Twitter as a Platform of Collaboration

By | The Administrative Life, The Long Road | No Comments

Whenever I talk to faculty and students about the use of social media in the academy, I advocate for a community building approach. The idea is relatively simple: communication has the power to enrich or impoverish our relationships with one another; we should resist impoverishing and cultivate enriching practices of social media communications.

However simple the idea, putting it into practice is difficult.

Adopting enriching practices of communication is difficult in every context, but it is made more difficult in a social media context in part because we have horrible models and in part because social media is often not taken seriously as a space for genuine relationship building.

In the interest of highlighting examples of how I try to cultivate community around my administrative and academic life, I thought I would curate three recent stories that were encouraging to me.

Online Scholarly Presence

In my role as Dean of the College of Arts & Letters, I have been advocating strongly for the importance of cultivating elegant and eloquent online spaces for our faculty and students to give voice to their intellectual life. I have tried myself to model this through cplong.org.

To facilitate this, we entered into agreement with Reclaim Hosting to provide free web hosting to all faculty and graduate students in the College. As we told the story through YouTube and Twitter, the initiative has started to catch on across MSU:

Listen to the Twitter exchange that followed in which I responded to Sarah Dysart’s enthusiasm with an offer to collaborate and Leigh Graves and Scott Schopieray took up the thread to put it into practice through an initiative shared between the College of Arts & Letters and the College of Education.

As Sarah suggests, this exchange demonstrates the power of Twitter to create real connections across campus, networks that will advance our shared attempts to facilitate public engagement with the scholarship of our faculty and students.

A Deepening Sense of Place

As second example comes from a name we found etched into a 135-year old window in Linton Hall. After it was pointed out to me, I took a picture and tweeted:

Despite my mis-reading of C.F. as C.P., the archeology group on campus responded:

The MSU Archives then joined the discussion:

These resources, provided by generous colleagues, allowed me to craft a welcome letter to our incoming class of 2020 around the story of C.F. Baker:

View story at Medium.com

#SpartanDeans

The third example to which I’d point concerns the use of Twitter among administrators. Last year, as a new Dean at MSU, I sought to use Twitter not only to celebrate the work of faculty and students in the College of Arts & Letters, but also to deepen my relationships with my dean colleagues. And yes, we had some fun along the way (#DeansLookingOutWindows).

As we thought about welcoming a new group of deans to campus this semester, we decided to adopt #SpartanDeans as a way to celebrate the work we are doing individually and in collaboration:

These interactions led to the collaborative welcome video for new students at Michigan State University which I’ll conclude:

General Education Reform and the Art of Listening

By | The Administrative Life, The Long Road | 12 Comments

By the time we took the stage as the final panel of the day, we had heard the voices of expert educators, faculty, administrators, employers and alums speak about the value and importance of general education. Now it was our turn.

But this panel was to be reversed, with panelists asking questions of the audience and listening attentively in response.

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A Domain of Your Own

By | The Graduate Experience, The Long Road | 5 Comments

As a graduate student in the digital age, you need a domain of your own.

First of all, you will be Googled, and when you are, your domain should appear early in the results as the fulcrum of a carefully cultivated online identity.

Second, in order to leverage the power of the social web to cultivate a community of scholars interested in your work, you need a domain to which to point your friends on Facebook, your followers on Twitter, and those who have circled you on Google+.

In thinking about your online presence as a graduate student or academic, it is helpful to conceive of it as a kind of ecosystem in which various elements work together to offer the public a picture of who you are and the work you are doing.

A canonical website – a domain of your own – should provide the essential nutrients of your online ecosystem. To create one, register your name or, if you have a relatively common name, register a unique name that identifies you across a wide spectrum of websites. It is not too expensive to register a domain name with a service like Blue Host, for example. Even if you decide to host your site somewhere else, it is important to register your domain so you have some control over your online identity.

Once you have a website setup under your domain, consider it the place in which you document your research, write reflectively on your scholarship, and invite others to discover your work. You might also use the site to curate content about a hobby of interest so as to give people a more well rounded sense of who you are. At minimum, anything you would put on your CV should be added your website and amplifed through various social media channels.

Depending on your area of research, one social media channel might be more important than another. There is a robust and influential community of Digital Humanists on Twitter, for example; while Academic.edu seems to be emerging as a kind of Linkedin for academics.

In this regard, Google Plus has a special role to play. Even if you are not very active on Google Plus, it is worth creating a profile and posting your work there because Google is beginning to integrate G+ into its core business operations, and specifically search. Once you create a G+ profile, you should link it to your domain. This allows Google to associate your G+ profile with the content you author on your site so they are able to serve information about you up with links they present in search results. When it’s set up, this is what is looks like in Google Search:

Chris Long Author G+

Here you can see the way information about you as author is connected with content you wrote to authenticate both the value of the link and your status as author. Once this connection is established, you will be better able to control the content associated with your name when a potential employer or an interested student or colleague Googles you to find out more about your work.

Resources

Reading the Death of Socrates

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentation: Interactive, Presentations, Vita | One Comment

Returning to Wittenberg for the first time since graduating in 1991, I gave an interactive, live-tweeted, lecture on Reading the Death of Socrates. The paper argues that the Phaedo is Plato’s most eloquent political dialogue, and it seeks not only to argue that both Socratic and Platonic politics recognized the transformative power of words, but also to use social media to experience the way words can enrich, or impoverish, community.

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The Art of Live-Tweeting

By | Presentation: Interactive, Technology, The Long Road | 27 Comments

Last year, there was some controversy over the question of live-tweeting at academic conferences and in academic settings more generally. The hashtag that emerged then, on Twitter of course, was #Twittergate.

In this post, I try to articulate the art of live-tweeting an academic lecture by suggesting that it is a kind of collaborative public note taking and by articulating various kinds of tweets one can write to cultivate a generous community of scholarship in relation to the lecture.

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Google Logo

The Googled Graduate Student

By | The Graduate Experience, The Long Road | 4 Comments

It is going to happen. Maybe not today or this week, but eventually, you will be Googled.

I am not talking about being Googled by an old friend interested in what you might be up to these days, but about the kind of Googling academics do when we are interested in learning more about the work of a young scholar.

Often, of course, this happens during a job search, but it can also happen in the course of your graduate education as you cultivate new professional relationships through disciplinary organizations and public appearances at conferences.

When it happens, you will want content you created to appear early and often in the search results.

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Twitter Owl by Codiew

The Tweeting Graduate Student

By | Technology, The Graduate Experience, The Long Road | 10 Comments

They will tell you it is too dangerous, that you’ll say something stupid and never be hired.

They’ll say it is too fast, too superficial, too full of snark to be of any value to anyone who aspires to serious scholarship.

They’ll say it’s a waste of time, that it’s noise that will distract you from your research and dissertation.

But don’t listen to the naysayers who steer you away from Twitter and other modes of social media communication.

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Twitter, Community and the First Year Experience

By | Education, Technology, The Long Road, The Undergraduate Experience | 10 Comments

Words do things. What they do, depends on the manner in which they are said, written and received.

What they did, and failed to do, last night is something that requires some reflection.

That is the purpose of this post on my visit to the Catholic University of America to deliver a keynote address to the 2012 freshman class.

When I was invited, I was encouraged to do something innovative and unconventional with technology, so I invited students to use twitter to participate in a shared experience designed to perform the central idea for which I advocated in the lecture:

The real value of a liberal arts education is political because it teaches us how to speak, act and respond to one another in ways that enable us, if we are willing and graceful enough, to create enriching public communities that are the conditions under which a fulfilling human life is possible.

The lecture was designed as a performance in which students would be empowered to actively and publicly engage with the question of the liberal arts and politics so that we might directly experience our shared ability (and inability) to create an enriching public space of community and communication.

The Design

The lecture was designed on three levels.

First, the written text was rather traditional. It was organized around Athena’s encounter with the Furies in Aeschylus’s Eumenides. I argued that the story illustrated how our ability to imagine our way into the position of others, particularly those with whom we disagree, is the central virtue of a liberal arts education and the key to establishing healthy and flourishing communities.

Second, I used Keynote to create slides with images and quotations that supported and augmented the points the written text made. These slides were not merely designed to reinforce the written text, but were themselves meant to add value to the lecture by exposing students to a rich history of artwork and imagery about Athena, the Furies, and the judgment of Orestes.

Third, through my keynote slides, I was able to live tweet my own lecture: when a slide appeared, I had pre-written a tweet to go with it. These tweets, like the slides themselves, were designed to add another layer of meaning and texture to the lecture.

To give you a sense of how the images and the tweets were designed, I created a specific Storify just with my tweets and some of the artwork included in the lecture.

A Good Plan and a Calculated Audible

Because I had experience using twitter in front of a large audience of first year students at Penn State that deteriorated quickly once students realized they could tweet snarky comments to a screen that everyone would immediately see, I knew I would need a way to moderate the tweets before they appeared on screen. We used the #cuafye hashtag (Catholic University of America, First Year Experience) to curate the tweets, but we needed a way to filter out those that were immature, overly snarky or otherwise impoverishing of the community we wanted to cultivate.

The plan was to have Taylor Fayle use the @MyCUA_FYE twitter account to retweet only those tweets he felt added value to the conversation. The idea was not to censor students–they would still be able to see anything posted to the #cuafye hashtag on their personal devices. Rather, we wanted to add a layer of review to ensure the level of the conversation reinforced the points the lecture articulated.

We thought we had it worked out too, but about 20 minutes before we started, we realized that the way it was set up would not update and scroll quickly enough to accommodate the tweets we were by then already receiving.

So I called an audible and told Todd to allow the raw hashtag feed to run, knowing full well that the dynamics of the entire lecture would thereby be altered.

It was … and not for the better.

And yet, strangely enough, I think the shared experience was educationally richer, if intellectually and emotionally more taxing.

Here is the Storify of the event with tweets from the students to give you a sense of what happened.

But this doesn’t really capture what was happening in the room. That is partly because students went back and deleted some of the more vulgar and disrespectful tweets (about Penn State, Sandusky, and other immature rudeness). But it is also because the twitter feed did not capture the overwhelming sense of respect and maturity I felt from a majority of students in the room itself. That respect and maturity was felt more palpably in the question and answer period, when we had the chance to reflect upon what we had together experienced.

What we experienced, however, was a failure to use words to create an enriching community. The twitter stream deteriorated quickly into immature snark, and students were not able to pull themselves out of that cycle of immaturity, despite some valiant attempts by some to convince their colleagues to imagine their way into another possibility.

Now, for my part, I knew exactly what was happening, though I could not follow all the posts as they were coming so quickly and I was, after all, trying to speak and tweet my lecture. Still, by calming the students down at specific points, speaking extemporaneously to refocus their attention and by emphasizing the things I had written into the text to invite their generosity and grace, we were able to proceed … for a while.

Then someone of the faculty decided the twitter feed needed to be shut down.

When it was, you could feel the frustration of the students, but you could also feel their attention turned more fully to me, and I was able to finish the lecture in a much more traditional way – with more passively receptive students for the words I was articulating. Of course, students still had access to the live stream on their devices, but not having the feed up on the “big screen” robbed them of a shared experience and thus diminished the allure of the snarky tweet.

Shared Reflection

The most rewarding aspect of the lecture for me was the question and answer period, because we were able to reflect together on the experience we’d just had. A central point of the lecture was that a well cultivated ethical imagination is required if an enriching community is to be created.

What we experienced, among other things, was a collective failure of ethical imagination. But it is not only that the students failed to imagine their way into the position of a visitor who had travelled a distance to speak with them and who had put a lot of thought and energy into the design of an interactive lecture. Rather, more fundamentally, we failed together to imagine another possibility for ourselves as a community.

Perhaps once I called the audible to allow the raw feed to roll, the die was cast and we were destined to descend to the shallowest expressions of ourselves.

But even so, there was something redemptive about that failure and the opportunity we had to reflect upon it together afterwards. During the question and answer period, we tried to come to terms with what we had experienced: was it right to have the feed pulled? Did that go against the very points I was trying not simply to argue, but also to perform? Were the students treated fairly by requiring that they attend a lecture in which they would be expected to participate freely and in good faith?

And what about the content of the lecture itself? There were excellent questions in this regard; questions that demonstrated without a doubt that many students were not too distracted by the experience to understand at a deep level what I was trying to accomplish.

One does not often have the privilege to reflect so candidly and insightfully with one’s audience about the very dynamics that emerged between us during the performance of the lecture itself … perhaps that elusive, more enriching community began to take root during those shared reflections reflections at the end. Perhaps those roots are continuing to grow as faculty teach into the experience in their classes.

Here, in fact, is an example of what can happen when faculty do just that:


As I think further about it, and as I continue to engage in ongoing conversations with students via twitter about what we experienced, I have come to recognize that the performance of the lecture itself had all the beauty, and all the ugliness, all the hopefulness, and all the disappointment, all the complexity and nuance and texture of all our attempts to enter into public communication with one another in order to establish a more fulfilling community together.

Words do things; and what they are capable of doing depends on our capacity to imagine an enriching life for ourselves and our ability to put that shared vision into words.

An education in the liberal arts is schooling in the beautiful life.

On Live-Tweeting Your Own Lecture

By | Academic, Technology, The Long Road | 6 Comments

On Thursday, October 25th, at 4:30 PDT, I will read a paper entitled, Plato and the Politics of Reading at the University of San Francisco. One of the main points of the paper is that reading is fundamentally a collaborative endeavor.

Here is the blog post with more information about the content of the lecture itself.

Traditionally, when one delivers a paper in the discipline of philosophy, one simply reads, that is, one “lectures” (from the Latin legere, to read). But it would be ironic to read a paper on the collaborative nature of reading without inviting those listening to become actively engaged in the reading.

So, I intend to invite those attending the lecture and anyone following along on twitter, to join in an ongoing discussion of the lecture during the lecture itself.

The idea is not only to talk about collaborative reading, but to perform it as well.

Now, there are certain influential voices in the discipline who say anyone who tweets a lecture on philosophy should be ejected from the lecture post-haste, so I surmise that my attempt to use twitter to enrich and expand the reach of the philosophical ideas I am presenting will meet with more than a little skepticism, if not dismissive derision. There is, however, at the root of this skepticism the valid concern that a technology like twitter is unable to offer anything more than a truncated, impoverished and fragmented account of the lecture’s content.

Given that the skepticism is not unfounded, let me articulate how I intend to use twitter and, through it, other digital technologies to address each concern in turn.

From Truncated to Extended

Anyone who actually uses twitter knows that its 140-character constraint forces each tweet to extend somehow beyond itself. This occurs most effectively by means of shortened links to more substantive resources.

In order to point my listeners to those resources, I have set up the Keynote presentation I will use during the reading of my paper to tweet for me.  For those of you interested in how, precisely, one might do that, take a look at this video:

So, during the lecture, I will have populated certain Keynote slides with tweets that will extend the discussion in at least three ways:

  1. I will post phrases and formulations I think are important for the listeners in the room and beyond to reflect upon and remember. This will allow them to favorite the tweets to return to them later or to retweet them in order extend the discussion to their followers.
  2. I will link to references to important secondary sources to which I appeal during the lecture so listeners can follow up on specific passages I discuss in more detail.
  3. I will tweet links to my own published work on the nature of Socratic and Platonic politics, so listeners can deepen their understanding of the wider project into which this lecture fits.

From Impoverished to Enriched

Anyone who actually uses twitter recognizes that its power comes not from what one pushes out, but from what one receives. This is felt most palpably when one invites those with whom one tweets to share the wisdom they bring to the issue under discussion.

To facilitate this sort of sharing, I will explicitly invite those present at the lecture to actively tweet during the lecture itself. The hope is that the questions and suggestions posted will cultivate a vibrant back-channel discussion that will add insight and value to the reading itself. At the end of the lecture, questions and ideas raised on the back-channel can be brought into the discussion and other voices from outside the room can be integrated into the discussion we have there. As an author, I hope to encourage robust and lively engagement with the ideas I present in the lecture so that I too might learn something in the process that I can, in turn, integrate into my ongoing scholarship.

From Fragmented to Integrated

Anyone who actually uses twitter knows that the deployment of hashtags is the best way to mitigate against the fragmentary nature of a conversation on twitter.

In order to curate the tweets related to the lecture, I will append the hashtag #bacpa (one of the sponsors of the talk is the Bay Area Continental Philosophy Association) to my tweets and invite others to use that hashtag as well. To further integrate the tweets related to the lecture, I will curate them using Storify.

This will allow me to add other digital artifacts related to the lecture and to weave a story around the tweets I receive from those participating. This will afford me the opportunity, after the lecture, to consider in a more reflective way the things others have added to the lecture.

The Storify story will be embedded into the blog post on my Digital Vita I will have written outlining the basic argument of the lecture, a post that will, I hope, be a platform for further discussion.

To that end, I would like to invite anyone who has been interested enough in this endeavor to read to this point to join the lecture on twitter (following me @cplong or the #bacpa hashtag) or to come in person on Thursday, October 25th, 2012 at 4:30 PDT in MC 252 on the campus of the University of San Francisco.

Here is the Storify:

 


New Media Habits

By | Technology, The Long Road | 14 Comments


Facebook

Originally uploaded by laikolosse

A number of recent changes to the social media technologies I use daily force me again to reflect on the habits design decisions cultivate in us. The decisions made by Facebook, Google, Twitter and Apple are, of course, design decisions with a decidedly commercial interest.  Even so, their willingness to make substantive changes to the way we interact with one another through their sites is teaching us all something about the habits we need to cultivate in the digital age.

Facebook, of course, just implemented some fairly radical changes to its user interface, adding a twitter like timeline on the right side of the screen, integrating Spotify, adding a timeline, and curating more content from friends it thinks will be of interest to you. They have followed Google in making it easier to direct a specific post to a group of friends right from the status update text box. And they have implemented, among many other things, a subscribe feature that allows anyone to subscribe to your FB page.

Google, for its part, continues to roll out changes to its new Google Plus platform, recently adding the ability to share circles with others. What seems on the surface to be a simple design decision has wide ranging implications for the number of people following you and for your ability to follow new people.

Apple has just rolled out its iCloud service, rendering its previous Mobile Me service obsolete. In so doing, they announced to anyone with content on Mobile Me, that it would no longer be supported after June 2012.

Make no mistake, these changes are designed to increase the revenue each of these companies is able to generate for itself.  But what interests me about this in particular is the manner in which these changes are forcing us all to be more flexible, open and, hopefully, inquisitive about the technologies with which we are engaged.
We are not used to having the medium through which we communicate with one another change so radically so frequently.
It is disconcerting.
But perhaps there is something important to learn from that sense of vertigo that comes with such changes. We are required to learn anew the things we thought we knew. We are forced to ask ourselves new questions about how we post and to whom; we are made to think again about what is public and how we want ourselves to be seen and heard online.
These changes, whatever the value or lack thereof they have, force us again and again into a mode of play so that we might learn what we can do with these technologies and what they are doing to us.
If we are to engage one another with a modicum of responsibility in and through these technologies, we will need to cultivate in ourselves the habits of playful exploration and curiosity; we will need to be willing, again and again, to reconsider the things we thought we had finished considering, to rethink those habits of interaction that have become thoughtless and rote.
Whatever the value of the changes these companies have foisted upon us, our ability to navigate in a new, more dynamic digital world, will depend on our ability to cultivate in ourselves, our friends, our students, and our children an openness to change, a willingness to reconsider, an ability to playfully explore and the courage to act with integrity in the flux of things.

Collaborative Research in Philosophy

By | Presentation: Other, Presentations, Vita | 9 Comments

Today in the Foster Auditorium of the Pattee/Paterno Library, my undergraduate research assistant, Lisa Lotito, and I gave a presentation about the workflow we use in doing philosophical research.

I have written in some detail about my basic research cycle, but this presentation allowed us to articulate more fully how we use the collaborative power of digital media to do scholarly research in philosophy.

The process begins with a discussion about my current book project on Socratic and Platonic politics. Once Lisa had a sense of the project, we were able to delineate a basic set of sources on Plato’s Phaedo for a chapter on that dialogue I was also going to present at the 2011 Hermeneutisches Kolloquium in Freiburg.

The presentation, the recording for which I embed below, articulated how we created a shared collection on Mendeley to manage pdf resources, how Lisa added notes to Mendeley summarizing some of the main points of those articles and how they related to my thesis. We discuss how I use Dropbox to collect all the documents and Evernote and GoodReader to annotate the pdf files.

We used direct messaging in Twitter to communicate in a dynamic and asynchronous way that allowed me to request more resources or ask Lisa to look for specific issues in the secondary literature. This was particularly helpful during the two week period when I returned to the primary text to develop the details of my interpretation. I was able to rely on Lisa to help me recall the terms of the debate in the secondary literature on an issue or theme in the dialogue.

I used Word and Scrivener to write the chapter and, because of the ongoing limitations of Mendeley with citations, we returned to Zotero to add citations.  Obviously, the constellation of technological tools we used to do this research is varied and perhaps complex; but what stands out, it seems to me, is the way Lisa and I were able to work in a collaborative way to do serious philosophical research. The asynchronous nature of our communication and the digital medium of many of the texts to which we referred allowed us to work in a collaborative way even when we were often at opposite ends of the Commonwealth.

My hope is that this might serve as one model for collaborative research in the humanities; for we have not historically cultivated the models of scholarly apprenticeship in the humanities that the sciences and social sciences have when they undertake research with students in their labs and research groups.

The Research Circle from Christopher Long on Vimeo.

Traditional and New Media Literacies

By | Presentation: Other, Presentations, Vita | 5 Comments



Writing Three Ways

Originally uploaded by cplong11

New media technologies are transforming the practice of education, and our practices of education must change in the wake of the emergence of new media technologies.

In this presentation, I discuss how new media literacies can be cultivated in students, faculty and staff in ways that deepen our understanding of the world, the university and the community of education in which we live.

Focusing on some the initiatives we have adopted in the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Studies office, I point to concrete examples of how new media literacies are empowering students to critically reflect upon their undergraduate experience. In the process, they are learning, and teaching us, about the educative power of the social web.

Here is the YouTube video of the presentation itself:

I also embed the Prezi itself here so everyone can explore the videos posted of our students: