Facebook as Workbook.

I have fond memories of Facebook in 2004, when I first joined the service. My undergraduate university was in the first or second wave of non-Ivy League colleges and universities, and I was the 100th person at Purdue to create a Facebook profile, a fact memorialized in my Facebook userid number.

Facebook was crucial for helping me connect with students in my classes, especially my large lecture classes. Facebook had a Courses functionality built into the service; students would list their course names and numbers, which would be turned into clickable links by Facebook so other users could click through and see everyone enrolled in a specific course who had chosen to make this information publicly available on their profile. When I needed notes for a class or had a question about something that had happened during a missed lecture, Courses was there for me.

Back then, Facebook membership was restricted to users with verifiable .edu addresses. It took at least two years before my colleagues at the campus-wide IT group started joining Facebook in force. That was the first time I had to sanitize my Facebook profile. It happened again after I graduated from Purdue and came to Virginia Tech for graduate school. Again when people from my graduate program started to friend me on Facebook; again when I finished my MFA and went on the job market locally. And most recently, when I felt certain negative-impacting work-related situations were being fueled by information gleaned from, or even the existence of, my Facebook profile.

I even deactivated my Facebook profile for a course I took last semester; what was originally a two-week deactivation turned into several months. Other than Facebook Messenger and Events, I found I didn’t really miss Facebook after all. But eventually I caved, and I’ve been back on Facebook for almost a year now.

I find Facebook isn’t really fun anymore; sometimes it qualifies as “work” when professional colleagues contact me on the service with professional queries. I wish I could shut it off completely, but I am too addicted to the information flow that Facebook provides. Couple that with a Facebook page I help to maintain for one of my jobs, and I can’t walk away from Facebook, even if it occasionally hurts me by telling me I’ve missed a really cool party or that my ex got married (note: this really happened).

This is why I hide on Twitter. Somehow I think that’s safer than Facebook, even though I am more honest/transparent/edgy on Twitter than may be prudent.

Also: my dad is not on Twitter. Yet.

On being a weblogger.

I made this attempt to explain my weblogging on my main weblog, Girl in Black, a few weeks ago. But I’m only marginally okay with it.

I would trace my weblogging progression like so:
Girl in Black (main weblog) & 47901 (journalblog): 2000-2002
The Path of Wrong (semi-anonymous/private weblog): 2002-2004
Girl in Black (main weblog, repurposed as a photoblog/poetryblog): 2004-2007
@girlinblack on Twitter (microblog): 2006-present
Girl in Black (main weblog, resurrected): 2013-?

Running in parallel with that is my LiveJournal usage, all friends-only journals, since 2003. I am still semi-actively posting/reading on the second LJ I created, a permanent account, even though most of the people I know from LJ have moved on to other social networks. Those accounts have names which cannot be tied back to me whatsoever. I made sure of that. Very sure.

Why do I blog? First, it’s easy. Especially Twitter: sending off a text is so quick. When I spent my days and night in offices, firing up a Blogger post window was trivial. Once I figured out how to send photos from my smartphone in 2004, weblogging became fun for me again, and only when I started revving up the graduate school folly did that slow down.

Second: it’s fun to have an audience. I still have people reading me regularly who I met online in 2000. That blows my mind sometimes. The downside: I have an audience, and sometimes what I post sets them off (and not in a good way).

Third: it’s a way to keep the writing instrument fresh. Tweet composition really helped me hone my poetic line. I’m grateful for that. Ripping apart articles from my college newspaper also employed critical analysis for the lulz.

Fourth: it helps me to meet people! One guy stopped on a cross country trip from Minnesota to … somewhere, I forget, and hung out with me for a few days. That makes me smile thinking about it. I met lots of people from Purdue and Virginia Tech elsewhere thanks to my weblog and my Twitter feed. It’s like a digital calling card.

Fifth, and maybe final: I need an outlet for expression. Weblogging is one of my outlets. Sure, writing poetry is what I’m academically trained to do, but weblogging is something I trained myself to do while kicking around in academia. I can look back at my weblog/Twitter archives and remember things about my life when I was writing that I would not be able to remember otherwise. And sometimes I just need to nail down a moment in text and look at it later, with unbiased-by-time eyes.

On audience.

I will admit that having a “professional online portfolio” online makes me really nervous, as I have taken pains over the past few years to scrub as much of myself as I can from the Web for various reasons, none of which I am willing to go into here. I go through phases where I’m fine with what I have online, and then suddenly I’m less fine with it and go underground, taking down weblogs, hiding on semi-private sites, etc.

Another thing I’m prone to doing is scrubbing parts of my online self that I don’t want other people to see because it will cause RL drama. Taking down my weblogs in the early 2000s after they were found by work colleagues is one example. Restricting personal posts on a private website after someone from a previous life (mentioned in my mudder post) appeared on the site’s discussion board was another.

Here’s another from an hour ago: I have a private Twitter account with a handful of followers. Someone I know from Blacksburg who is not in town at the moment requested to follow it. Before I approved the request, I scrolled back through hundreds and hundreds of tweets to remove references to things I thought might damage his sensibilities.

I have written online for what seems like ever fully aware of the unseen “audience” and the upsides/downsides of that. I miss being able to write completely freely online. That’s one of the reasons why I keep making up new screennames completely unconnected with each other. I keep trying to get that freedom back. But it’s never coming back.

Final presentations.

I’m gonna liveblog some observations. Let’s see how this goes.

Comics presentation reminds me of a study I did over in ISE where I annotated an article in print, on a computer, and on the iPad. Maybe find that researcher’s name?

Student retention presentation suggesting using blog posts to identify at-risk students. Interesting.

Kairos presentation has some intersects with celebrity studies as well as rhetoric and performance studies.

Technical writing/LinkedIn presentation is going to be folded into thesis research.

Feminist Instagram presentation is way into visual culture & looks to find visual representations of third-wave feminism on photo-based social media. Nice.

New literacies research presentation looks at how teachers use writing instruction in the classroom. Love a Peter Elbow reference.

Veterans/PTSD social networking presentation touches on something that I never even considered.

MyFitnessPal presentation is totally relevant to my wellness interests.

Women in gaming presentation is very interesting and could easy earn its notoriety in flamewars if it gets posted online somewhere. Quote from preso after an f-bomb: “That’s not productive at all.”

Fan communities presentation is going to use Netnography to analyze some of the data. I should look into that book.

And finally, I gave a presentation about Twitter and micro-celebrity. Or something. I’m tired.

On using iPads in the classroom.

I’m a veteran of the Innovationspace’s iPad pilot program, from both the instructor and student perspective, and I’m not entirely sold on it.

After having an iPad for the better part of two years, I have to say that I love it. I love being able to call anything up immediately using the web browsers. I love being able to read and respond to email. I love the wide variety of apps. I love being able to write using my pal Justin’s Elements app.

But I don’t love the iPad enough to take it out of its case when I go home at night. My BlackBerry still rules my days and nights as my go-to communication device. Why hasn’t the iPad surplanted it? Would it have done so if I had one with always-on Internet through a wireless carrier like Verizon or AT&T?

One surprising thing I don’t love about the iPad: reading documents on it. I’ve found that I prefer reading printed matter over electronic matter (except for the BlackBerry, which I’ll get to in a second). For my IS Senior Seminar, some of the texts used in previous semesters were e-books only accessible through Scholar. Getting access to them on the iPad through Scholar was maddening. By the middle of one particular semester, PDFs of the readings were made available as a workaround (Spinuzzi term, what up fellow bus rider) for the inaccessibility of the textbook on the iPad.

One thing I’ve realized students don’t love about the iPad: typing on it. One complaint that I’ve heard repeatedly from students taking the IS Senior Seminar is that the iPad is difficult to type on. And yes, it is difficult when the iPad is in portrait mode. In landscape mode, I’ve found it to be more usable, but the lack of screen space to see what’s been typed is frustrating.

One thing everyone can agree may not be lovable about the iPad: it is a distraction device par excellence. iMessage, Twitter, Facebook, Angry Birds, you name it, there’s a distracting app for that. As someone who has both seen student distracted use of iPads and engaged in it myself, I’m not sure what can be done.

But I don’t expect iPads to disappear from classrooms because of too many people playing Candy Crush, that’s for sure.

Graduate school of the future.

It’ll be all about the tablets. Portable computing for knowledge transfer and production. Online/distance learning. Massive supercomputers. Lots and lots of clouds, but of course there will be mounds of paper because if there’s one thing graduate students love to do, it’s print mounds of paper. The push to make graduate research accessible to the public will continue. As the professoriate ages downward, faculty will grow more comfortable using always-on methods (instant messaging, video messaging, location services) to stay in contact with students. Email will continue to be a major time suck. The physical library will not be replaced, but more materials will be made available online with 24/7 access for students, faculty, and staff. Collaborative work spaces won’t replace offices entirely, but they will continue to make inroads as on-campus space continues to be at a premium. Parking will always, always blow, so alternative forms of transportation will be encouraged. Increased promotion of wellness and sustainability (work/life balance, healthier and more sustainable food options for on-campus dining, access to fitness centers).

Hopefully there will still be time to plant trees and enjoy the outdoors as well.

Upset with the setup? Get up. Make a change.

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Josette. I work as an instructor in the Department of Political Science, and I’m also a non-degree graduate student. I graduated from Tech’s creative writing MFA program in 2010. I also work part-time for an arts & cultural nonprofit organization off-campus.

What I really do is spend my days surrounded by computers (I’m a departmental IT person) and the written word (I’m a poet).

What hardware do you use?

My daily driver on campus is a 15″ MacBook Pro (FDI machine!) hooked up to a late-model Apple Cinema Display I pulled from a retired faculty member’s office as I was cleaning it out last summer. Next to that setup is a 27″ iMac I use for editing/problemsolving purposes. I have a number of laptops and netbooks in the office that are in various states of usability; a white MacBook and Dell Inspiron Duo are the ones I use most. All the laptops, for the most part, stay in the office unless needed. Through my department I have a 64GB “the new” iPad, which goes with me wherever I go and is my go-to writing machine away from the office.

I own a black MacBook, bought during my last year of undergrad, that I used to get through the MFA. It’s sitting on a shelf in the office, wiped and unused. I also have a PowerBook G4 at home, hooked up to an HDTV, that occasionally gets called into duty as a media server.

My smartphone is a BlackBerry Bold 9780 on T-Mobile. I previously used the T-Mobile Sidekick line of devices, and switched to a BlackBerry when the phone was discontinued in the summer of 2011. My BlackBerry is set up to retrieve all my important emails immediately if not sooner, since I need always-on connectivity for my job. I consider it my primary device.

For music: a red iPod nano, bought during an emotional shopping moment last October. Totally worth it. Even has a FM radio built in.

And what software?

I use multiple web browsers on my desktop/laptop machines (Firefox, Safari, Opera, Chrome, Internet Explorer). Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, and LibreOffice do word and number crunching when necessary. My calendar is kept straight with iCal (exported to VT’s Exchange Server). iTunes for music and backing up the iPad. I also have an FM radio in my office to listen to the on-campus station. Dropbox and Google Drive for file storage. Fitbit for fitness tracking; I wear the device on my person and a USB dongle transfers that data to the Web. Time Machine to back up the MacBook Pro; BlackBerry Desktop Software to back up the BlackBerry. I have a bunch of other software installed on various machines that I rarely use (HTML editor, FTP clients, audio/video editing software, etc). iChat is turned on rarely and has a plug-in that allows me to access multiple instant messaging services.

Approximately 34509345034985430985348 apps on the iPad, but the ones I use most: Mail, Elements, Twitter, iBooks, Chrome, Safari, Google Drive, Facebook, Zinio, Fitbit, OKCupid, Flipboard, LiveJournal.

App I use on the BlackBerry: Email, SMS, UberSocial with the A.Plus theme, Twitter, Facebook, MyFitnessPal, Foursquare, Google Voice, BlackBerry’s web browser, Opera Mini, Google Talk, AIM, BlackBerry Messenger, WeatherBug. I occasionally use the built-in camera to take photos.

What would be your dream setup?

Replace the MacBook Pro with a MacBook Air, and the BlackBerry with an iPhone, and I’d be set.

Online Community, or the Ephemerality Thereof

Two online communities disappeared into the digital afterlife with little to no warning recently: hyperlocal news site EveryBlock and video livestreaming site Stickam.

Stickam’s users are able to access the site for the next few weeks in order to retrieve saved videos, messages, and contact information, but EveryBlock was shut down completely without warning, removing all forms of access and content, and apparently irrevocably severing connections made by users on the site. EveryBlock facilitated connections between neighbors and served as a source of neighborhood news in major US cities which may be underserved by existing mainstream media organizations (newspapers, radio, etc.) EveryBlock will be missed.

Hello world.

This weblog is kept for my ENGL 5644: Genres in Professional Practice course. It may also be used for the IS 4004: Senior Seminar class for which I am a course facilitator. Please excuse the dust on the weblogger.

Posted in Uncategorized