Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Our Friends Electric

About this time last year, I think, I was asked to contribute to a PGR training course, for a session covering social media and blogging. It never happened due to the strike action at the end of the autumn term – and that is starting to feel like a really serious gap in those students’ training. It should now be obvious that this topic deserves more emphasis than being scheduled in December (by which time, one suspects, student attention may be dropping off), going hand in hand with a different focus: this is not (just) about public engagement and self-publicity, an optional extra that tends to reinforce the idea that PGRs and ECRs are expected to do more and more to have any chance of an academic career. Rather, in this new world, it looks more and more like THE essential toolkit for networking, in the absence of conferences and the like, since the informal networking element is precisely the aspect of conferences it’s hardest to replicate online. (more…)

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Further musings on what next year’s teaching might look like… Yes, I know that there are already highly successful distance-learning models out there, above all from the Open University, and we don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but I suspect that what we end up doing will be rather different: we don’t have the time to develop all the material and supporting framework for full-blown online courses by September (especially with the likelihood, given recruitment freezes due to enormous financial black hole, that we’ll all need to take on more courses than planned), and most of us lack the experience (and probably skills) to make that work – better to produce a hybrid that plays as far as possible to our existing strengths – and finally universities are likely to want to distinguish their offerings from what’s already available from the OU. (more…)

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So, ‘cancel culture’ has been monetised: just pay Toby Young’s new Free Speech Union a load of money, and then tweet about eugenics, the glories of the British Empire and the size of women’s breasts to your heart’s content, safe in the knowledge that you will not have to stand alone in the face of a howling Twitter mob demanding to know whether this is entirely appropriate.

I’m not totally convinced by some aspects of the business model here – surely the sort of person who knows in advance they’re going to be wilfully offensive, so would pay for the assurance that Spiked! will write an outraged column about people objecting to this, will already be part of this crowd? And are they actually going to ignore a good controversy and opportunity to denounce excessively woke students, just because the target hasn’t coughed up their protection money?

But it also raises the question of whether there are any further business opportunities in this area… Academics! Are you worried that your research is too obscure, nuanced or sensible to attract the sort of attention and media gigs you nevertheless feel you deserve? But you’re still unwilling to strip out the ambiguity and pull out a dog whistle? We’re here to solve your problem: for a very reasonable fee we will weaponise your findings and make them the new front in the culture wars. You retain deniability and the possibility of claiming to have been misinterpreted, if you decide not to commit fully to our truth-telling mission – and if you do, Toby Young has an offer you may not be wise to refuse…

Addendum: did briefly think about also offering the opportunity to be convincingly denounced to the Turning Point UK Inquisition, but unaccountably people seem to be taking them even less seriously than the Free Speech Avengers.

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One assumes that it’s something to do with the imminence of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Remortgage Wednesday and the rest of the run-up to Christmas, but in the last week or so a couple of very strange accounts have appeared on the Twitter. One (“Towoti Group”) has a profile picture of Ryan Gosling, the other (which has now disappeared completely ) had picture of Jake Gyllenhaal, and they tweet punctiliously every fifteen minutes, on a regular cycle of advert, advert, Thucydides quote, advert, advert, Thucydides quote. The quote is always “The secret of happiness is freedom… the secret of freedom is courage”; the adverts are mostly for women’s clothing, with the occasional LED illuminated bracelet, Christmas elf costume for your dog or cat, 90% human hair hairdressing training mannequin head, and so forth. I have questions… (more…)

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So it turns out that the best way to revive the blog viewing statistics and get some discussion going, at least temporarily, is a post on the decline of blogging and the absence of discussion… Thanks to everyone who read and commented; yes, the numbers are sliding back to their old level already, but it’s good to know that there are people out there still committed to this genre (and I still maintain that it’s a distinctive genre, certainly from the perspective of a writer, whatever @rogueclassicist thinks…). In the meantime…

In the meantime, I try to work out why WordPress won’t let me embed an embeddable player… In the interim, this will have to do:


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What are they good for?

This thought was prompted in the short term by a friend’s remark in a Facebook discussion that “I remember blogs” – followed up, when I enquired, by “#obsoletetechnology” – but I’ve been wondering about it for a while in the face of a steady decline in the viewing and visitor statistics for this one. (more…)

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I’m in two minds about scribbling this, and may change my mind about publishing it by the time I’ve finished; something that has always, quite irrationally, infuriated me about academics on social media is the way that some of them just use it to celebrate their successes and forthcoming media appearances. Non-specific sighs and laments in search of sympathetic responses are entirely forgivable in comparison… (more…)

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One of the incidental benefits of researching the piece I’m currently trying to finish, exploring my attempt at turning the Melian Dialogue into a ‘choose your own adventure’ game, has been the discovery (courtesy of an article by Shawn Graham) of the concept of the ‘creepy treehouse’. To quote a definition from Jared M. Stein (cited from this blog, as the original page seems to have disappeared from the internet and links are broken):

Any institutionally-created, operated, or controlled environment in which participants are lured in either by mimicking pre-existing open or naturally formed environments, or by force, through a system of punishments or rewards. Such institutional environments are often seen as more artificial in their construction and usage, and typically compete with pre-existing systems, environments, or applications. Creepy treehouses also have an aspect of closed-ness, where activity within is hidden from the outside world, and may not be easily transferred from the environment by the participants.

A concrete example: the blog or discussion board facilities on Blackboard and similar Virtual Learning Environments. We look at these and see a useful tool for our teaching, encouraging students to engage with the topic and with each other outside class, hoping to draw on the fact that they allegedly spend all their time online anyway; they see somewhere that is trying to look welcoming and familiar but isn’t, because they didn’t build it, and so at best this is a bit creepy, and most likely it’s some sort of trap… (more…)

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“We are either kings among men, or the pawns of kings”: Thucydides. Or not. It’s the first time I’ve seen this one on the Twitter, and it’s easy to track down its immediate source: Smallville, season 5 episode 10, Lex Luthor speaking: “Thucydides said, ‘We are either kings among men… or the pawns of kings.'” January 2006, so it’s actually surprising this hasn’t surfaced before. More interesting is the origin of the quote, which certainly isn’t anything to do with Thucydides. Various internet sources attribute a variant to Napoleon Bonaparte: “In this life we are either kings or pawns, emperors or fools.” Doesn’t appear to be authentic – and quite a lot of the citations note that this actually comes from the 2002 film of The Count of Monte Cristo, except that there it recurs in several different, shortened versions – “In life, we’re all either kings or pawns”; “Kings and pawns, Marchand. Emperors and fools”; “We are kings or pawns, a man once said” – that someone has drawn together into a single line. No trace of this in the original Dumas novel, so it does indeed seem to have been invented for the film, and elevated to a sort of theme. Really not the sort of thing that either Napoleon or Thucydides would say… (more…)

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Signing off Twitter for the next couple of days – anything I say on there could easily be misinterpreted, even rants about UKIP-supporting badgers destroying my entire parsnip crop. Ditto Facebook; too many academic ‘friends’, some of whom I’ve forgotten I ever befriended. I *think* Spotify is safe; even if I didn’t manage to disable all the settings that wanted to share my listening with the rest of the world, the fact that 58% of the songs I listened to last year were in the post rock genre means that only ardent Mogwai fans will have any hope of deciphering my mood from the specific choice of feedback-laden drone.

Yes, it’s the day when Unit of Assessment co-ordinators for the Research Excellence Framework get sent the results, and have to avoid giving the slightest hint to anyone else of whether these are a cause for celebration, relief or despair. The ‘total share mode’ encouraged by social media is not really conducive to such secrecy…

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