Twitter – Distraction or Augmentation?

It was interesting to observe the role that Twitter played in class and how it offered another channel to contribute in class and develop social capital. The instances where I felt I gained the most credibility/ recognition in class were related to tweets I made about articles and information from outside of class. For this information, I pulled from other networks and relied on the strength of weak ties. Benkler (2006) notes that “weak ties … allow… people to transmit information across social networks about available opportunities and resources” (p. 368). Similarly, Gladwell (2010) suggests that weak ties are “our greatest source of new ideas and information.” Our class has read all the same articles, so I was able to add value by going outside that shared experience. The Twitter feeds had quite a few people bringing in ideas from outside of class and outside of our class network. I did a quick review of the 73 tweets on the #COMM506 stream last Tuesday and Wednesday: 31 tweets echoed information discussed in class, 4 tweets brought in external links that directly related to class material, 21 were comments of appreciation for contributors, 10 related to general class themes rather than the specific content of the class, and only 7 or so were tangents or commentary that related very indirectly to class. The experience of tweeting during class and this quick analysis suggests that Twitter augmented the class rather than simply serving as a distraction.


Filed under Benkler, group membership, social networks

7 responses to “Twitter – Distraction or Augmentation?

  1. KateInAlberta

    Nice! I like your mini-analysis of Twitter use by the class. Interesting conclusion – that #socmed enhanced and cohered the class network rather than providing a distraction (which some tools/platforms certainly can)…

    • I was curious: I know tweeting results in a moment at least that we’re not listening and I wanted to see what it offered in place of that attention. I think in terms of class the Twitter feed highlighted the points that had a lot of traction with the class. I also used it when I did not have the opportunity to offer a point in class, because discussion had moved on to a new topic, but I still wanted to share.

  2. Interesting content analysis! 🙂

  3. A quick and dirty analysis, but the results still surprised me. I was surprised by how directly the Twitter feed followed the class.

  4. I may use this as proof when I have instructors who feel that technology is a distraction!

    • I still think it is a distraction. I just think that, at least in the context of this class, it offered a means to interact with the class material that was valuable enough to offset that distraction.

      • When I’m composing a tweet – I am focused on that – even if it is for a moment in time – you could miss the silver bullet in that moment. I prefer to use Twitter when I can devote my attention to it.

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