Disaggregated communication

Comms2_2

I was chatting with Tony Hirst the other day and we were reflecting on how varied our communication methods were amongst the Facebook project team (Tony, Stuart Brown, Liam Green-Hughes and me). We sometimes use Facebook itself to have a discussion, or we might have an email exchange. I can’t really see any reason for why we use one instead of the other at any particular time, but these tend to be discussions along the lines of ‘have you seen this?’

Then there are our blog posts and related comments. Sometimes we will respond to each other’s posts in our own blogs, other times we will add a comment, but mostly this type of communication is more ambient – I know what Tony is thinking about or working on, and just as importantly, he knows that I know it, so when we meet we have a shared foundation for conversation.

And then we have twitter – we all follow each other, and so will sometimes send replies or direct messages, but as with blogging Twitter really provides a background to more focused discussion. I will know what they are working on, but also it helps maintain a social bond which is vital in an informal team such as this.

Occasionally we need synchronous interaction, and will use Flashmeeting or Skype.

Lastly, we meet up for beers and cross paths at workshops and occasional meetings.

I’ve put all this is a compendium mindmap, shown above. It gets more social as you move from work meetings anti-clockwise round to the beer. So, at least from the point of view of this grouping, face to face is both the least and the most socially oriented.

What Tony and I realised was that we didn’t really register that we had all these methods of communication. Using them and maintaining an overall track of the dialogue is not difficult, it just feels natural. The reason this may be relevant is that in education we worry an awful lot about communication channels with students and having only one main method. Perhaps this disaggregation of communication is not as difficult to manage cognitively as we once thought and actually allows each medium/tool to be used to its best advantage. This only happens if you’re comfortable with the technology though.

3 Comments

  1. Perhaps this disaggregation of communication is not as difficult to manage cognitively as we once thought and actually allows each medium/tool to be used to its best advantage.
    I was with a f2f group today and asked them to look at this post to see what they made of the world it describes (http://lccspring.pbwiki.com/Week%204). Reflecting on their response and then my response to their response and also the whole FB thang I’ve started to wonder whether or not we’re simply trying too hard. In my very non-scientific sample of 14 3rd year UGs a couple don’t use any SNS and a few are FB-addicts with high triple-digit friend counts and a habit which means they can’t walk past a screen without logging in. But even the addicts seem to be mainly using it as an SMS service which also allows photo sharing. So even if I’m presented with an all singing, all dancing comms suite such as FlashMeeting if all I want to do is send texts….. Need we worry about which tool is being used to its best advantage or should we go back to looking at what people want to do? A Ferrari is no use if the job is delivering coal.
    BTW – The whole post really helped those who haven’t strayed far from FB to see a wider and richer world of digital communication. If I send you next week’s lesson plan now……..? πŸ™‚

  2. So you’re responsible for all those hits from the wiki Nigel. Is this an open course?
    I think you’re right about trying too hard – at least in the sense of thinking (and prescribing) what each tool can do. If you take an organic approach this stuff just kind of falls out. I love Flashmeeting, it’s just right for certain types of meetings I need to hold, and it doesn’t require a two hour introduction to use.
    If next week’s lesson is on Spurs.

  3. Yup – the wiki is part of the course. We build it each week and the students keep a reflective blog. It’s something I do for LCC (http://www.lcc.arts.ac.uk/) as part of a BA Hons in Media and Cultural studies – needless to say I’m not involved in anything cultural.
    I think the key question I was asked (before directing folk to this post) was “Why?”. Your diagram certainly helped many to see practical application for the tools but I think our map of “have and have nots” needs an additional layer addressing “getting it and not getting it” which will include some folk using the tools as a fashion statement rather than anything else.
    Three hours f2f on the tragicomedy that is being played out at WH Lane? I think not – they need a Shaksepearean scholar for that πŸ™‚ Gutted about that last gasp goal on Saturday.

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