Note: This post was originally written for Howard Rheingold’s Intro to Mind Amplifiers course.
As I reflect on my infotention skills, I immediately think of my Twitter activities. As I mentioned in the forums, I purposely did not include my social media activities in my Netvibes dashboard because 1) I didn’t want Facebook interfering with my work feeds and 2) the Netvibes Twitter widget cannot handle my Twitter usage.
I use Twitter all-day and everyday. It’s a way for me to participate in various communities and discussions that are pertinent to my research and teaching, and I use Twitter to engage with other colleagues in my discipline. Below is a screen capture of five of many columns I usually have open in TweetDeck. This Twitter client allows me to manage many different information streams or, as I like to call them, knowledge cannons because Twitter almost hurls information at you.
In essence, I have two infotention dashboards: my Netvibes dashboard and my TweetDeck dashboard. The most prominent feature I like about Twitter is the ability to enact a narrative and engage in conversation and discussions almost instantly. In addition, I participate in weekly Twitter chats (#phdchat and #fycchat), and I use TweetChat, a client allowing you to focus on one hashtag, to focus my attention on that weekly chat while keeping TweetDeck open.
However, navigating Twitter requires a knowledge or familiarity with 21st century literacies. I have found Howard’s Twitter Literacy piece brilliant when it comes to understanding Twitter, and I have often used his piece in my courses to introduce students to Twitter. While it is true that the way in which information is hurled at us is amplified in the digital age, I think that Twitter increases the amplification because information is streamed in real-time and updated constantly. It can be overwhelming, but it can also be relaxing (at least for me!) as I let the information wash over me.
I have screened captured and annotated my current TweetDeck view; it appears below.
I first saw this video in a graduate course focused on new literacies, and, recently, I showed this in my FYW class. My students found it quite humorous and true. I think it really speaks to the saturation of social media into our lives.
How many can go without Facebook now? Or Twitter? Or Delicious? It has reached the point where we need these social media tools to function in the world. We need them to communicate, understand, and connect to the world.
Are you a new media douchebag? If so, I suggest you join DA: Douchebags Anonymous.
*This literacy narrative was originally written for a reading I gave at UMN for a FYW program event highlighting writing teachers as readers and writers.*
I quickly grew tired of teen fiction. Usually the thought that would run through my head at the next teen novel was “Oh, for fuck’s sake. Another teen crybaby whiny story! Ah!” So, one month, I decided I would pick up a novel that wasn’t teen fiction. I had my parents take me to Barnes and Noble, one of my favorite places, and I looked around for a novel that looked cool. To be honest, I was looking for a cover that looked interesting. In retrospect, I probably should have thought of a different way to pick a book, but I was young (13!) and couldn’t think of another way. When I picked up the book I finally settled on, I thought it must have something to do with sex because the word mistress was in the title, and I had overheard adults—not my parents—talking about their mistresses and the sexual acts they engaged in with said mistresses (none of which I will go into here!). Anyway, I, like most freshly minted teenage boys, was interested in sex, so I thought I could slip the book past my parents keen eyes and hide it under my bed. To my joy, my parents let me buy the book, and I was so happy because I had fooled them…or so I’d thought.
When I got home, I quickly ran off with my book to my room to examine it for, ahem, literary purposes, but to my chagrin, the book wasn’t about sex at all. It was then that I cursed book titles for being misleading. I mean, if I bought a book with the word Rasputin in the title, I wouldn’t expect it to be about muffins; therefore, when I see a book title with the word mistress in it, I don’t necessarily think it will be about revolution. The book title, which had carelessly misled me into thinking about sex, was The Moon is a Harsh Mistress written by Robert Heinlein. It’s a science fiction novel about libertarian revolution on the moon.
It’s amazing how much a book can change your perspective on the world. When I read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, I felt alive. I never understood how one book could make me feel alive or make me want to lead revolutionaries against a tyrannically government. I quickly devoured the book, I read every line and then I read it again and again and again until I had almost memorized the entire text. This was the first book that made me laugh, made me cry, made me angry, and made me sad. I will always remember the story and message it gave me: there is no substitute for freedom of knowledge.
Literacy is something that means many different things, but I think the overall benefit of any type of literacy is that it empowers and enlightens. Heinlein’s novel empowered me when I was 13, and it empowers me now because it is the book that set me on my current path in higher education. It helped me become who I am, so it will always have a special place in my heart.
So, what does this have to do with writing? Well, after reading Heinlein’s novel, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to evoke the same emotions through text that Heinlein had conjured in me. I set about writing in many genres: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I wrote short stories about ladybugs and fireflies, essays about my dad mowing the yard and my grandmother making fried chicken, and poetry about my striped socks and wishes of sweet lovers. Even today, I still write poetry of my colorful socks and my sweet lovers. I write fiction stories of my kitty, Gen. Sir Tanner Fitzgibbons (names pending), leading his balls of yarn into battle or pouncing on the poor defenseless moth that dared to invade his domain. I still write essays about life and compose poetry every Sunday morning at dawn. I dream of words and combine sentences that I think will be lovely in stories that I have yet to write, but like most of my students and many of my colleagues, I still have trouble saying I am a writer. They are four words but frequently difficult to say because we do not always think of ourselves as writers, but the other thing that also writes. Well, I most certainly must be something of a writer because I teach writing and the thousands of pages bulging from my file cabinet suggests I am a writer. I’ve often thought that writers would much rather be apart of WA: Writer’s Anonymous.
So, I’ll leave you with a rather simple thought as I end: I am a writer and so are you.
I’ve been asked to give a reading on March 31st about my experience as a writer and a teacher. The First-Year Writing program at UMN is hosting the event and a few FYW instructors have been asked to participate in order to show students that writing teachers are just as much writers as they are teachers. I think this is a phenomenal idea and important because students seem not to realize teachers are writers too.
I, along with six other FYW instructors, have been asked to each give a five minute reading. I’ve taken a selection out of a longer essay I’ve been working on about my literacy experiences for the reading. I’m not going to post the entire reading here yet. I will after next week. I want some stuff to be a surprise.
So, here are a few lines:
I quickly grew tired of teen fiction. Usually the thought that would run through my head at the next teen novel was, “Oh, for fuck’s sake. Another teen cry-baby whiny story! Ah!” So, one month I decided I would pick up a novel that wasn’t teen fiction. I had my parents take me to Barnes and Noble, one of my favorite places, and I looked around for a novel that looked cool. To be honest, I was looking for a cover that looked interesting. In retrospect, I probably should have thought of a different way to pick a book, but I was young and couldn’t think of another way. When I picked up the book I finally settled on, I thought it had to do with lovers and sex, but…