Beki Grinter

One Woman’s Week on Facebook

In empirical, research, social media, women on March 8, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Trying to avoid the “beating a dead horse” department, I will try to make this the last commentary on facebook. Probably not possible, but I will try… I’ve been inspired to make my comments by an Op-ed piece, and more recently, another comment about the future of computing as being algorithms, algorithms, algorithms. So, I’ve already written about collective solidarity and emergency response as two uses of social media that to me seem important.

So this week I’ve been collecting some of the more mundane, and yet, I think important, although perhaps more locally (i.e. for those involved…_

I saw a colleague ask for help with research papers. He was looking for material that might be relevant to a problem he was working on. He got responses. I saw people requesting help with classes. They were taking classes and also teaching them. Those that were taking were asking questions about the homework etc… those that were teaching were looking for current examples drawn from the news. Facebook then, or at least some of the social networks that people are connected to via Facebook are resources for higher education, for scholarship and for education. And I can see why, it’s a great collective resource, a library not just of references, but also of experiences. It almost feels like real-ish time micro-mentoring when I am the one engaging in the ask. Real-ish because there are delays, and also as the commentary builds so it grows not just in length but also in plurality of opinions, a layered commentary. To all those who have helped me this way, thank you.

Now, speaking of plurality of discourse. A very local purposing of facebook I participated in this week was that some of my colleagues and I started a backchannel via one person’s status line during a talk. Hmm… perhaps we should have used twitter, but we made do. The first time, entirely unplanned, we converged on one person’s thread to discuss a talk that some of us were present at and others were listening to remotely. The talk was a Dean candidate talk. We discussed our thoughts. We discussed whether threads like this would make us converge on a shared view more quickly (yeah, that tells you something about my colleagues). At the end of the 60 minutes the thread (the original status and its 42 comments) was abandoned, until later, someone asked us whether we should leave it there… we all collectively deleted (there were a few smaller threads as well).

We had another Dean candidate talk, and this time the thread was started with the title “this thread will be deleted” and talked again. One use was for those watching remotely it was hard to hear the questions, since only the candidate was miked and therefore only the answers were heard. The fact that we had deleted threads also prompted facebook traffic about thread and memory deletion. I’m lucky to have playful as well as intelligent colleagues.

And humour matters. We’re going through some bruising times here in Georgia. Not that we’re different from other parts of the U.S. and other countries, but this recession is deep and higher education is feeling the depth of it. This week the State Legislature asked the University System of Georgia to absorb an additional 300M of cuts, on top of the about 265M (I think) we’ve already taken. So, a hard week. Humour doesn’t fix this challenge, and so we’re thankful that our President and Chancellor are working hard to make our case. But humour does create that all important pause.

And of course we were using facebook to discuss these issues. To disseminate timely information about meetings that were happening to review the budget.

I wrote about one set of friends who I knew were in Chile. What I didn’t know was that someone I worked with for 6 months was also there. Facebook showed me a hotel room that was damaged by the earthquake, but survived.

And when I wrote this it was Friday night, I learnt that you can now use Facebook to send money. Is this M-Pesa’s rival?

What ever it is, please send yours to beki70.

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