive Media Education conducted very interesting dialogic review  and I am interested to research into evaluations of that and similar approaches.  I do know that reviewing can help writers develop, and that editing has had an impact on my reviewing and my writing.

I was also interested in Alan Cann’s experiment with open review but  think that much more work needs to be done to tease out more and less effective methods of using feedback to develop writing. I am not at all convinced by Doug Belshaw’s linkage of transparency to better in relation to peer review (see last sentence).

With blogs, comments are usually (but not always) invited and open, but may be moderated by the blog owner who may choose to reject comments e.g. spam comments.  The blog owner has quite a few powers at his/her discretion moderation, deletion, opening/closing comments. You could say they are their own editor – as they make the decision on publication of post and comments.  Some bloggers (like Seb Schmoller at Fortnightly Mailing ) invite guest contributions that they then edit before publication. So power relations are exercised in both blogs and journals in relation to what is published and how, and in both cases there may be room for more research into how the dimensions of power are operationalised.

dissemination of research

At Research in Learning Technology, we are keen to explore the role of social and other media in disseminating the research articles we publish in our newly Open Access journal.  I have blogged about this here and here .  The joy of Open Access is that every article has a clickable link so we can safely tweet links to articles knowing that all readers can open the article and read some or all of it as they wish. In Actor Network Theory terms, we hope to grow our network of human (readers, authors, etc.) and non-human (articles, web sites, tweets, blog posts, etc.) actants.  And if you wish to read more about ANT you can check this article or this one or this one.

Conclusions

It will be really interesting to see what the literature throws up on journals and blogs as publication channels, and I would also be very grateful for any comments and suggestions that you have to make.  Clearly the openness of processes in writing and publication is worthy of question and shifts in practices should be observed and evaluated to achieve potential benefits of digital publication for readers, authors and others.  Clearly there are cases when openness can help to emancipate but I can’t help but wonder if slavish openness can also have the potential to reinforce existing power differences and may even aid discrimination if not handled carefully.

Increasing the relevance, audience and reach of a scholarly journal

Research in Learning Technology Open Access
RiLT

In another post I wrote about Research in Learning Technology’s move to Open Access and since then the transition has taken place.

The web site is open for business so authors can submit their papers for consideration.

Our full back catalog is available so researchers and practitioners can search for relevant content knowing that there will be no barriers to them accessing the articles.

We already have some idea of the increase in hits on the web site but the full challenge of increasing the impact of the work of authors, reviewers, editors and others is only just beginning.

Doug Belshaw blogged about this blog post by Dan Meyers and it has really set me thinking about ways to seize the challenge of increasing impact. I should make it clear that I am fully committed to peer review and the need for rigorous research.  However, I think that there are big challenges and opportunities in Open Access publishing within a social media context.

Here are a few ideas:

  • we are thinking about podcasting and webinars around issues and to support authors (and maybe potential reviewers)
  • our work as editors and reviewers is to support authors in producing work that  is relevant, rigorous and readable (this is BIG work)
  • as editors we wish to continue to improve the quality and effectiveness of our editorials
  • we want to consider what other types of content (if any) could improve the journal
  • can blogging bring our work to a wider audience
  • how can we make use of the clickable link of an open access article to include our content in social media conversations about practice and research with learning technologies?

I would love to hear any comments and ideas you have.

Please note: views expressed here are personal and not official policy from Association for Learning Technology