Going Clear: A Call for Conversation around the Ethics of Mobile Live Streaming from #OER17 and Other Events

Last year I read Dave Eggers’ The Circle, a dystopian novel about technology, social media, and society gone wrong. By the end of the novel the lead character is engaging in a process called “going clear” where she is live streaming her entire life save sleeping and going to the bathroom. It is pretty creepy. I’m not ready to go clear but I like to do live streams from my phone when I’m attending conferences and I want to evaluate my usage because I do think that this technology can be overreaching and even dangerous. I’m interested in the ethical pursuit of technology in my work so I think about this stuff a lot.

My work with Virtually Connecting has made me sensitive to things like making sure when we go live in a public hallway that we have a wall behind us and not a walkthrough – to be sure that people who are passing by do not get caught in the livestream. But it is more than just visuals – live stream can pick up background conversations and other audio that others may not want out there too.

There have been calls for me to live stream from #OER17 and I’m thrilled to do it. Maha asked Martin Hawksey if it was okay to do personal mobile livestream and he said he had concerns about the Wifi bandwidth but as long as presenters were okay with it that was fine. I have a good data plan that I can use in UK so I think I can still do it and not bog down the conference wifi. Battery life is more of a concern to me than bandwidth at this point.

But I’m wondering about those ethical concerns of live stream not just conference sessions but also social time.

Consent is huge for me. During a scheduled conference session I can ask the presenter but I think I might also ask the presenter to make an announcement to the audience that the stream is happening.

I’ve had wonderful experiences live streaming social situations. I’ve had great circumstances where it was just a lot of fun for everyone involved and people watching have told me that they love it and that it makes them feel like they are really a part of the conference. However, consent can be tricky with a group of people. I’ve had situations where even though I’ve announced that I’m going live not everyone in the group caught that and if we are in public what about strangers who might just wander into my shot?

There is also something important about addressing the camera. Talking to an audience even if no one is currently watching. It is a hospitality thing but really an ethical concern about the background audio for me. There are lots of beautiful visual elements that can be fun to live stream without putting my face in the camera and saying “hey look at this”. But to just start up a recorded live stream without directing the audience’s audible experience means that you are publicizing the ambient sounds, with I’m fine with if it is birds chirping or street music but feel a little concerned about for background conversations.

What else should I be thinking about as I consider live streaming from #OER17? Much of this is an experiment for me but how do I do that ethically? What technology should I use? What is the best way to confirm consent? How do I empower people to say no? Has anyone else done this from a conference? What ethical concerns do you have? It seems to me that live streaming is a great tool for open education but what are the ethical implications?

Associative Trails Around DigCiz, Fake News, and Microtargeting

Microtargeting: A Digital Citizen’s Perspective

I started writing this post about fake news and microtargeting a few days ago and then I was reminded that #OpenLearning17 was talking about Vannevar Bush’s As We May Think this week. I began to see connections between how they might relate. It made this post even longer but I think it was worth it.

Some background if you don’t know: Bush’s article was written in 1945 as the war was ending. He was the Director of Scientific Research and Development during this time so he was all about applying science in warfare. In the article he is envisioning where scientists will put their energies as the war is ending.

Now, as peace approaches, one asks where they [scientists] will find objectives worthy of their best.

The article focuses on the connections we make when we build knowledge. How we associate past discoveries with current ones and tie things together. Bush advocates using technology to track the connections that we make in this process to extend memory for better reflection on those connections. Many credit this article with predicting the Internet.

He uses this term “associative trails” to describe indexing knowledge based on connections that we define. He thinks this is more powerful than typical kinds of indexing like sorting by number or alphabetizing. But I note that this is a much more personalized kind of indexing.

He is advocating for metacognition, that is, realizing what you are thinking and where your trails lie so you can better understand what you are researching, yes, but more importantly your own thought processes. What I am wondering about is what happens when you get the technology part but you leave out the metacognitive part? Bush does not seem to consider this option but I think this is often the world that we live in today.

When I start thinking about fake news and microtargeting I have to ask what if a person does not have access to their associative trails? What if they don’t even realize they are leaving a trail? What if they think that their trail is not so important? What if someone’s trail could be bought and sold? What does the record of all our connections say about us and can it be used in ways that might be exploitive?

I’m not a data scientist. I’m not a journalist. I’m not a librarian.

I am a technologist. I am an educator. I am a person. A person who lives some of her life on the web. I want to say a lot of her life on the web…. But “a lot” is a relative term.

Often it is journalists and librarians that tackle the fake news topic. I think that both of these groups add an important perspective to the conversation but I also think that there is the perspective of a digital citizen and those that advocate for such concepts; the perspective of someone using the web as a place of expression, a place to learn, and to be heard and to listen to others.

What is microtargeting?

When I bring the idea of microtargeting up I’ll start with something like “well you know they track a lot of your data from the internet to try to influence you” and most often, before I can continue, I hear “oh yes of course I know that”. Then there is the inevitable story of shopping for an item on one site and then continuing to see ads for it on other sites. But that is rather mild and not really what concerns me.

I’m not just talking about the machine realizing that you were looking at a product on another site or that you clicked on something from your email, that is cookies and web beacons, that is rudimentary stuff.

I’m talking about gathering thousands of data points, combining them, and analyzing them. Everything from shopping history to facebook likes and what church you attend can be gathered and combined with traditional demographics to create a “personalized experience” meant to influence you with emotional and psychological messaging.

The big story around microtargeting right now has to do with a little company called Cambridge Analytica (CA) in London. They are the big story because they’ve had well known wins with customers like the Brexit Leave and Donald Trump campaigns.  

In this eleven minute video during the Concordia Summit their CEO Alexander Nix explains how they work. In the video Nix explains that demographic and geographic information is child’s play. That the idea of all people from one demographic getting the same message: “all women because of their gender, all African Americans because of their race, all old people because of their age” is ridiculous. That those things are of course important but they are only part of the picture; that psychographics are a much more complete picture because then you are targeting for personality.

The big shocker where people feel a little creeped out is when they learn that CA uses those silly little facebook quizzes (you know the ones that you click the “connect to facebook” button on before you are allowed to take them) to profile your personality. What! Those quizzes are not just there for free for you to have fun with… as they say: if the service is free consider that you might be the product.

As we may forget

CA is not the only one doing this; they are just the popular story right now and the quizzing is only part of things. For me the big part is that connection to facebook which can give the owner of the quiz (be it CA or some other company) access to all of your account information, your likes, your posts, and often much of your friend’s information. Of course, much of your personal and consumer data can be purchased so throw that into the mix. Imagine aligning all of this data for a person. It is a lot. Often people don’t even realize what they are giving away.

You authorize the connection so that you can take the quiz or play the game or whatever and then it is over for you – you have had your fun and you move on. But the app still has that connection to your account and will continue to unless you go in and specifically delete it. This means that it can continue to gather data. Apps will vary of course and I can’t speak for any specific one but I know that all of you are reading the terms of service of each app before you connect it – right?

In this case the user is continuing to make associative trails on facebook through friending and liking. However, they are not using those trails for metacognition. They are not using technology to extend their memory so that they may better reflect on the connections that they are making. Instead they plow forward forgetting many of the connections and the fact that they have authorized someone/thing else access and track their connection trails. The trails are being harvested by an outside entity and the user, more than likely, has no idea who that entity is – did I mention that they could change the terms of service, the name of, or the nature of the app at any moment?

But how much can someone really do with all that data?

I have seen the data scientist folks that I follow sort of look at the CA story a little sideways and it seems every day there is a new article downplaying the impact CA had on the Trump and Brexit campaigns. Interestingly though not too many saying that the idea behind this, using big data and psychographics to personalize experiences, is invalid. Just that CA might be more hype than pay off.

This much more comprehensive story about the origins of CA in Motherboard states that Cambridge is not releasing any empirical evidence on how much or how little they are affecting the outcomes of campaigns. And though CA is more than happy to tout their wins as proof of their effectiveness I’ve yet to see anything about their losses which is a classic vendor ploy.

In this recent Bloomberg article, The Math Babe, Cathy O’Neil points out that what Trump was doing during the campaign is not uncommon and that the Hillary campaign was also doing it. Also, that U.S. companies have for decades been tracking personality. O’Neil points out that “To be sure, there’s plenty to be appalled at in this story…. It is just not specific to Trump”.  She states that Hillary had access to more data than Trump because she had access to Obama’s archive of data from the previous elections. 

But then I think about Bush. As We May Think considers information storage and to be sure the amount of data is important. However, I think the real meat is in the connections. It is here that I have a hunch that having the right context or being able to see the right connections could be more powerful than having more data – well at least if we are talking about the difference between a lot of data and a whole heck of a lot data. Did I mention that I am not a data scientist?

Paul Olivier Dehaye has written about how CA was targeting “low information voters” for the Trump campaign. This article hypothesizes that CA used data (citing CA’s claim to have 5000 data points for every adult American) to specifically look for voters who had a low “need for cognition” for microtarged political advertising. These are the type of folks who would be more likely to not dig too deep or question stories that were presented to them. These folks are not doing a lot of metacognition. I don’t blame them for this, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

What is real and how can we tell?

As I remember it, when the term fake news first started being thrown around during the campaign it was largely being used to define sites that were not run by major news organizations or even particular journalists but rather individuals who knew how to buy a domain name, hosting, and throw up a WordPress site but who were only interested in click revenu. They would come up with crazy stories and even crazier headlines just to get people to click. As these started to be called out as “fake news” some began to create lists of these sites and place parody and satire sites alongside of them.

But then it got more challenging with accusations that major news sources were in fact fake news and that we could tap into “alternative facts” to get to the truth.

Journalists receive training to be sensitive to bias and context and to not let it interfere with their reporting, so they should be more prepared to consider context and fight against bias, especially their own. However, you will never be able to completely remove bias and context; much of it can be hidden and not realized till later. It is here that education is asked to step in and create critical citizens who will hold journalists responsible for what they report and it is here that we see the calls for greater digital and information literacy in regards to fake news.

Fake news, microtargeting, and digital citizenship

Bush envisioned people using technology to extend their memory to be more metacognitive about the connections they were making while they were building knowledge. These seem like rather “high cognition” kind of folks to me but what about those “low cognition” kind of people that Dehaye thinks CA could be after? Who are they?

I mean I’ll admit that I’m guilty myself. I don’t read every terms of service for every new app I download. I have forgotten that I’d given access to some app only later to find it hanging out in my facebook or accessing the geolocation of my phone. But I think that it is really some of the most vulnerable among us that are at risk here.  

What if you work 40/50 hours a week and care for children, parents, or grandparents? What if you have a disability or illness to manage? What if you grew up surrounded by technology and this kind of technology usage is your normal? Do you have time to build all of those literacies? 

Building critical literacies around information and digital technologies takes time. It requires more than just a list of which websites are fake, which are satire, and which are backed by trained journalists. It requires more than a diagram of which news sources lean in which direction politically.

You need the ability to critically look for the nuance of things that could be off. For instance a .com.co is different than a .com. Kin Lane talks about “domain literacy” and goes much deeper than this basic understanding of domains but I hope you see what I mean. We need to read the article and then ask is it really reporting first hand or are they reporting on reporting as Mike Caulfield points out when he calls for the first step in fact checking to not be evaluating the source but rather determining who the source is!

Once you determine the true source you need to evaluate it – who wrote this, what are their political leanings, are they being backed by other influences (like money) somewhere? You should click on the article’s links and/or look at its sources and read those articles to get context before you make a definitive decision about it’s worth. All of this takes access, and knowledge, and constant practice.

Maha Bali writes about how fake news is not our real problem. She points out how fake news is good for critical thinking and states that we need more than just a cognitive approach; what we really need is cross-cultural dialog, learning, and skills. This is where education and community need to step up to the plate.

It seems like a lot and for me it is a call for better general and liberal education. I think the first step may just be in realizing (and getting students to realize) that my internet is different from your internet. Where possible, taking ownership for our own “associative trails” and demanding that ownership when it is kept from us. Finally, simply realizing that there are political forces and companies with lots of your data… which has always been the case but maybe realizing that they are trying to influence you in increasingly intimate ways.

This article (images and words) are CC-BY Autumm Caines

Call for Participation and Introducing #fyschat


George Station and I are both teaching first year seminars (fys) this term and we have been considering ways to collaborate. My class is called “digital citizenship” and his is “technology and society” but we are both asking questions about the role that connected and networked technology is playing in our various worlds and in education.

Teaching first year seminar is interesting for me (this is my first time) as I am tasked with mixing the conversation that I want to have (digital citizenship) with the questions around fys like what it means to be an educated person, what is the difference between college and high school, and how can students start to learn about how they learn.

In trying to converge those two conversations George and I have been collaborating on a shared project between our two classes and we wanted to open it up to anyone else that might be interested in the practice of digital citizenship, technology and society, or in the experience of being a first year college student.

It all starts the week of October 17th when we will ask students to collaboratively annotate this Washington Post article about about why some students succeed in college while others don’t do so well. We will be using hypothesis so that all of the students can see and respond to each other’s annotations all week long.

Then, on October 25th we will all gather on twitter using the hashtag #fyschat for an all day twitter chat about the article, what it means to be a first year student, maybe what it was like to participate together using hypothesis…

If you are a first year college student, or if you are interested in the experience of first year students, I do hope that you will consider joining us for all or part of #fyschat in just a few weeks.

#MyDigCiz as Critical Experimentation in Opposition to Best Practice: Self-Reflection After #DigPed PEI or why I thought you might care about my soup

It was 2007, I was just finishing up my BS degree in communication technology when I received a google alert on my name one day. Honestly, I had felt a little vain when I set it up but I saw how this could be helpful especially considering the uniqueness of my name.

Someone had written a blog post and mentioned me!

I didn’t have a blog and really didn’t know any bloggers so this seemed really strange. I discovered that the post was about Twitter as a tool and explored how people were using it. I was on Twitter. My supervisor at the time had said that it was something that I should check out and so I created an account and started tinkering with it a few months prior.

The blog post was a rant about the best ways that people were using twitter and comparing how they should not use twitter. Two accounts were highlighted and an example was made out of them – your’s truly was the prime example of how to NOT use twitter.

I remember being pretty mortified, I think I killed my account for awhile, I think I changed my name when I eventually reactivated it. After some time I finally got a little mad. I mean I was a student. I was new to this online platform and so was everyone else; it had only been around for a little over a year. The whole thing was a big experiment as far as I was concerned. So I tweeted some boring stuff. There are worse things in the world. I ended up tweeting a link to the offending post stating “I guess no one cares about my soup”.

I’d like to think that I’ve come a long way in my use of twitter. But I still use experimentation in dealing with new tools and I’m sure that I’m not using tools as intended at any given time depending the context. But I don’t think that I should stop doing that. I may look silly sometimes and I may come off the wrong way but I learn a lot in doing it and then I write posts like this one sharing what I’ve learned… and…  I think that is valuable. I’m not just experimenting in a vacuum. I am thinking about context, I am thinking about different vantage points, and I am thinking about how my uses impact others. But I am experimenting.

Still, I’m prone to getting sucked in by that voice of authority stating the right way to use tools. It is a strange dichotomy. This post is largely about me trying to work that out.

Right now there are a ton of things converging and diverging in my world. I’m just back from the #DigPed PEI conference where I took the digital literacies track but it is also the last two weeks of #DigCiz and Maha Bali has charged us all to define what digital citizenship looks like for us and on whose terms are we encouraging it using the tag #MyDigCiz. These two things together have me taking a hard look at what I am doing and questioning some of my practices in terms of being a person in the flesh and on the internet. I’m realizing that #MyDigCiz has a lot to do with critical self-reflection and continually trying to understand connections. At the same time I’m realizing that experiments are risky and not just to myself but to others.

I mean I am luckier than most. I have a self-reflective nature and a community of scholars that help me to build digital literacies and consider multiple contexts regularly; it’s called Virtually Connecting. As a community we are in almost constant dialog about what is ethical and what is not. How we can elevate voices that don’t get heard. What is working technically and how we can adjust environments for better connections. We are thinking about what is happening in the background when we go live and record. Who might walk into the frame and do they want to be live on the internet. It’s not perfect. We too are experimenting and learning. But we are also thinking critically, adjusting, and persisting.

You’d think this stuff was old hat for me. But it is not. I’m constantly readjusting.

One of my favorite moments at #DigPed PEI was the twitter chat. I didn’t do much tweeting. Those of us that were more experienced at twitter grouped up and gathered in the big open room – the Market Square. There were these loungy couches around the perimeter but some of us gathered in the middle and began a verbal in the flesh conversation/online twitter chat. I loved this moment so much because it ended up being a great liminal space. Those of us who gathered in the center of the room took time to talk but also time to read twitter and to tweet. There was tons of “dead air” interspersed with bits of verbal conversation. It wasn’t a show or a presentation, there was no front of the room, it was a conversation among people in the flesh who were on the internet at the same time. It was beautiful for someone like me. People jumped in from that outer ring from time to time while others were just quietly on their computers. The verbal conversation was a great mix of people with varying levels of experience in terms of presenting/attending conferences but like I said most were pretty established with using twitter and other forms of social media. Out of this conversation, a few key questions (particular thanks Audrey Watters) have led me to remember how I’ve developed certain methods around tweeting but also helped me to question some of my approaches as well.

I share a fair amount on the web. Not as much as many on Twitter but more than most in the world. I often filter other people through me via my tweets and I’m sure I deviate from their intended meanings – I am my own person after all. I live tweet many keynote speakers and session presenters. After doing this for awhile and being self-reflective about it I realized that there was a lot to be said for context. Hearing some snippet of what a speaker has said out of context can convey a completely different meaning. Then I have to ask where does my interpretation of what a speaker has said start and what they actually said (or what they meant in a particular context) end – and how does the random person who encounters that tweet perceive it?  What responsibilities do I have to the content, the connections, and the speaker? What if I hear something wrong and share something that creates confusion? What if I start a conversation between some people that are going to hate one another? What if I say something in public that will hurt someone? If any of this happens how do I atone for this? Will I even realize it?

Upon this realization I remember making a conscious choice to stop using quotes, for the most part, in these kind of tweets. I did this on purpose. My point in not using quotes is that I’m taking some responsibility for the content of that tweet. I don’t want there to be a perception that I’m quoting directly – unless I do but it is rare in the scope of my tweets. This is my little indication that I’m doing the best I can in 140 characters to interpret and not mimic. But that’s not written down anywhere – that is not a best practice – that is an Autummism… but the thing is I’m not sure anyone “gets” that but me. I think many people assume the quotes. They assume that I’m word for word transcribing the talk. I don’t know how to assert that I’m a human and not a recording or broadcast device. I’m not trying to be a journalist, I’m not trying to be a camera, I just want to be a person who expresses her experience and uses social media to process that experience… more on that in a bit.

Until a few months ago I also used to never put the handle of the speaker in each tweet. I would send out one tweet at the beginning stating who I was hearing and interpreting but all subsequent tweets would not reference the speaker. But then there is a problem with attribution and does it look like I’m spewing the speaker’s rhetoric on my own? After getting called on this it might have been the first time I googled “how to live tweet a keynote speaker” (or something of the like) and low and behold there were a set of “best practices” that sure enough stated that you should tag the speaker in each tweet. So I started doing that.

Yes! Best practice to the rescue. Now I can finally start using Twitter right.

But now that I look back I realize that many of those articles were geared toward folks that were doing some kind of media production, were trying to sell something, or were interested in hitting a specific analytic. Wait!… That ain’t me babe. I’m not sure that I’m the intended audience of those articles but I didn’t get that at that time.

The thing about “best practices” is that they are problematic in that they strip nuance out of these contextual experiences. During our conversation some noted that this tagging in every single tweet basically sent the speaker a barrage of notifications which could be annoying. Furthermore, these had the potential to start side conversations that resulted in even more notifications. These side conversations are complicated by the “meaning problem” that I started to outline earlier. Because a meaning which is based on an interpretation by the person reading the tweet, in the context of the interpretation of the person who composed and sent the tweet, can be very different than the intended message of the speaker. It feels like you are almost asking for trouble. This problem is going to be present regardless I guess but my beef is with the “best” in best practice.

Who is that best for again? And how is the “best practice” better than my experimental Autumm practice? It seems either way the vulnerabilities persist.

Another tool I have started using is mobile live streaming and I think this does a good job of taking some of the problems I just discussed off of the table. It is pretty clear when I am on camera and when the speaker is on camera and the speaker just gets to speak for themselves. This technology is fairly new and there are a ton of best practices on the web mostly geared at video and sound quality and creating an experience for the virtual audience. The problem with the live streaming over tweeting is that I don’t live tweet a speaker only for the other people on twitter who may read those tweets or for the speaker themselves – I do it for myself too. I gain perspective considering those multiple contexts and constraints. It keeps my mind engaged in a different way than if I were listening without writing or even if I were listening and taking public or private notes. I know through my work with Virtually Connecting it is not about creating a great experience for a virtual audience as much as it is about creating a reciprocal experience between those on each side of the camera. Or at least that is what it is about for me and others that I surround myself with… I suppose this is where digital citizenship comes in. 

I don’t just use social media and the public internet to channel other people who are speaking at conferences. I don’t just use images, video, and text to speak to an audience. I experiment with these things to learn about myself and the world around me. To explore multiple contexts and points of view. I have public conversations about topics that no one has easy answers for so that I can learn, maybe not the right answers but to perhaps be able to ask better questions, in community. I reflect on my experiences based on various forms of feedback that I receive and I make adjustments. I try to do better. This is not a research project, this is not reporting, this is not a course… this is a part of who I am.

And so when Sundi Richard and I started to ask questions around the idea of digital citizenship, having public conversations using video chat and Twitter seemed like second nature. When we decided to do it again a few months later we purchased web space and gave a home to some things like a schedule and an articulation of the context in which we were interested in talking about digital citizenship. By that time I had also found time to read Rhizo14: A Rhizomatic Learning cMOOC in Sunlight and in Shade by Jenny Mackness and Frances Bell and it gave me pause. I was in Rhizo15 and found the facilitator Dave Cormier to be attentive and deeply concerned for those that were experimenting with him around a complex topic for which there was no clear easy clear cut answer. However, this paper painted Dave as having control and influence over the group but neglecting the needs of those that were not having a positive experiences. That some participants had learned a great deal in the course but that others had been somehow damaged (the paper seems unclear to me on what this damage was and even feeling deeply embedded in Rhizo15 I’ve never figured it out) and that the facilitator should have had more control or something.

So, I wondered if our little #digciz project should have a disclaimer of sorts, perhaps a set of standards, or a defined code of ethics. I knew that we would never reach the scale of Rhizo14 but I saw no reason why we should not be concerned by the same ethical implications. I wanted to be clear that I was concerned about all those that were going to choose to engage with us but that at the same time that there were some dangers inherent to being on the public internet and that we would not be able to control every connection. That I have a life outside of #digciz and that I would not be able to watch 24/7.

I proposed this to Sundi and we created a page for this but we really struggled with articulation. Eventually, we decided to let the community own it and during the first week we would encourage the participants to build this statement themselves. Our first Twitter chat was more active than either of us had imagined but no one seemed interested in building such a statement. The page remained blank. We continued discussing digital citizenship anyway.

I think this was right for us and for the group that we ended up getting. We could have put on the breaks and refused to continue till we defined a disclaimer, list of ethical points, or a statement of some kind. But we didn’t. We decided to keep experimenting.

I think we all struggled with coming up with some set of standards for several reasons. For one we are a pretty new group and I don’t think that group members have even really defined what they wanted from the group. As a community comes together and solidifies I think that they sometimes feel a need to define themselves, but that takes time. For instance I had a hand in composing the Virtually Connecting manifesto and point to it often when defining that work. But I also think that our approach to subject of digital citizenship had something to do with this. We were bypassing some of the best practices on the subject and instead asking questions that were more complex and so reducing it back to a simple statement or a list of some kind just didn’t seem right.

As for me, I think that #MyDigCiz is somehow rooted in a sense that by creating a list of rules and practices we might give guidelines to some but that those guidelines will not speak for all. That like online, as in the flesh, the complexities around how we live and how we impact each other have more to do with deep fundamental attitudes surrounding relationships, empathy, and an ability to see multiple contexts than they do with following a list.

Of course the rub is that not everyone is ready to be self-reflective digital citizens. And so sometimes we create best practices, community statements, codes of ethics, etc. because we have to start somewhere. I think these are especially important for instance when dealing with young children and I don’t want to be condemning of those efforts (I understand that perhaps I have come off as hypercritical in the past) – they are important and needed – I just think that there is another conversation that is not really being discussed. I guess my point is that I think the best practices are not working by themselves and that we need more.

One thing that I did take from the Sunlight and Shade paper was that online courses including, and maybe especially, MOOCs are not going to be an enlightening experience for everyone…  I think we knew that but research often tells us things that we instinctively know.

What is becoming really clear to me is that none of this is happening in a vacuum. I see the use of public, social, digital, tools changing and shaping all of the time. I see them used to commit atrocities and then in other cases used to shine a light on atrocities. I know technology is not neutral but I also know that people’s use of technology is not neutral either. We are learning from each other and shaping the way that we affect one another through the use of these tools. I see the free experimentation of the use of technology when done with what John Dewey referred to as the “habit of amicable cooperation” as an affront on formulaic prescribed best practices that may only be best for sales numbers and media clicks. I know that the idea of citizenship is a problematic one and that digital citizenship is an even more problematic. However, I think that we have a better chance at finding a way to live together by developing an ability to see connections than in being able to follow the rules.


My next stop in this journey will be the Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute at University of Mary Washington and there will be lots of ways that you can participate virtually from Twitter to Virtually Connecting and I’m sure I will live stream a bit. However, I do want to encourage you – if you can by any means – attend in the flesh. I think that this is going to be one of the foremost learning events of the year if you are interested in getting past the hype and taking a close look at your own practice of teaching with digital tools.

Image Credit CC-BY-SA 4.0: Autumm Caines, Market Square UPEI 

What is Digital Citizenship?: recap on week 1 and announcing week 2 of #DigCiz

Last week was the first round of conversations that we kicked off about digital citizenship. I started off by presenting on digital citizenship with my colleague Jim Kerr during Martin Luther King day at Capital. It was nice to have a foundation of what Jim had done last year when he presented this topic on his own at this same event. We used the nine elements of Digital Citizenship as defined by Dr. Mike Ribble on digitalcitizenship.net which I think can be helpful when presenting on the concept to people that are not familiar with it. We Periscoped the session and put it on YouTube – We didn’t do a good job of staying in frame so the audio is better than the visuals.

This past week also kicked off the #DigCiz conversations which are an offshoot of #HumanMOOC by Sundi and I.

We have planned alternating forms of conversation between Twitter chats and Google Hangouts (GHO). This first round was a GHO and it was small, just Sundi, Daniel, and I but that was okay I think that made for a deeper conversation. We talked about some pretty cool stuff including:

  • What possibilities there might be for creating a digital bystander training
  • Creating journal entries reflecting on who one is as a digital citizen
  • Digital citizenry as a transformational experience
  • Digital citizenry as a chaotic concept as defined by the Cyenfin framework

We kept returning to the nine elements of digital citizenry and while I find the elements to be helpful in broaching the conversation of digital citizenship, as I start to dive deeper in my own thinking I’m having trouble with them. I’m just finding that digital citizenship is much deeper than any list of themes. In our GHO conversation we talked about how important creating digital identity is to citizenship. How can you participate if you don’t have an identity? What does it mean to have an identity and if someone does not have a well defined identity does that mean that maybe they are new to the digital world – should we take steps to welcome them? But the elements do not mention digital identity except for the element of digital law relating how stealing someone’s identity in a digital space is illegal. It seems to fit into the elements of digital communication, etiquette, and literacy but there is no mention of it.

This week we are continuing this conversation with a Twitter chat and we have changed the date/time to not conflict with the #MOOCMOOC instructional design chat. We will be tweeting on Friday, January 29th at 11pm CST/ 12pm EST using the tag #DigCiz.

The question is “Why is Digital Citizenship Important?” and I’ll do a quick stint here to answer it for myself just a bit: I think for me digital citizenship is important because no man is an island. It has to do with the idea of the public commons and working in public to the betterment of everyone. It has to do with those connections and networks that we talk about so much in learning theory and it has me wondering about informal learning and how we are learning all of the time as we connect with one another. What does it mean to share space? What does it mean to share ideas?

I know these are big romantic kind of questions/reflections… You can join the twitter chat on Friday, January 29th at 11pm CST/ 12pm EST using #DigCiz and help us explore them.

Introducing #DigCiz: A “place” to discuss digital citizenship – My take aways from #HumanMOOC

What does it mean to be a person on the web? What is it like to think of the web as a place? As a group of people in a place what are our responsibilities to each other?

I just finished up #HumanMOOC and it was a really good dance. I got to wax philosophic about what it means to be human and how we can transfer that human element to online learning. I’m finding more and more folks are talking about how important human relationships are to online learning and it is one of those big questions that I think takes multiple perspectives to figure out.

I’m thankful for #HumanMOOC’s dual layer design that allowed us to “go rogue” as Amy Ostrum called it and do a bunch of participant hangouts along with the scheduled conversations. One of these came about through twitter when I was having a conversation with some folks about digital citizenship and Sundi Richard suggested that we get together and talk about it a little bit.

Prior to the start of that hangout we were playing with the idea of a hashtag for discussing digital citizenship and came up with #DigCiz. I’m interested in continuing the conversation because I’d like to start teaching a first year seminar on digital citizenship in the fall. Some others have expressed interest in the conversation as well so Sundi and I got together the other day and planned a series of chats.

We decided to do alternating synchronous live video chats and twitter chats and to start off really broad and then narrow the topic. If you would like to join us feel free to check out this schedule and let us know if you want to join. Of course use the hashtag any other time or create whatever fun stuffs you would like out of this.

Week 1: What is digital citizenship?
Sync Video Chat
Wednesday, Jan 20th – 11am CST/12pm EST

Week 2: Why is digital citizenship important?
Twitter Chat
Wednesday, Jan 27th Friday, Jan 29th – 11am CST/12pm EST

Week 3: What resources around digital citizenship have we found helpful? Are there public resources that are needed and can we create them? 
Sync Video Chat
Wednesday, February 10th – 11am CST/12pm EST

Week 4: Participants choose this topic – Wellness – How do we maintain a healthy citizenry?
Twitter Chat
Wednesday, February 17th – 11am CST/12pm EST
Tuesday, February 16th – 1pm CST/2pm EST.

Week 5: Do we want to continue this conversation? What questions are still unanswered? What kind of timing should we continue with?
Sync Video Chat
Wednesday, February 24th –11am CST/12pm 1pm CST/2pm EST


To Err is Human: Listening, Forgiving and Forgetting

It t’was the MOOC before Christmas

And through the interwebs

All the creatures were stirring and…

… I actually found it kind of hard to keep up with everything but that was ok. (I know that part doesn’t rhyme – I’m not that kind of poet)

It’s not every year one gets a Graduation Solstice Birthday Christmas New Year but 2015/16 is the one for me. It’s travel time and I’m off and about staying true to my wandering nature. Along my way I’m carrying #HumanMOOC with me – no worries; it’s not so heavy. I have been paying attention and participating as I find fit and I thought I would reflect some.

First off – Wo! The participant hangout thing actually took off a little bit and that has been pretty awesome. It has me thinking about my thinking and wondering about differences in processing information synchronously vs asynchronously. For instance, the other day we had this one about digital citizenship put together by Sundi Richard and I found myself answering a question about what it means to be a good digital citizen by stating that it had to do with participation but in the same breath I somehow threw listening in as an act of participation. I could write a whole other post on this idea and of course it stands on the synchronous #HumanMOOC convo with Kate Bowles, tons of #HumanMOOC async convo on twitter and probably all the way back to my musings in #rhizo15 about lurkers, but my point is I had never really thought about it in relation to digital citizenship in that way before. That is, the idea that listening is a responsibility of being an active member of a society. But there it was, all manifesting itself as it came out of my mouth in that moment. Live on the Internet… Recorded. There is something kind of magical and terrifying about that.

In taking on a reflection here at the 3/4’s mark of #HumanMOOC a part of me wants to reflect on the competencies for weeks 1 & 2: Instructor and Social Presence, but alas I have these other pesky constructs coming out of the conversations that I have been participating in (yes some of them were only listening) that are screaming in my brain and making it hard for me to hear anything else. I might be down the rabbit hole with the questions.

Warning rhizomatic mind wanderings below

This first for me is the big question. What does it mean to be human? Can we humanize an online course if we don’t take a moment to consider this? I recognize that this is the big unanswerable philosophical question that flies in one’s face making lewd gestures and strange noises. For this reason it is often only taken on by those that bring it some air of seriousness for it is so easy to just go out drinking with it and let it get the best of you. And while I have not been known for my seriousness in these open online adventures I can’t resist it. So, please forgive this uptake of a big question by a not so serious girl who is only moderately read.

In considering what is human I have to wonder what is not human? Is it the wild? I found myself revisiting my public vs wild post from #CLMOOC due to #HumanMOOC convos. 

I’m tempted to reflect on what it means to create such a thing as good or bad or mediocre and then apply that construct to others and one’s self. Is this human? As I consider this question of what is human the phrase “to err is human” comes to mind. And this makes me wonder what it means to err. Didn’t humans create the idea of error? Maybe not, I’m not so sure that this separates the human from the wild. I suppose the wild could err if there is a pursuit that ends in failure or setback – perhaps a hunt or a gathering. But it seems to me that those kind of errors would not lend themselves to forgiveness.

To err is human; to forgive, divine

Is woman/man caught in some kind of middle here? Between wild and divine do we find human? This seems like a common enough of a thought. 

But I think I reject it. I think it might be a fraud. I think woman/man is wild as well as divine and dances in the liminal space of chaos in the universe.  So humor me with this as a foundation while I reflect a bit on how this relates to my recent thoughts inspired by #HumanMOOC.

What if to forgive was not divine? What if to forgive was just as human as to err?

We’ve had some talk these last few weeks about digital forgiveness and what that might mean. Alec Couros started this in a #HumanMOOC hangout with reflections of what it means to err in a wold that does not forget. He referenced his recent blog post where he comes to the conclusion that forgiveness may end up being the answer. I agree and I think that this is attainable because I think that forgiveness is not divine – but human. I worry that if we think of forgiveness as divine that it seems too unattainable.

Not everyone seems to agree – some would rather focus on forgetting rather than forgiving. Perhaps they think forgiveness is more than human and beyond what the human can achieve. That the only way to give someone hope would be to wipe the slate clean and erase all hints of the error. Some would even call this forgiveness.

In thinking about forgetting I can’t help but think of Socrates and how the old man warned us all those years ago on how writing stuff down would ruin our memories. Apparently there is some truth to that but I would argue the effects are not all that bad and that the benefits of writing outweigh what we have lost. Now, here we are worried that writing stuff down will ruin other people’s memories of who we used to be. Maybe the written word is ruining our history more than our memory? Or maybe it is just forcing us to rethink some things and asking us to be better people. Maybe it is doing both at the same time.

If forgiveness is something attainable by the human how do we learn to do it? Alec gives us guide points in his post such as considering context and intent. These seem helpful and clear to me but with some limitations. I wonder how many of us will take the initiative to seek out transgressions to forgive or (more likely) when encountering transgressions as they come will think to consider forgiveness as an option. The thing that seems missing (to me) in all of this is the willful act of asking for forgiveness; of realizing that a wrong has happened, recognizing the weight of that wrong, as well as who has been wronged, and genuinely asking for forgiveness.

What would it mean to request digital forgiveness? To realize a wrong, look it in the face, feel remorse, know it can’t be wiped away, yet ask for the right to go on in a particular direction? And what would that kind of forgiveness look like? It certainly sounds familiar to me. It kind of sounds like learning.

Why We Rhizo

There is no dark side of the moon really. As a matter of fact – it’s all dark. The only thing that makes it look light is the sun.
~Gerry O’Driscoll Doorman for Abby Road Studios
partly heard on Pink Floyd’s Eclipse

When questions about reasons and why collide with WEs and THEMs

The “Why do they cMOOC – Why do they Rhizo?” Question

All semester we had pondered the nature of technology and what it means for human learning. Week 1, Heidegger drew this line in the dirt saying technology was in opposition of nature to the detriment of man. Clark swooped in for week four claiming the stick Heidegger used to draw the line was an extension of Heidegger’s human will and that in doing so Heidegger had himself become part machine.  The arguments flew. I wondered where the girls were. I wandered into the wrong link at the right time, had a memory, put some pieces together and ended up in #rhizo15. I decided the informal and formal needed to/should hang out for this one even if I were to be the only bridge (and I was not).

End of the class; middle of the MOOC, the question came up:

Why do they cMOOC – (for me “Why do they Rhizo?”)

They’re not getting paid for it.
They seem to be having fun but it takes up so much time.
Maybe it is just to see if they can – I’m sure that is a part of it.
Ha! Maybe they just do it just to get new people – all eyes on me
“Uh oh look out I’m about to get sucked in….” everyone chuckles.

The class ended – #rhizo15 continued.

It’s been three months and now I find I’m asking myself:

The “Why do we Rhizo?” Question

And I’m struggling with the idea that getting more people might be the big answer! No. That cannot be right. There is just something in me saying that is not a good enough reason. One does not create community for the sake of creating community. Community can be messy. That is a dangerous proposal.

Then I hesitate. Gosh I sound like a sad and disgruntled old man. Reaching out to more people in a community to grow knowledge is a great reason; a noble reason. Of course we want to create opportunity where it is possible. Open doors where they can be opened for people that want in that particular door – where it has been closed before.

But the sole reason?

I think some of my hesitation may also be selfish – Ron Samul, a fellow rhizo newbie as of 15, helped me out in unpacking that one. I think I may be just wondering what happens to the new girl when she’s not so new anymore? Especially when she is preoccupied with thoughts of longevity and questions about what get’s left behind.

But here I am and without a doubt that question has shifted from a “they” to a “we” for me. And now I am struggling with it. Now it is personal.

What about those doors? (Warning Metaphorical Space Ahead)

The thing about the corridor of doors is that often we think of the doors as being closed as one walks along the hallway but I think the truth is that the doors are in all different kinds of states. Some are open, some are closed, locked, unlocked, ajar, propped… some squeak and stick… some swing… others slide… sometimes they’re those split dutch doors and either half could be in any of these states. Trap doors. Hidden doors. And the state of the door does not belong to the door itself. No, it changes depending on who is trying to access it – it is a very strange place.

The doors symbolize barriers yes but they also symbolize opportunity. Opportunity to change state. They can let people in but they are also the way out – and that happens – I think that is okay but what does that mean?

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite.
~ William Blake
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

There is something so freaking satisfying about opening those big heavy doors that have been locked for a long time. The doors that were locked to our mothers and fathers that are now open to us. Doors that held us back because of time and space, for instance. Distance? Time zones? Miles? Kilometers? Where the sun is at in it’s chase of the moon? Never mind any of that door – crash! You’re in!

Something so powerful about that.

Power is a funny thing and I find I have this affinity for subtlety.

Why We Rhizo

I had dinner with a colleague the other night and I found myself saying something like this in relation to the effect that #rhizo15 had on me:

“No longer can I accept this argument that you cannot form meaningful connected relationships in an online course. Yes, there can be barriers and those can vary from person to person, discipline to discipline, and I agree there are some environments where it is not going to happen but no longer can anyone tell me that it is not possible at all.”

And I’m not sure I ever really bought that argument for myself but I used to cut people some slack for it and I don’t think I can do that any more. That is not a little change. I’m already seeing a difference in the way I speak to people about online learning. It’s not a small thing – I’ve taken something valuable here.  So, I feel like I’ve got a debt to pay in terms of making WEs of THEMs and it is one I am glad to attempt to pay as best I can – honestly I get more than I give when I make those attempts. However, I struggle to say that is the end – to my means.

I think that, for me, being a part of a knowledge community is centered around the discovery, creation, and communication of knowledge. In writing this I struggled with even agreeing to the term “knowledge community” thinking that could be perceived as static or fixed in some way – I was thinking maybe questioning community or community of critical thought – but that all does seem, in the end, to lead to knowledge.

The thing about knowledge is that it is slippery and can take on all kinds of biases depending on your lens. (There is a good chance all of this is me just applying my thoughts, experiences, and personal bias in education theory in general to rhizo). So, we need other people; a diverse pool of people to look at knowledge from all different angles and perspectives. If we really want to say that we are a knowledge community then I feel like we need other people to challenge each other, create with one another, give perspective to one another. It is in this way, I think, that making WEs of THEMs is tightly tied to the idea of a knowledge community without being the sole reason for it.

The Connecting May be Virtual but the Authenticity is Real: #digped From Afar with Virtually Connecting

Cross-posted on http://virtuallyconnecting.org

Photo Credit Bowin Chin: People Connecting
Shared with Creative Commons Licensing NC-ND


Before we get started I should come clean and say that I have never actually tried one of those virtual conferences. I have been on both sides of webinars and streamed lectures enough that I imagine them to be lacking in the way of participation. You always hear that going to a conference is more about connecting and networking and that the virtual conference offerings cannot give you that. I suppose most virtual conferences are fine for what they are but it is not what I would imagine as participatory or social – I feel like they lack something in the way of authenticity.

My virtual experience for #digped was not like that.

I have to say it really outdid any of my expectations for a virtual experience. I should be clear that it was not the kind of experience you might think of when you see a conference offered “virtually”. This was never really “offered” to me; I paid no fee for a virtual registration, I was not provided with instructions on how to login, or given any special credentials or a link to follow. Heck the video stream of the keynotes (which were advertised as a maybe) did not even work. So what made the difference?

A huge part of my experience centered on getting more involved in Virtually Connecting (@VConnecting).

I was reminded about the event few days before the Lab/Institute began when I saw that Maha Bali (@Bali_Maha) and Rebecca Hogue (@rjhogue) were planning to do some VConnecting sessions for it.  I started talking to them about it and expressing interest in participating virtually. I had participated in some sessions for HASTAC and I knew it would be a good way to get a glimpse of things on site. They gave me the schedule and I signed up to participate in a few hangouts.

On the first day of the conference I got into things by sending this tweet which was pretty well received.

This tweet started to get a small number of favorites and retweets and at first I just thought that was cool. However, at some point I remembered that my first interaction with VConnecting was because Maha reached out to me after I faved an announcement about an upcoming session. Mind you I did not reach out to Maha with a reply or mention to say “Hey I really want to do that please count me in”.  While that may have been on my mind I did not say it; I was at this outdoor concert, camping, and did not think that it was something I could participate in at that moment. However, based on my fav Maha reached out to me and invited me in and when I explained where I was she gave me advice about connecting via the mobile app. She made the experience accessible and friendly for me.

So, getting these favs and retweets on this particular tweet was my WWMD (What Would Maha Do) moment. It also reminded me about Maha’s recent conversations around hospitality and how it had spurred my own thinking around digital citizenship. So, I started reaching out to those that were favoriting and retweeting (well those that I could tell were not already at the Lab/Institute) and seeing if they wanted to join up as virtual participants and sending the yes’s over to Maha or Rebecca.

This set a trajectory for me and before I knew it I was in full swing with the program for the whole week. I found myself in some of the planning backchannels which was awesome and somehow ended up co-hosting as a virtual buddy with Apostolos Koutropoulos (AK) (@koutropoulos) for the final day. In the end, I was in a VConnecting session every day except the one day that Alan Levine (@cogdog) hosted which was a bummer but I had the broadcast on in the background while at work and caught bits and pieces. That authenticity also showed up for me as I got to collaborate with our onsite buddies Andrea Rehn (@Profrehn), Lisa Hammershaimb (@merryspaniel), and Sarah Hammershaimb (@S_Hammershaimb). With all of the planning and organizing I felt like I got to know them and I felt connected to the onsite event. We were participating in the event in a different way but we were participating and it felt more authentic and real than I can ever imagine watching a broadcast could.

I think a big piece of the authenticity around VConnecting is that it is far from perfect. Especially in the live broadcast the sessions are exceedingly human; prone to awkward pauses, last minute changes, overlapping conversation starts, and all of the awkwardness that quite honestly triggers my social anxiety when meeting a new person for the first time. I’m struggling to define it but it reminds me of some kind of flip or hybridization on context collapse as Michael Wesch defined it for recording web video. Though it is recorded it is also live and in a social situation. I’ll be honest the experience is not always comfortable in the moment but I think that there is something to be said for being given the opportunity to look those contexts in the face and try to make sense of them. It is this sense of opportunity, humanness, and spontaneity that brought authenticity to VConnecting and VConnecting brought it to #digped and I got to jump on board for the ride.

Just like in a face to face experience when you go to a large gathering of professionals you will meet a lot of people but find that you might connect at a deeper level with others. The VConnecting live sessions allowed me to talk to some amazing presenters whose work I really admire, however, I found that the off air interactions were extremely rich. It is hard to plan and organize something with a group of people and walk away not feeling that you know each other a little more. Again, I can’t see how you could get that from watching a live stream no matter the chance to tweet a question and have it relayed by a moderator.

The pre and post show interactions and the planning logistics that went into creating each session were an opportunity to connect on a deeper level with many people that I otherwise would have never known. Some of these people I had met before through VConnecting or through other online interactions but for some it was my first time meeting them. Particularly, I think my relationship with Maha, Rebecca, and Andrea was deepened from all that communication and interaction. The laughter and silliness that ensued while AK and I tried to record a trailer for our session is something that makes me smile even while I recall it to write about it here.

After #digped we all got together in a hangout for a debriefing session; Virtually Connecting is still in it’s infancy having only launched earlier this year. It is still growing and defining itself but we were able to clarify some roles that need to be filled for future events and there is a call for more members now. If you can’t attend a conference that you really want to go to I would highly recommend seeing if VConnecting will be there and if so jumping in to see how you can participate with them from afar.

We are currently planning to be at several ed tech conferences including the altc conference in Manchester UK in September and the dLRN conference at Stanford next month. If you are organizing an event or conference contact VConnecting about bringing them onsite to your event – it will give your virtual participants an experience that cannot be replicated.

Public Space vs Wild Space: A #clmooc Reflection Without Much Background

I’m sad that I couldn’t find more time for #clmooc. But I think it might be fun that if I only get two posts in, that it be one at the beginning – my Untro – and one here at the end on public spaces.

I was not sure what was going on when I noticed many of my friends were changing their icons to little rangers on twitter. What the heck is the deal? That was when I realized that this final #clmooc prompt had to do with public spaces.

I caught some of the calls to pin maps with people’s favorite public spaces, photos, blog posts, and a twitter chat the other day which I actually got to take part in… but to tell the truth I did not get a chance to really dive into the conversation. Still, I’m inspired by this prompt… so without much background here is my reflection.

One of my first thoughts was about the open web as a public space and how that plays into digital citizenry. What the responsibilities are of the citizenry in public spaces of all kinds but then how that plays out on the web. How communities like #clmooc (and #moocmooc and #rhizo15) serve as good examples of digital citizenship by encouraging people to not just be on the web but to think, create, question, converse… build affiliations, acquaintances, friendships,… by using tools of the web to reach out to one another and be creative in positive ways that encourage a better public space for everyone. It seems that is an important part of a public space – realizing that it is public and that it is shared and that to share we need to work together to make a better space.

But then I had wondered if I had used the wrong metaphor in calling the open web “in the wild” for the #tomereaders book group that I facilitated on the open web. I did so because there were some people that did not want to participate in the open web and wanted a closed LMS instead – which I coined “in the lodge”.  I used these metaphors somewhat based on the fear that was expressed from the people that did not want to use the open environment and I’m not sure it was the right fit. This got me thinking about wild places and what it really means to be a wild place.

A wild place is different than a public place. It seems to me a public place is a place for people. In contrast a wild place is a place where nature comes first – not nature as in flowers, rocks, and animals but nature as in that sense or source of energy of the way things would be without a lot of man-made rules, structure, or laws where the flowers, rocks, and animals are there because of a shift in what is valued. In one sense a wild place is dangerous because it has not been massaged by the rules of humans and the wild things could have their way with you if you were out in the wrong place at the wrong time. But in a bigger sense the wild is vulnerable because we all know how humans can bend the wild to their own needs with pavement, machinery, and bureaucracy.

This led me to think of the recent protests in Portland OR where the protesters were trying to stop Shell from transporting equipment they needed to drill oil in the Arctic. The protesters were dangling themselves from a bridge putting their bodies in the way of the barge so that it could not pass. To some they are troublemakers and standing in the way of legal drilling that was given the go ahead by the government. But to others they are standing up for that value of the wild spaces that are vulnerable to the impact of humans.

And then looping back to the digital citizen in how all of this is documented and tweeted and blogged about; debated and conversed about on the open web leading to redefinitions about what it means to be public, what it means to be wild, what it means to be a citizen and be responsible to each other and to the public and wild spaces.

I’m not sure where this all goes and what this all means but I’m grateful for public spaces to have the conversation and think about the different spaces in our world.