Category Archives: Benkler

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.

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Filed under Benkler, group membership, social networks

Leaving Luddism

I admit it. I have been living in fear. I have had a Facebook page for years, but I only used it for work and I set it up under a pseudonym so my friends couldn’t find me. I figured it was less likely that something horrendously embarrassing might be posted, ruining any future political ambitions (of which I have none, but I always figured it was good to have options – even incredibly unlikely ones), if my profile wasn’t there to attach it to. I have also watched roommates sink hours and hours of what I considered fruitless time monitoring Facebook. Even Benkler’s assertion that Internet time comes mostly at the expense of television (the “deep-fried dough” of social experience) and shopping was not reassuring. (After all, I like TV and shopping.)

So I set up a second Facebook account yesterday. Under my real name even. Interestingly the people who responded fastest were those who live in different cities who I have not seen in years. Already I see what Benkler calls “a thickening of preexisting relations with friends…” (p. 357). I am a horrible correspondent; when I do write, the effort I put into each email to make up for the great deal of time that has passed since last I corresponded ensures that I won’t write again for another year. Responding to a post, however, doesn’t require nearly the same amount of effort or the expectations around immediate response. Maintaining these relations has become a more fluid process where previously it was a largely lapsed one.

Just in terms of our classes’ experience on twitter over the past week, I feel as if we are forming our own little “gemeinshaft” which is both satisfying and surprisingly rewarding. I certainly feel more connected to the rest of #MACT2011 than I did over the past year. Our twitter experience is the first social media experience that I found concretely supported that social media could provide or enhance a social community on more than a superficial level.

Meanwhile I keep getting welcomed to Facebook like the luddite that I now realize I am.

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Filed under Benkler, group membership, social networks