edtech,  twitter

Kill yr idols (or not)

I’ve been meaning to write a “twitter isn’t as much fun as it used to be” kind of post for a while. Then Bonnie Stewart went and did it, but you know, with added eloquence and thought. It’s been an idea a few ed techers have been mumbling about online for a while now. On almost the same day as Bonnie’s post David Kernohan gave an excellent talk at ALT-C on this subject.

The argument goes something like this: online communication and networks used to be fun, but they’ve become not only boring now, but as David put it, scary. This is partly a result of professional types now manipulating social media, and partly because people now pay attention.

Sheila MacNeill asked David a good question which was along the lines of “are you just upset that the great unwashed have turned up now and ruined your place that used to be cool?”

I think there is something in this. Back in the day, those of us who blogged and then used twitter were always advocating how great they would be if everyone used them. And then they did. The thrill of being right (for once) was offset by the disappointment at what inevitably happened. And here is the quandary for ed tech – we want people to take it seriously, but when they do it becomes something else. As soon as what you said in social media matteredĀ then people wanted to control it. Or at least fire people who said the wrong thing, and as this Pew Internet report highlights, this leads to self-censorship and a spiral of silence. Self censorship is still censorship.

The same might be said of MOOCs. It was fun when no-one was watching, but then everyone started paying attention and it got all corporate. In the TV series Extras, Ricky Gervais character is given this very blunt choice by his agent:

“do you want fame and fortune, or do you want integrity and respect?”

Because he can’t have both. And this is what I’m not sure about, can we have both in edtech? Or must this year’s fun thing always become next year’s VLE or die?

Anyway, here’s Sonic Youth telling you to kill your idols. Because it’s the end of the world, and confusion is sex, or something like that.


  • AJ Cann

    Well there’s an easy solution. Back in the day we’d all decamp to the newest, coolest social network to arrive and leave the rest behind. Because we were the cool edtech kids. And because we could. And just because.
    But now we’re old, and the cool kids decamped to SnapChat and the dark Web when the visual web revolution started last year. We rest in peace.
    Dude, let’s face it, you’re just too old for this sort of thing.

  • James Michie

    For me, the tone has changed… what was (and in some instances – see #ccourses) a nurturing, supportive environment to share within has now become an area of self-promotion, ego and argument. Hence, my engagement with Twitter has become very selective. I tend to collect links, read and occasionally enter into discussion. However, the discussion aspect was the norm when I first joined, now I loathe it, mainly due to the hostile nature that conversations I have been involved in have taken.

    Although, more and more as time has wore on, I have become more resentful of the 140 character limit too. I tried App.net for a while but the community there is not *my community*.

    On the flip side of all this negativity, I am encouraged by some of the ideas already shared in #ccourses and the work @jimgroom et al, are doing with ‘Domain of One’s Own’. Perhaps a push back to personal blogs is the way forward?

    Moreover, POSSE and platforms like ‘Known’ look like the could help to connect silos, allowing us to engage as a community but in the comfort of our own spaces. I for one will be heading in this direction.

  • admin

    Yes, there is probably something in that. It might also be that the network effect, combined with the matthew effect or any other effect means that we could do that easily then because it didn’t matter so much. There’s too much invested now these things are significant. You can’t afford not to be on twitter, even if we all moan about it

    • James Michie

      Indeed, which is why I closed my ADN account, rarely use G+ and continue to turn up on Twitter. Go where the people are. I just wish I could filter out more of the people. Apps like Tweetbot help but a lot of noise still makes its way through.

      I have started to use lists more. I have one called ‘More Signal, Less Noise’ and it only has 20ish people in it… those whose opinions I really value. I know that this is equally bad in that it really narrows the range of values and beliefs that I am engaged with but I feel it is better for my mental health! :-/

  • CogDog

    I must be on a different internet. I find it all as fun and invigorating as it always was. Maybe you sift through the scum, but I’ve not seen a dramatic change that would make me look elsewhere.

    Make it the place you want it to be.

    • admin

      I think you’re right Alan. But it does become harder (for me anyway) to keep it fun. I was saying to Mark Power on twitter the other night that being unrelentingly trivial (as I am), is harder than people think. Having said that, because of personal stuff, my online network has become more significant to me, and I do still find it a friendly, and fun place. I just filter out the unpleasantness. That’s because a) I’m shallow and b) it’s not what I want from it.

      • James Michie

        Agreed… and I guess what I was driving at is that the ‘filtering’ has (for me) increased significantly in the last couple of years, which is a shame as to my mind that pushes against the idea of openness within online communities.

  • Glenyan

    Maybe a certain level of clique-iness is setting in? How to manage a network of followers changes as it grows, and it isn’t always habitual or so apparent how to do this. Perhaps related, I sometimes feel the self-censorship factor come into play when interacting with Twitter “pioneers” who wield much influence, because they’ve been around for a long time. This whole topic might even enhance that distinction, unfortunately.

    For me, I try to change up how I use Twitter routinely – Every few months, or seasonally, I follow different people and subject areas. I’ve also started interacting more with learners directly, which has been an excellent practice.

  • Chris Jobling

    I’ve really only ever sampled the “firehose” and will occasionally pay more attention during an event like #altc. But I’ve usually find something worth favouriting and/or retweeting. I’ve never found twitter particularly affective as a conversational medium anyway. Plus if the cool kids leave, won’t that make it worse not better?

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