Further Defining LOOM: autonomous persistence in relation to ethos

I was asked to be part of a panel discussion at the Winter Symposium on Digital Literacies in Higher Education as a part of my work with Virtually Connecting. This time I not only had distance as a barrier but also time – I had a meeting scheduled at the same time.

The panel was on networking and digital literacies so we were talking about how Virtually Connecting is a learning movement; how we use networking as a way to learn about digital tools together in community. To illustrate this point I told the history of how I got involved with VConnecting which is tightly tied to #Rhizo15. I could have gone back even further because I found #Rhizo15 through Hybrid Pedagogy and I found Hybrid Pedagogy because of the #MOOCMOOC MOOC but I only had 5min.

Some of the other folks on the panel asked me to tie it back to the idea of LOOM which I wrote about a few months ago and it was nice to articulate the Little Open Online Movement again. In doing so I found that the concept grew in my mind a bit. It was in the rethinking of “Movement” that I found growth.

In this particular articulation of it I again stressed the “Little” and the “Movement”. Little being important because you can’t have meaningful project with 10K people. I’m reminded of all the little projects that broke off in the many MOOCs that I was in as evidence of this.

As I had stated originally, “Movements” are not events; they don’t start and stop at defined points the way that courses or twitter chats do.  I still think that this is a key to describing online movements.

But then I added a new nuance to the description of a movement this time; the idea of autonomous persistence: No one is there or continues to be there because they have been told to be or because they have negotiated some kind of pay off – not that there isn’t a pay off. I attribute this to the biggest definer of a movement (which I had included in the last definition) – the ethos or character behind the group. Because the group has defined itself in some way it stands for something, and a kind of  personality has arisen from this.

This relationship between autonomous persistence and ethos was an interesting one for me to consider. I think that autonomous persistence of participants and the ethos of the group are tightly tied. It is not that the participant has to even agree with the ethos to be autonomously persistent. Just that there has to be interest and reciprocation between the two.

#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 

#OLCInnovate Fishbowl: So what’s Virtually Connecting all about anyway?

This Tuesday through Friday, June 19th – 22nd, I will be attending, presenting, and Virtually Connecting at the OLC Innovate conference in New Orleans. I’m excited to take the lead on our presentation Fishbowl: So what’s Virtually Connecting all about anyway? on Thursday the 21st at 11:15 am in Oak Alley (4th floor) of the Sheraton Hotel. If you are at OLC and would like to come by it would be great to see you or if you are virtual you can view the hangout portion of the  presentation here, here, or here.

There are a bunch of us that are presenting including Maha Bali, Whitney Kilgore, Alan Levine, Rebecca Hogue, Apostolos Koutropoulos, Patrice Torcivia Prusko, and Andrea Rehn. We will have some participants that are more experienced with VConnecting including Sundi Richard and Susan Adams who both just stepped up to take on more responsibilities on the virtual side of this conference.

What the heck is a fishbowl?

Virtually Connecting is all about informal small group conversation. The struggle was to find a way to adapt what we do into a larger group formal presentation. Rebecca was the one who suggested the fishbowl exercise. In this format, circles of chairs are set up around a smaller group at the center who are having the conversation. The larger group is there to listen while the center focuses on the conversation.

Fishbowl_diagram_172

Our twist will be that it will not just be a regular conversation going on in the center but a Virtually Connecting session. We will be joined by Laura Gogia and A. Micael Berman as our onsite guests to explore questions around the ethos of the OLC conference.

So how is it going to work?

I’m taking sort of a meta role on this session along with some others in our team. I’ve put together a slide deck which I will embed below and I will give a short 5min presentation/lightning talk at the beginning while the virtual and onsite buddies are getting connected.

Alan will be our virtual buddy for this session, he will be welcoming our virtual participants, waiting for us to connect onsite, and will ultimately take the VC session live on the Internet.

Whitney will be our onsite buddy and will be connecting with Alan and welcoming Laura and Michael as they arrive onsite.

As the conversation is happening Rebecca, Andrea, Patrice, and I will hang out in the audience taking pictures and quietly answering any side questions that people might have.

After about 20min or so we will open it up for Q&A on the topic or on Virtually Connecting as a movement. Audience members can come forward and jump into the recorded session or we can relay them if they don’t want to be in the livestream.

Some questions I have…

I’m really not sure if the facilitates at the Sheraton will be able to accommodate a circle. So, we may have to be more lecture style depending on the shape of the room. I hope that works out okay.

I’m hoping that Whitney can connect to the hangout on her laptop while I run the presentation from mine and that the switch to the projector (and the OLC live stream) can be seamless between them with just a cable switch when the moment comes… but I’m really not sure.

So, this session is not completely fool proof. But that is a part of what VConnecting is all about – not knowing all of the answers beforehand and not knowing exactly what you are going to say or how things are going to turn out. Of course in the case of a formal presentation we have to structure things a little more but that is such a part of who we are that it can’t go away completely.

… And of course – the why.

What is the purpose of this fishbowl session. Well, for me there are several.

There is of course that core conversation between those in the session about the spirit and culture of the conference. I’ve been watching as Laura has been doing amazing work with creating digital adventures at the conference through the PlugIN lounge. Michael brings us a conference history, as I understand, he has been a part of participating in this organization for some time – I don’t completely understand all of the iterations of this conference myself so I’ll save my questions for him for the session.

Of course we also want to explain what Virtually Connecting is and why it is so important. Why would you want to give access to those that are not present at a conference and to those that maybe have not even paid anything? Why is informal conversation important as a part of the virtual conference experience and how do you even do it? How is participating in Virtually Connecting a form of professional development?

I’m not exactly sure we will get to dive as deep on those big questions about VConnecting as I would like, with everything else that we have going on, but I do plan to touch on them a bit. At the very least we will be giving an example of what VConnecting is and how it works, we’ll have a great conversation with some really interesting people, and we’ll have some fun. It is our birthday after all 🙂

If you are at the conference we are in Oak Alley (4th floor) on Thursday the 21st at 11:15am CDT.

If you are not at the conference there are lots of opportunities to connect with Virtually Connecting. All dates and times of our session are listed on our website.

My Virtual Life: becoming a real buddy with a nod to the Velveteen Rabbit

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be virtual?

Over the last year I spent a lot of time expanding my virtual self. Now, I had a virtual self before last year but there is no denying that, for me, during #rhizo15, and then after, as I started getting more involved with Virtually Connecting, that I really started to do more and more and just Be online. I’ve been thinking about it a lot and this post is just me doing a little reflecting.

A common thread that I have sensed in the undercurrent of it all is this sense of being “Real” as in “In Real Life”. When we talk about meeting in-person vs meeting virtually we often refer to the face to face experience as “Real”, and I’m not sure I agree with that. This is not the first time I’ve thought about this. I worked through this a few months ago with some folks online and started to prefer the term “in the flesh” rather than “in real life” for my own interactions that happen face to face. One of the things that I like about life in general is the ability to work through my ideas in conjunction with others. Online allows me to extend the reach. Does it allow me more diverse voices to interact with? Jury is still out on that one. I’m thankful for the voices that are counter to my own and for the challenges that they bring. I encounter challenging voices online but I encounter them face to face too. I’m thankful for them all. Online transverses space and time better – I’ll give it that.

Over this past year I learned about and how to use a bunch of new technologies. I connected with and learned from people all over the globe. I fell in love and got my heart broken. I made a ton of new friends. I got (and continue to get) called out on some stuff that I was getting wrong… and that stung (stings) but I’m better for it. I traveled and I got to meet some of those people that I was connecting with online at #dLRN15 and #AACUgened16 and some other conferences. I have to say that it has been a pretty rich experience overall.

Did it hurt? Sometimes.

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become.

I started my journey in edtech as a non-traditional student, tech assistant in an office of academic technology at a community college. I did a lot of grunt work and I really wasn’t really sure to what end (It is not that it was not being pointed out to me just that I was greener than most). I just knew that I liked people and I liked technology and that edtech was paying attention to the mixture of the two where many other fields were just being pushed or pulled by them.

I was kind of lost for a long time and not sure what I was going to do with myself. I got another degree. I put myself out there. I landed a gig. It was in an IT department. It was at a university.

And then there is this idea of ontological design. This idea that our environment shapes us. Which seems pretty common sense and I’m not sure that we really need a fancy name like “ontological design” to describe it. But I’ve come to find affinity with fancy names and long titles just as I once had an affinity for disclaimers – I may still I’ve just decided for some reason not to use one here. But in the meantime I got another degree.

And after all of that – after all of that! I now feel kind of like a baby and that my eyes are just now starting to open. It is almost enough to give up, and I would… if it were not that I’m just beginning.

It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’

~ All quotes from: The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams

What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be real? What does it mean to be virtual? What does it mean to create something of beauty – something that might inspire others?

I’m not sure about the answers to these big questions. I’m pretty sure that no matter if we are living online or if we are living face to face that they are still important big questions that are not going anywhere anytime soon.

I started reading this book the other day that is all about how our virtual lives are stealing away our face to face lives. I’m considering exploring this in community because seems, to me, more of a problem of environment in general than a matter of “face to face vs online” or “Real vs. virtual”. But still, I think this book makes some good points about presence and focus – it just blames technology instead.

But who knows if I’ll have time. After all #rhizo16 starts on May 10th… that’s the rumor I heard anyway… you never know with those rhizomes.

and

I still owe Maha Bali that death post from last year… but I just can’t bring myself to write it.

😉


Photo in the public domain in the United States taken from Wikimedia Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

 

A call for more #HumanMOOC discussion groups. Or. The very human problem of access with more thoughts on the Interpersonal Multitudes Barrier (IMB)

So I planned this participant led discussion inside of #HumanMOOC. In terms of process I tweeted that I wanted to do this and asked who else might be interested. With those that responded I opened a DM channel and configured a time. Then I advertised the time on the tag to see if I could get others involved.

But then I got this tweet

And it brought up such a little flurry of thoughts in my head that I had to blog about them.

My first reaction was a pretty human one… I’m not an organizer of #HumanMOOC. I can’t please everyone ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’m not responsible to please everyone.

Then I thought “that was a pretty selfish reaction”.

Upon reflection I can see this process is filled with possibilities of inequality.

  1. Those that answered may have done so because they already knew me – feeling more comfortable responding to someone familiar.
  2. They had to of seen that first tweet so they would have to be paying attention in the right place at the right time.
  3. I did offer 12 Noon EST as a suggestion and it just happened to work for others but it was based on my own subjective availability.
  4. I’m more comfortable doing this because of experience with Virtually Connecting and others may not be.
  5. I’m sure there are a ton more – I am planning for the hangout to be conducted in English (cutting out everyone who does not speak English). I am going to live broadcast it and record it (cutting out a large number of those that will be uncomfortable with that for whatever reason). The list goes on and on…

These all seem to fall on limitations of access, experience, and participation… probably other things too. Yes it is true the sun does have a part to play here (or perhaps it is the old archaic beliefs that accentuate the sun’s importance) but those are hard to overcome and trying to impact that is hard with small incremental reward over long periods of time. The real question is what can we do provide more access, experience, and participation to everyone.

Because I’m of this romantic notion that the more diverse perspectives we can intersect with the better we are as (a) people.

We got the time zone thing worked out and then Maha tweeted this

Of course this is the Interpersonal Multitudes Barrier that I have been talking about. I know this may have a nicer name and be fleshed out somewhere in communication theory elsewhere (please let me know where I’m looking for more info on this). But it is the basic idea that as you add more people to a discussion you loose that interpersonal connection a little more. Maha seems to be keenly aware of this. This is another barrier to group dynamics. In this case is mediated in a Google Hangout by the fact that the technology limits you to 10 participants.

And after all of this it turned out I misunderstood Maha in the very beginning. 

Because she started with my name I thought Maha was addressing me but I think she was just trying to start her own participant discussion group.

Ah Ha!! That is the answer. For more people to do what they can to bring people together. I love our #HumanMOOC way-finders as they are calling themselves (organizers, profs, teachers etc…) but they can only do so much and they have already done so much. This is our learning experience. Let’s claim it.

There are so many things that are standing in the way of us all talking to each other. The sun, the IMB, lack of experience with the technology… it goes on. But if more people tried to do these things maybe it would break down these barriers. We could offer groups in more timezones and in more languages. Maybe try different technologies other than GHO to see what limitations are going on there.

I’m more of a subjectives girl myself but check it out… I also notice that demonstrating uses of an interactive tool is a competency in the #HumanMOOC syllabus… so huh… go figure.

I say start a #HumanMOOC discussion group of your own and see where it goes.

P.S. I will say that the garden has some dangers out there so this call is not without possible downfalls. Remember the other part of Maha’s tweet where she said she wished that there was a way for people to just jump in and jump out.  The only way I know to do that is to publicly tweet the join link. I’ve done that in the past and it has been bad with someone who we had never seen before coming in cursing and talking about things that were not relevant. Not horrible … but it could be worse.

Still, it is hard for me to condemn this process. Last year I saw a tweet from Sean Micael Morris with a link to a hangout. I thought it was a view link but it turned out to be a join link. I joined though I mostly listened. This Dave guy showed up and reminded me about this rhizo thing he does. At the time I had only heard about it peripherally. I joined and participated. Yeah… that kind of made a difference.

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.

Connecting Virtually – Considerations from a Virtual Participant

What is Virtually Connecting?

Recently, I had the privilege of being able to participate in a couple of Virtually Connecting hangouts;  an experiment set up by Maha Bali and Rebecca Hogue. What is Virtually Connecting?

Well, for a while now bigger Ed Tech conferences have been streaming sessions, sometimes for a price and sometimes for free. It is great because you can tune in and watch sessions that you are interested in and sometimes they even have a place where you can type in a  question and a moderator will relay your question to the presenter.

But let’s be honest, sessions are only one part of the conference experience.

A huge part of the conference experience is that person that you bump into in the hallway who just happens to be doing similar research or someone that you end up sitting with at a shared lunch table who last year implemented that same technology project that you are working on right now. It is those serendipitous little connections that just sort of happen.

How do you attempt to replicate that virtually?

Well… this is how it happened for me.

I was attending the Nelsonville Music Festival in Nelsonville Ohio, the first multi-day music festival I have attended in a long time, trying out my new 2 person Big Agnes Mountain Glo tent as accommodations for 3 nights and making food on my old propane 2 burner camping stove. Not bad data on the cell service but not the best either.

Nelsonvilletent

This is my attempt to replicate my situation/internal dialog/conversation with Maha Bali:

…Oh look a tweet from Maha about a hangout with some people from the HASTAC conference. I’ve always wanted to go to that conference; looks like a blast. I bet that hangout would be a blast; wish I could play but I am on my way to see this band – hiking the path from the camp site to the festival grounds – I’ll just favorite the tweet to show Maha my support.

Oh… DM from Maha ‘do I want to join the hangout’. Yes! I do want to join the hangout but I’m at this thing without all my tech – I only have my phone. What? There is a Google Hangout app? ‘It starts in about 90min’. That would give me some time to gather some things; earbuds, power cord, find a quiet place… Okay I’m in at least to try…

What was it like?

Well you can see for yourself:

But let me give a little more.

So, the majority of the labor for a thing like this falls on the virtual host and the on-site coordinator who together work out times, onsite location, technology set-up, etc. As a virtual participant you really get the sweet end of the deal – you just get to drop in. I ended up being a virtual participant in three of these sessions over the next few weeks with Maha as the virtual host each time.

They were Hangouts On-Air so besides the people in the hangout who are participating there is the potential for a whole other audience that might be tuning in and they are recorded so others might be tuning in later. I had at least one experience with someone blogging about our conversation after the fact when Simon Ensor reminded me about the magic of technology. I thought it was a wonderful way to extend the conversation.

Overall, it was a great experience each time. I got to meet some really smart people including Mia Zamora who I’m encountering again as she is helping to facilitate #CLMOOC. I also got great insights to some conferences (HASTAC and DML) that I have been wanting to check out for a while.

The spontaneous nature of the thing encouraged that serendipitous energy and each time it really did remind me of bumping into someone at a conference to chat over coffee – that thing that is so hard to replicate in virtual conference offerings.

I will admit to a bit of social anxiety, which people say I hide pretty well but it is there.  I was meeting people that I had never met before and who’s work I was not really familiar with so in the beginning there was a little bit of anxiety. However, Maha was a great host and did a wonderful job of getting everyone acclimated and it was easy to feel comfortable once things started rolling.

If you get a chance to be a virtual participant I would highly recommend the experience. It is a wonderful way to broaden your network and connect with some people that are doing good work in the field. The Virtual Connecting website also has suggestions on how you can run your own Virtually Connecting sessions if you want to give it a try.

Here are a few other blog posts and articles that describe the experience from the other sides:

Articles from Maha and Rebecca in Hybrid Pedagogy and in The Chronicle Of Higher Education’s Prof Hacker blog.

Insights from Alan Levine and Andrea Rehn on being an on-sight participant