Digging in the digital trash

The concept of keeping a notebook has changed dramatically with the advent of popular social media. Diaries, once considered personal and sacred have, to some extent, been put on public display. Our lives have become increasingly public and we know more about one another than at any time in the past, just from the ability to poke around in all of the digital treasure and garbage that we live behind–sometimes knowingly, sometimes not. But does that change the importance and impact of what we write?

joandidion

The exercise of writing down your thoughts when you know someone else is going to read them, peppers the practice, but does that make it less illuminating? It’s a difficult question to answer, but any sincere attempt at connecting with others can only be positive, right? The always amazing Brainpickings dissects Joan Didion’s (also always amazing) “On Keeping a Notebook.” I highly recommend it.

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Did you know there’s a school for rock?

What makes a successful social media campaign. I went digging around thee ol’ internets to find examples of social media done right. Most of the “best of” lists consisted of the usual businesses that I try to avoid. I’m not as successful as I’d like to be–they’re (and you know who “they” are) omnipresent and  virtually inescapable. So instead of examining an entity that I find to be out of whack, I decided to take a look at how the School Of Rock uses social media. And I found that they do a darn fine job.

School of Rock plays in all the social media sandboxes you’d expect: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Google +. What makes their presence engaging is the content they’re publishing–and as we all know, content is king. I went from being somewhat interested in the organization, to slipping into a lengthy internet session following links to student stories, artist performances, and the occasional goof ball video.

I decided to start at the natural place: Facebook. Admittedly, it’s rare that I find an FB page that I can truly say I enjoy, but SoR has the right idea. The “An Artist is Born” feature is spot on. From Jeff Buckley to Kirk Hammett, SoR posts a video of a universally respected artist and a short bio. What a great way to get kids interested, after all that’s what this is all about… plus, if you can reach the adults on board, you’re even closer to achieving your goal.

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While Facebook was more about the artist, the Youtube page focused on the students. There are several snippets of live performances and virtual tours of regional schools, but the two most effective were the “moments” and “stories” videos. In the first, students recall their favorite, you guessed it, moments of SoR–the teenagers here are serious about their rock and roll, and enrollment in the school grants opportunities that most kids only dream about, like playing with Roger Waters, BB King, and other legends. The “stories” tell the tale of supportive parents who really want to give their children a creative outlet for their unique voices. I am, by all standards, a total softy–“what? no, I’m not crying. who’s chopping onions?”–so yeah, these videos had me all joyfully teary and 100% behind the School of Rock mission.

The goal of SoR is to get kids involved in music; to make it a viable and valid outlet that can be taken seriously; to provide a place where kids can hone a craft that often gets short shrift in the public eye. SoR doesn’t have nearly as many “likes” as the usual suspects, but the metric for success isn’t necessarily about that. Their message is conveyed well and the organization establishes itself as progressive and positive. This is really good social media. Thought provoking, informative, and human.

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Bloggity blog blogging

The world of blogging, or “blogosphere,” if you will (I rather not, although I do appreciate a good word mashup), is made up of unique publications that don’t adhere to any previous publishing standards… or at least they don’t have to. From the text-heavy to the strictly visual, there’s room for ’em all, and each one communicates it’s particular message differently. So, what’s the difference between blogging and microblogging? Good question. Let’s talk about it.

Sites like this one are considered straight up blogging sites. Tumblr on the other hand, is considered a micro blog site. A WordPress site allows you to start blogging almost immediately, but taking the time to make it your own requires some effort. You can customize the layout and design, assigning properties that give it that “real website” feel. Tumblr also offers customization tools that are easy to use, and it’s pretty darn easy to create something visually snappy that is ready to serve all your microblogging needs.

When it comes down to it, the interfaces are both easy to tweak and can be used to convey uniques perspectives pretty easily. It comes down to the philosophy behind blogging vs. microblogging. Traditional blogging is a place for long form posts that can address multiple ideas in one post. While, nothing is stopping folks from making Tumblr a place for long rambling pieces (like this one), it is set up to publish snippets of the larger conversation. Blogging gives the user a platform to make their personal philosophies explicit, while microblogging is an outlet that lets users put pieces of a puzzle out there for readers to put back together in the way they see fit.

I like Tumblr and the way people use it to publish little bits of information they find interesting or compelling–it’s easy to digest quickly and users who have honed their Tumblr chops present a pleasing package. I’m generally crunched for time and like what I can glean from Tumblrs I follow. I also like posting things that catch my eye, and tend to use my Tumblr as a place for music-related material.

I like blogs as well. I like reading unadulterated opinions and about people’s passion projects. Getting to know people via their blogs is something that offers a little more depth than a lot of other social media tools. People expect blogs to take the long form, and are willing to take the time necessary to read posts.

I’d like to think that I’ll continue to use both–they’re both new to me as a user, and I like what both have to offer. I’m sure my Tumblr is more likely to receive regular attention, but I’ve certainly started to enjoy using this forum to spew my opinions… nobody is here to stop me, right? Although, I’m sure I could use an editor.

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Pinterest: Move along, nothing to see here… or is there?

There’s no denying the fact that Pinterest is on the mind of every social media enthusiast these days. The virtual pinboard allows users to share and categorize their favorite images. Users can choose to follow a single board or all of another user’s board, and can locate boards based on theme, subject, or topic. Growth of the relatively new social media outlet is making businesses take notice and is being leveraged as a powerful marketing tool. It’s been well established that people respond well to visuals, so what is it about Pinterest that differentiates it from other sites like Youtube and Flickr? My two cents: people are encouraged to interact… not just share, but communicate with one another visually.

Let me make it clear that I’m not an active Pinterest user. At least not yet, I might just sell myself on the whole idea upon completion of this post. Taking a look at some boards, it became apparent that it’s really easy to use, and users can pin images to their board via upload, url, or repinning. Not to mention the fact that you can easily classify your images in a pretty specific way. From the start Pinterest has a much more “social” feel than either Youtube or Flickr. Maybe it’s because both of those tools have been around for awhile and I’ve associated them with a greater hassle than what Pinterest seems to offer, but I can immediately understand the appeal of the pinboard. It’s so easy to go down some pretty serious rabbit holes here.

Beyond the practical there is something philosophically engaging about Pinterest. An image can be many things: arresting, humorous, beautiful, or terrifying. For the visual among us it serves as a hook… it reels us in and we want to know more about it, or see more of it. With the added classification system users can easily follow pins to some pretty obscure ends. But users can also easily find some truly useful information–like recipes. We make connections with individuals initially based on common interests, so it makes sense that those bonds seem stronger when there is a sense of shared visual aesthetic. I equate it, to a degree, with the camaraderie established by shared musical tastes. That might be reaching, but you get where I’m coming from.

I guess where I’m going with this is: I get it… at least I think I do. Not only do users get to share their favorite images, they are identified by them and what it says about their taste and style. And businesses can capitalize on this by creating an appealing aesthetic that hooks people and adds ammunition to an online identity arsenal. And I can see why a business like Whole Foods can make so much headway using Pinterest–recipes, personal care, lifestyle–they can package it up nicely here. I’m not sure that I’ll be jumping into the increasingly crowded Pinterest pool, but I like the idea, and evidently I’m far from alone.

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Occupy this blog — a review and endorsement of InterOccupy

The Occupy Movement was largely seen by detractors as a disorganized and chaotic movement that would lose momentum as quickly as it had gained it. Instead, Occupy has evolved into something larger than anyone could have conceived. Regional movements echoed the large-scale occupation of Wall Street with camps in Zuccotti Park, and added further validity to a movement that found no trouble establishing a ground swell of support.

The success of the movement is not defined by immediate revolution, toppled statues, or burning buildings, but rather by raised awareness and continued support. So, how can people further push Occupy forward? Social media played a huge role at the inception, and has been central to its evolution. You find yourself asking, “like what.. facebook, twitter, friendster (ok, probably not, but they’d win on vintage technology points alone)? Well yes, all of those things (excluding friendster) and “an interactive space for activists looking to organize for global and local social change,” appropriately called InterOccupy. IO, as it is commonly referred to, has become a hub for the Occupy community, and provides information and tools for those interested in the movement.

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There are tools available to start large-scale movements in a variety of “hubs.” If you’re interested in starting something but don’t have a posse ready to roll, IO can facilitate a “First-time call” that will help get people involved. There’s a list of active hubs in the following arenas:

  • Action hubs
  • Issues hubs
  • Regional hubs
  • Occupation hubs
  • Project hubs
  • Identity hubs

Each of the hubs listed above is linked to multiple social media accounts that address mahjor concerns in each area.

A full-scale review of the site would be lengthy, and is unnecessary. What I’d like to get across is the idea that this is an extremely powerful and effective use of social media. It’s about networking, getting your voice heard, and making changes to a system that has the unpleasant ability to squash real concerns of real people.

Mobile communication technologies, such as laptops, wifi, and smart phones, help virtual communities manifest in the streets. As a result, people fighting for social justice have the power to talk to one another as actions unfold locally, nationally, and worldwide in real time. In this global context, IO is just one small node in the massive network of activists seeking to change the world without taking power. IO continues to provide communication services to those who want a dynamic and interactive space for networking, skill sharing, and coordinating actions that hold accountable the oppressive strategies of governments and businesses that do not serve the people.

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Information guerillas in the mist

It goes without saying that social media has permeated our lives and peppered our perception of modern communication, privacy, and ethics–it’s easy to forget that the evolution has been  meteoric. I’m old enough to remember Friendster, and thinking how weird it was to peer through the curtains of other people’s lives, with their permission. I was guarded… I still am to an extent, but that was ages ago. We’ve accepted the way things are, and there’s no going back. Alright then, what are the ethical pitfalls and why we should care?

In the August edition of the Atlantic Monthly, Robinson Meyer tackles Shannon Vallor’s entry on the subject in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Of the important elements he points, is that Vallor frames the topic of social media within a historical context the validates its worth as an object of study.  Meyer gleans  that the central question is: “How do social networks change or affect our understanding of the public sphere?”

This is a question with no easy answer(s). The entry of social media into our daily lives, has implications on how we seek and share information. Meyer counters Cass Sunstein’s echo chamber idea, that posits we only seek out information that we believe bolsters our personal beliefs with Vallor’s assertion that social media can “facilitate the sharing of, and exposure to, an extremely diverse range of types of discourse.” My initial instinct was to agree with Sunstein, but that might be hasty and short-sighted. This election cycle is a good example of why Vallor might be on the right track. While I groaned through all of the vitriolic political posts that offended my left-leaning (read on the left side of left) nature, I found myself trying to understand where these folks, some of them my “friends” were coming from. Did it sway my opinion? Absolutely not, but it make me practice something that I often preach: tolerance. It doesn’t come easy, and I still get sweaty shaky mad at the easy ignorance spewed… but I am aware of where “the other side” is getting their information, and that it is as equally skewed as my sources. I don’t know if this implies that there is hope for increased communication and progress, or that the division will increase. One thing is certain, the face of the public sphere has been changed… for better or worse.

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Getting social

I’ve been meaning to do this for quite some time. But, I like to procrastinate… meditate… or just wait until I’m ready to put something out there. I’ve been slow on the uptake as far as incorporating technology into my daily routine — maybe it’s fear, maybe the desire to be as anonymous as possible in an increasingly “open” society. Whatever the underlying reason(s), I’ve decided it’s time to add my own bit of pollution to the ether with a miasma of ramblings, tidbits, and as much noise as possible.

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