[LINK] The Battle of the Conferences.

Jenny Millea jmillea at educationau.edu.au
Fri May 8 08:52:58 AEST 2009

There's a good piece from last year's New York Times on the effect of Microblogging  (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/07/magazine/07awareness-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2-) including Twitter, and Facebook updates. Although the section quoted below focuses on social engagement, as a user of Twitter I can say that it works in a similar way for me in relation to picking up what's going on across the education sector (eg DET NSW has blocked Etherpad today reports a tweeter), technology, news and government (depending on whom I'm following). I follow tweets from conferences I can't attend (like Educause in Perth this week). But as with any technology, it's only as useful as you find it to be...

>From the New York Times

"Social scientists have a name for this sort of incessant online contact. They call it "ambient awareness." It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood through the little things he does - body language, sighs, stray comments - out of the corner of your eye....

... Haley discovered that he was beginning to sense the rhythms of his friends' lives in a way he never had before. When one friend got sick with a virulent fever, he could tell by her Twitter updates when she was getting worse and the instant she finally turned the corner. He could see when friends were heading into hellish days at work or when they'd scored a big success. Even the daily catalog of sandwiches became oddly mesmerizing, a sort of metronomic click that he grew accustomed to seeing pop up in the middle of each day.

This is the paradox of ambient awareness. Each little update - each individual bit of social information - is insignificant on its own, even supremely mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends' and family members' lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting. This was never before possible, because in the real world, no friend would bother to call you up and detail the sandwiches she was eating. The ambient information becomes like "a type of E.S.P.," as Haley described it to me, an invisible dimension floating over everyday life.

"It's like I can distantly read everyone's mind," Haley went on to say. "I love that. I feel like I'm getting to something raw about my friends. It's like I've got this heads-up display for them." It can also lead to more real-life contact, because when one member of Haley's group decides to go out to a bar or see a band and Twitters about his plans, the others see it, and some decide to drop by - ad hoc, self-organizing socializing. And when they do socialize face to face, it feels oddly as if they've never actually been apart.

-----Original Message-----
From: link-bounces at mailman1.anu.edu.au [mailto:link-bounces at mailman1.anu.edu.au] On Behalf Of Stilgherrian
Sent: Friday, 8 May 2009 7:49 AM
To: Link list
Subject: Re: [LINK] The Battle of the Conferences.

On 07/05/2009, at 11:29 PM, Sylvano wrote:
> Interesting.  My initial foray into twitter is more like the
> experience of a
> large party with lots of strangers, some acquaintances and a couple
> of friends
> mingling, rather than a relaxed dinner party with close friends.
> As you move about looking for people, you listen to snippets of
> conversations
> here and there, being bored by some and being drawn to others.
> Occasionally
> you find that you stop to chat with someone and decide to move away
> to a
> quieter corner away from the music and babble to have a more solid
> chin wag on
> some topic of mutual interest.

And, indeed, some folks in 2008 were describing Twitter as the world's
largest non-stop global cocktail party.

I find that many of the "mainstream" critics who are at the let's-
ridicule-Twitter stage tend to lead off by saying that a lot of
material on Twitter is "trivial"... what they had for breakfast, what
they're doing now etc. My response to those people is: "Yes, of course
it is. That's the point."

Robin Dunbar's "Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language" makes
it clear that the exchange of seemingly-trivial status information is
at the core of social bonding. Twitter allows us to bond at a distance
-- and , if we choose, make that information public so we don't have
to give it to everyone individually, one at a time.

Mark Pesce and I touched upon this in our Crikey Conversations video.


Stilgherrian http://stilgherrian.com/
Internet, IT and Media Consulting, Sydney, Australia
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