…And even more about “talking” online

I know I seem to harp on this subject. However, it is something that has been on my mind pretty much all semester.

At the beginning of the semester I viewed online interactions as bad, and here’s why: I lose some inhibitions. In person, I hate confrontation . . . so when I need to confront someone, or if I just need to say something not complimentary, I hedge. And hedge. And hedge. And I try to word it in the nicest way possible, but then it probably doesn’t come out clearly. But online, with that face-to-face interaction out of the way, I don’t tend to hedge (at least, not as much). This has gotten me in trouble at times, when I’ve dashed off a nasty comment on a Facebook post, or snarkily responded to someone in some other version of an online conversation.

But those interactions aside, I’m actually beginning to see the benefit of online conversation for someone with a personality like mine. I’m more assertive online. I’m also more honest with friends who send me writing samples or grant proposals for editing and/or review (though I believe that, for the most part, I am kindly so). I noticed part of this phenomenon back in 2008, when I was reviewing proposals for a federal anti-drug grant program. It was a blind review – I didn’t know who they were, and they didn’t know who I was. So I was honest. Fair, but honest. I pointed out the flaws in their proposals, praised what deserved to be praised, and gave recommendations to the program director for who should be awarded the grants. At the time I was simply surprised at my own professionalism. But I never really fully put it together (until recently) that this anonymity gave me boldness that I don’t otherwise have.

So, the anonymity online gives me confidence…online. I have been trying to think of how to translate that into “real life.” (Why hello, there, Turkle! Didn’t see you there…) At first, I placed the blame on others, annoyed by the fact that we often don’t respect each other’s area of expertise. And this is true. However, I can’t blame it all on them; I have to accept the fact that my own hesitancy (and, indeed, lack of confidence) is undermining my own authority. Online, I can say, “This is my experience. It has taught me ___. And from that, I can tell you ___.” And if I word it correctly, it will gain me respect, and my ideas will be “heard.” In person, those words (and my ethos) can be negated by my lack of confidence. (Hmmm…sounds like the canon of delivery?)

I haven’t yet figured out how to translate this online experience into the rest of my life, but I can at least say that I’m viewing online interactions a little more positively now. Because if I don’t let myself get carried away, these online interactions might just help build me a spine.

Gender online

Those who keep up with theological debates have probably heard about John Piper’s recent claim that reading commentaries written by women is okay because, basically, she isn’t standing in front of you. For those unfamiliar with the context in which he is making this statement, allow me to fill you in a bit . . .

Though there are people all over the continuum on the role of women in the church, they tend to sort into two primary categories: those who think women are permitted to teach in the church, and those who believe it is “unbiblical.” Like I said, there are people all over the continuum on this, so I don’t mean to create a false binary; however, the “culture wars” within Christianity tend to set up those two options as the sides from which to choose.

John Piper – a well known pastor and author – falls into the camp of those who believe women should not teach in the church. In a recent podcast, however, he states that it is permissible to read women’s commentaries on the Bible as long as the man doesn’t “feel” that he is under the authority of the woman who wrote the commentary. The woman “teaching” in this context is okay because she is not directly in front of the reader (“she’s not looking at me…”). This “phenomenon” of writing, he claims, “takes away the dimension of her female personhood.”

This is a rather problematic view.

Several bloggers/writers/commentators have already chimed in on this, so I won’t rehash a lot of those issues. Rachel Pietka – a graduate student I would very much like to get to know – discusses these ideas in light of the history of the woman’s body, referring to Lindal Buchanan’s book Regendering Delivery, which discusses how women’s thoughts were historically more acceptable long before their bodies were. For more discussion about that, I recommend reading her article. In this post, want to talk about the implications of this idea for online writing.

I am actually wondering if the internet is, in some way, a gender equalizer. Though you can often detect someone’s gender by her user name, avatar, or profile picture, the fact remains that her body is not in front of you. A portion or picture of her body, perhaps…but that bodily presence is still removed. Is it possible that some people with gender biases (because, I can admit, it might go the other way as well) might suspend some of those biases if the body is not present?

I have had a few interactions with men where the in-person interaction was quite contentious, but interactions via email were perfectly polite. I hadn’t really thought about those interactions as different in those two realms until I read Pietka’s post. This could be coincidence, of course, but the vast difference between these two types of interactions makes me wonder: is it this “removal of female personhood” that makes the difference?

What do you think? Have you noticed anything along these lines with your own online interactions?

Who is online, and why?

Attention, Digital Self classmates!

Here is a helpful infographic for who uses social media, and which platforms are more appealing to different demographics, in case any of you could use this data for your projects. This might also be helpful for our conversations surrounding Sherry Turkle’s book this evening.

One thing I do find missing from this graphic, and from Tupfekci’s article sort of refuting Turkle’s claims, is a discussion of how social media is used by people in poverty. This graphic doesn’t include anyone from incomes below $30,000 per year. Tupfekci touched on it briefly when he talked about how reliance on geographic proximity is lessened with the availability of online connections, but only to briefly mention that they might be at a disadvantage when they are not connected. With all of the progress made with technology, is it possible that we are widening the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots?”




Ricky Gervais on YouTube and Twitter

Ricky Gervais was on The Daily Show last week, and he discussed his YouTube channel, as well as Twitter. He argues that YouTube is the next step, as TV is dead. Also, he has some funny (and slightly insulting) commentary regarding “idiots” on Twitter (starting at 4:30).

Ricky Gervais on The Daily Show

It’s not a very long interview, and I think it’s worth the watch and some pondering…

Adventures in Building a Website: Part One

I’m in that age group that got caught in the middle of all the “tech stuff” and the internet boom. It seems like about half of us kept up with it avidly – these folks learned how to code and are extremely tech savvy. The other half – the half I’m in – either ignored most of it or pretty much keep up with whatever they absolutely have to in order to get by, or to do their job. So here I am again, trying to keep up, by learning how to build my own website. Now, it’s not all that much of a great movement into tech savvy-ness, as I’m using a WordPress theme for my website, and so I’m not entering in a bunch of code in order to build something from scratch. But still – it’s a step, and it’s kinda scary and intimidating.

So, I thought I’d sorta chronicle my experience doing this, as a novice attempting to try a new sort of technology for the first time. Here’s what I have done so far:

(1) Purchased a domain name. Our professor for our Digital Self class, Quinn Warnick, told us of a cheap deal for doing this, so I thought – what the heck? I really should have one by the time I go on the job market, so why not start building it now, and keep adding to it throughout the years?

(2) Installed a WordPress theme. Not sure if I will stick with it, but it’s something to start with, and it’s clean-looking.

(3) Installed a Twitter plugin. Have no idea what to do with it yet, though. Can’t figure that out.

(4) Started building some pages. So far I have a bio, and my CV – which I cut and pasted, and so I have to do some tweaking.

Emotions on this so far: mixed. I keep coming up against things that are confusing, but then other parts are rather intuitive. It’s a mixed bag. One thing I am: surprised. When editing the CV, I actually found it easier to do in HTML. We’ve been learning a bit of this in class, and I was actually able to sort of understand it and fix a few formatting problems that way instead of with the “visual” box. I know, I’m as shocked as you are.

More adventures in website building to come!

“You’re Distracted. This Professor Can Help.”

Just got done reading this great post about how to deal with distractions. The post mostly revolves around one professor’s course that deals with handling the multiple online distractions we have. Interestingly, as if to prove the discussion point here, while I was reading this post and then trying to link up to my blog to post about it, I went through a bunch of different emails, and jumped around between the five different tabs I have open on my browser. <sigh>

Most of us have heard by now the argument that the internet (and other related things such as smart phones, iPads, etc) can destroy our concentration. (If you are unfamiliar with this conversation, check out Nicholas Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?“) Interestingly, I hadn’t heard the argument on the other side of this debate until reading this article. Regardless, though, this professor (David M. Levy of University of Washington) is implementing techniques with his class – such as meditation and concentrated bursts of activity – to aid concentration. ”So many of those debates fail to even acknowledge or realize that we can educate ourselves, even in the digital era, to be more attentive,” he says. “What’s crucial is education.”

If you’re feeling distracted and/or fragmented by all of these technological interventions, I highly recommend reading this article. Whichever side of the debate you fall on, Dr. Levy provides some really helpful tips for improving concentration – whether or not it has been destroyed by Google.

A Crowd-Sourced Haggadah

This coming week will be a little sad for my family, as it will be the first time in 5 or 6 years that we have not celebrated Passover with our close-knit community in Toledo, Ohio. Each year, either we would participate in a large seder at a local church, or we would do our “lighter” version – adapted from the 30 Minute Seder. (FYI: It’s not really 30 minutes. It’s closer to an hour – but that’s still WAY shorter than most.)

We have been debating this year whether we should attend the local seder (which will likely be the three-hour version, and at which we know no one), do our own mini-version at home, or just skip it this year. As I was searching around a bit for thoughts on the subject, I saw this report on crowd-sourced haggadot. This NPR segment reports on this website, which has gathered over 2,000 haggadot from different families. You can choose a full haggadah from the contributions, or sort of mash-up different pieces contributed by others.

Kind of a neat example of crowd-sourcing. Also, if you’re interested at all in Jewish traditions or Passover in particular, there are some really interesting contributions people have made, including blessings for the various parts of the meal that are focused on one thing or another (social justice, for example).

Take a look!