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More than just passing notes in class: Twitter backchannels as new literacy practice
 

More than just passing notes in class: Twitter backchannels as new literacy practice

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Presentation for the Twitter and Microblogging: Political, Professional and Personal Practices conference. Lancaster University, United Kingdom, 10-12 April 2013

Presentation for the Twitter and Microblogging: Political, Professional and Personal Practices conference. Lancaster University, United Kingdom, 10-12 April 2013

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  • More than just passing notes in class? Twitter backchannels as new literacy practice Presentation at the Twitter and Microblogging: Political, Professional and Personal Practices conference. Lancaster University, United Kingdom, 10-12 April 2013
  • This is a picture of a backchannel. It ’ s a bunch of academics in a lecture theatre posting tweets about – generally – the presentation they ’ re listening to. They ’ re communicating with others outside the venue and with other delegates co-located in shared physical space. It ’ s a way of communicating without disturbing the front channel.
  • funny how conferences now have a soundtrack - tic tic tic tic tic tic tic Tom Abbot, http://twitter.com/tomabbott/status/1444366047
  • These days conference participants are perhaps less likely to heard typing away on their laptops. The ‘ tic, tic, tic ’ has been replaced by the much less audible sound of finger tips on touch screens.
  • My core question: Do Twitter-enabled backchannels constitute a ‘ new literacy practice ’ ? Or do they simply remediate older communicative practices (e.g. passing notes in class)?
  • Clay, J. (2009). Amplified Twittering and Social Reporting. e-Learning Stuff: news and views on e-learning, ILT and tech stuff in general . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://elearningstuff.wordpress.com/2009/04/22/amplified-twittering-and-social-reporting/ Costa, C. et al. (2008). Microblogging In Technology Enhanced Learning Conferences: A Use Case Inspection. Workshop at the European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning (ECTEL), Maastricht, The Netherlands, September 16-19 Retrieved April 9, 2013 9, from http://ftp.informatik.rwth-aachen.de/Publications/CEUR-WS/Vol-382/paper3.pdf Giles, M. (2009). Conference Tweeting A Distraction and Waste of Time, or Not? Consumer Centric: digging. listening. telling stories. about people . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://consumercentric.biz/wordpress/?p=18 Grosseck, G. & Holotescu, C. (2008). Can we use Twitter for Educational Activities? The 4th International Scientific Conference. e-Learning and Software for Education. Bucharest, April 17-18, 2008. Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://adl.unap.ro/else/papers/015.-697.1.Grosseck%20Gabriela-Can%20we%20use.pdf Guy, M. (2009). Back in the Playground: Bitching on Twitter. Ramblings of a Remote Worker. Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://remoteworker.wordpress.com/2009/03/02/back-in-the-playground-bitching-on-twitter/ Heinemeier, D. (2009). Bitching is the killer app for Twitter. Signal vs Noise . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://www.37signals.com/svn/posts/968-bitching-is-the-killer-app-for-twitter Java, A. Finin, T. Song, X. & Tseng, B. (2007). ‘ Why we Twitter: Understanding Microblogging Usage and Communities ’ . Proceedings of the 9th WebKDD and 1st SNA-KDD 2007 workshop on Web mining and social network analysis. San Jose, California, USA, 12 August 2007. Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://aisl.umbc.edu/get/softcopy/id/1073/1073.pdf Jacobs, N. & Mcfarlane, A. (2005). Conferences as learning communities: some early lessons in using `back-channel ’ technologies at an academic conference - distributed intelligence or divided attention? Journal of Computer Assisted Learning , 21(5): 317-329 Jones, J. (2008) Life Before the Backchannel? Injenuity . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://injenuity.com/archives/153 Jukes, M. (2009). Introduction to backchannels and the amplified conference. Backpass.org . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://backpass.org/2009/04/22/introduction-to-backchannels-and-the-amplified-conference Karrer, T. (2009). Twitter Conference Ideas. eLearning Technology. Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://elearningtech.blogspot.com/2009/01/twitter-conference-ideas.html Kelly, B. (2009). (TwitterFall) You ’ re My Wonder Wall. UK Web Focus: Reflections on the Web and Web 2.0 . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://ukwebfocus.wordpress.com/2009/04/20/twitterfall-youre-my-wonder-wall/ Krishnamurthy, B. et al. (2008). A Few Chirps about Twitter. Proceedings of the first Workshop on Online Social Networks, August 18, 2008 Seattle, Washington, USA. Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://portal.acm.org/ft_gateway.cfm?id=1397741&type=pdf&coll=GUIDE&dl=GUIDE&CFID=33036168&CFTOKEN=25384362 Lawley, L. (2004a). confessions of a backchannel queen. Mamamusings: elizabeth lane lawley's thoughts on technology, academia, family, and tangential topics . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://mamamusings.net/archives/2004/03/30/confessions_of_a_backchannel_queen.php Lawley, L. (2004b). backchannel modes. Many-to-Many: A group weblog on social software . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://many.corante.com/archives/2004/03/15/backchannel_modes.php Lawley, L. (2004c). Learning From (and About) the Backchannel. Many-to-Many: A group weblog on social software . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://many.corante.com/archives/2004/04/01/learning_from_and_about_the_backchannel.php Lott, C. (2008). Understanding the Backchannel. Ruminate . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://www.chrislott.org/2008/05/22/understanding-the-backchannel/ McCarthy, J. F. & boyd, d. (2005). Digital backchannels in shared physical spaces: experiences at an academic conference. In Proc. of the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://delivery.acm.org/10.1145/1060000/1056986/p1641-mccarthy.pdf?key1=1056986&key2=8487861421&coll=GUIDE&dl=GUIDE&CFID=34611421&CFTOKEN=42490139 Mitchell, O. (2009). How to Present While People are Twittering . Pistachio . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://pistachioconsulting.com/twitter-presentations/ O'Hear, S. (2007). Twitter, the ultimate conference 'backchannel'. The Social Web . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://blogs.zdnet.com/social/?p=110 Person, B. (2009). Hashtags: Coming to a conference near you. Media Bullseye: A New Media and Communications Magazine . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://mediabullseye.com/mb/2009/03/hashtags-coming-to-a-conferenc.html Reinhardt, W. et al. (2009). How People are using Twitter during Conferences (draft). In Proceedings of the 5th EduMedia Conference , Salzburg, Austria. Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://lamp.tu-graz.ac.at/~i203/ebner/publication/09_edumedia.pdf Saunders N, et al. (2009) Microblogging the ISMB: A New Approach to Conference Reporting. PLoS Comput Biol, 5(1): 1-5 Siemans, G. (2009). Educational Uses of Back Channels. elearnspace: learning, networks, knowledge, technology, community . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2009/03/05/educational-uses-of-back-channels/ Wheeler, S. (2009). Twittering at Conferences. Learning with 'e's: My thoughts about learning technology and all things digital - I'm interested in how technology can be made to work for us , particularly in education . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.com/2009/05/twittering-at-conferences.html Young, Y.R. (2009). Forget E-Mail: New Messaging Service Has Students and Professors Atwitter. The Chronicle of Higher Education . Retrieved April 9, 2013 , from http://chronicle.com/free/v54/i25/25a01501.htm
  • There is no “ backchannel ” , there is no more or less “ real ” way to exist within this atmosphere of information, yet we continue to hear that the Twitter distraction whisks people away from the “ real ” conference in favor of something separate and “ virtual. ” Each time we say “ real ” or “ IRL ” ( “ in real life ” ) to mean offline, we reify the digital dualist myth of a separate digital layer “ out there ” in some ‘ cyber ’ space. And when we call Twitter a “ backchannel ” to mean a separate conversation, running tangent to the offline conference in some space behind precious face-to-face exchanges, we continue to support this digital dualism. The implicit, and incorrect, assumption is that the on and offline are zero-sum, that being offline means being not online, and vice versa. I ’ m pretty much 100% with Jurgenson on most of his arguments but I don ’ t agree with his objection to the front/backchannel metaphor. I see the front channel as being the space of the presenter – virtually or physically – and the backchannel the domain of the conference audience/delegates. So, ‘ front ’ and ‘ back ’ designate the spaces occupied by, respectively, the main speaker and the conference participants. Although in practice, the front channel takes place in physical space and the backchannel in virtual space, there is no reason why the front channel – i.e. the main presentation – could not take place in the virtual sphere. References Jurgenson, N. (2012). Twitter isn ’ t a Backchannel (#ASA2012). Cyborgology . Retrieved April 9, 2013, from http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2012/08/17/twitter-isnt-a-backchannel-asa2012/
  • The concept of the backchannel invokes the metaphor of partitioned or divided space: a ‘ front ’ area for the speaker usually comprised of a lectern, networked computer(s) and projection screen(s) and a larger ‘ back ’ area for the audience with seating facing the front. The model, ecclesiastical in origin (i.e. preacher at pulpit delivering a sermon to seated parishioners), has informed the design of most lecture theatres from the Middle Ages to the present day. Although a shared space, the lecture theatre – and, by extension, the conference venue – provides the physical platform for an asymmetric interaction: speaker/presenter talking to – or at – a seated audience whose opportunity to speak is limited by social conventions dictating a small period of time at the end for questions and comments. This spatial arrangement positions individuals as either speakers or listeners. So, the lecture space ‘ positions ’ its occupants: presenters at the front; listener/note-takers at the back facing them. But social communication is actually complex and dynamic: people don ’ t necessarily play along with how space is positioning them; they break out of the silent role assigned them and talk, ignoring turn-taking and find their own way to use the space. The backchannel disrupts such positioning by allowing, without interfering audibly with the frontchannel presentation, a range of interactions between delegates. To have multiple, multidirectional conversations in a real lecture would be terrible. The presenter ’ s words would soon be drowned out by the chatter and those wanting to listen would miss out. But suppose one could communicate in silence, or in the near silence of keyboard strokes. Maybe the interaction would be a good thing? References Image citation: Laurentius de Voltolina: Liber ethicorum des Henricus de Alemannia http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Laurentius_de_Voltolina_001.jpg
  • A literacy is a stable coherent, identifiable configuration of practices such as legal literacy, or the literacy of specific workplaces. (Barton 2007:38) Looking at different literacy events it is clear that literacy is not the same in all contexts: rather, there are different literacies…within a given culture, there are different literacies associated with different domains of life. Contemporary life can be analysed in a simple way into domains of activity such as home, school, work-place. (Barton and Hamilton 1998: 9) References Barton, D. (2007 2nd ed.). Literacy . Oxford: Blackwell Barton, D. and Hamilton, M. (1998). Local Literacies . London: Routledge. Lankshear, C. (1987). Literacy, Schooling and Revolution . London: Falmer Press
  • The concept of ‘ new literacies ’ part of NLS. A number of researchers have explored the degree to which new digital technologies are enabling new social literacy practices. It is not always the case that a new technology will facilitate a genuinely new form of practice (as opposed to making an older practice more efficient). Are we, in our fascination with new media, seeing the concomitant changes to literate practice (or cognitive process and social practices) as more radical than they are? (Moje 2009: 350) Do Twitter backchannels involve, as Lankshear and Knobel (2006) put it, both “ new technical stuff ” and “ new ethos stuff ” ? References Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2006). New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning . New York: Peter Lang. Moje, E. (2009). A call for new research on new and multi-literacies. Research in the Teaching of English , 43(4): 348-362
  • The literacy practice of conference backchannelling might be said to comprise of a set of varied practices including: minute-by-minute note taking/resource sharing personal commentary dialogue banter To some degree many conference tweets remediate earlier textual practices such as taking notes about a speaker ’ s presentation.
  • The
  • The above tweets are, on one level, examples of ‘ snarks ’ . The twitterers, irritated by the frontchannel presenter ’ s attempt to promote a brand, turn inward toward the backchannel and engage in forms of banter that assert shared forms of academic identity and associated modes of conduct that the speaker appears to be violating. Although the twitterers are having fun – the tone is alternately sarcastic ( “ salespitch suckfest ” ) and silly (e.g. the zombie brain-eating routine) – I ’ d argue that they are subverting the presenter ’ s attempt to use an academic conference to sell a brand and are reclaiming the conference space as their own.
  • Mimi Sheller and John Urry (2006) make the case for a new way of framing research in the social sciences. The New Mobilities paradigm breaks with what they call the ‘ sedantarist ’ assumption of twentieth-century social science that ‘ the social ’ is constituted by a set of dense relations between individuals in close physical proximity. The new mobilities paradigm insists that both travel and communication technologies have enabled connections at a distance and that these distant and sometimes intermittent connections are crucial in holding social life together. It follows from this, Sheller and Urry argue, that ‘ the social ’ as the object of study of a ‘ mobile sociology ’ should encompass those assemblages of humans and objects and their re-configuration over time and space. Sedentarism treats as normal stability, meaning, and place, and treats as abnormal distance, change, and placelessness. ’ (Sheller and Urry, 2006: 208) Mimi Sheller and John Urry (217-219) present seven methodological areas often covered in mobilities research one of which was cyber-research - exploration of virtual mobilities through various forms of electronic connectivity. References Sheller, M. and Urry, J. (2006). The new mobilities paradigm. Environment and Planning, 38(2): 207–226.
  • Mimi Sheller and John Urry (2006) make the case for a new way of framing research in the social sciences. The New Mobilities paradigm breaks with what they call the ‘ sedantarist ’ assumption of twentieth-century social science that ‘ the social ’ is constituted by a set of dense relations between individuals in close physical proximity. The new mobilities paradigm insists that both travel and communication technologies have enabled connections at a distance and that these distant and sometimes intermittent connections are crucial in holding social life together. It follows from this, Sheller and Urry argue, that ‘ the social ’ as the object of study of a ‘ mobile sociology ’ should encompass those assemblages of humans and objects and their re-configuration over time and space. Sedentarism treats as normal stability, meaning, and place, and treats as abnormal distance, change, and placelessness. ’ (Sheller and Urry, 2006: 208) Mimi Sheller and John Urry (217-219) present seven methodological areas often covered in mobilities research one of which was cyber-research - exploration of virtual mobilities through various forms of electronic connectivity. References Sheller, M. and Urry, J. (2006). The new mobilities paradigm. Environment and Planning, 38(2): 207–226.
  • To adopt the perspective of the new mobilities paradigm might lead us to reconsider ways in which Twitter-enabled backchannels – and, indeed, other forms of digitally-mediated conference practice (e.g. live blogging, video streams) – problematise conventional or sedentarist wisdom about good conference practice. For example, I might be physically present but not participating because I'm checking my email or doing some reading. Conversely I might be hundreds of miles away and following hash tagged tweets and perhaps a video feed The backchannel also problematises the distinction we make between ‘ virtual ’ and ‘ physical ’ spaces. The use of a digital backchannel at conferences presents a hybrid form of interaction in which the virtual and physical are embedded in one another. A presentation in physical space is often the trigger to a series of textual interactions in virtual space which may, in turn, be reused in the same physical space in the form of hashtag-aggregated tweets projected onto a screen and responded to by the speaker or used as a stimulus to further discussion.
  • To some degree, the distinction between ‘ now ’ and ‘ then ’ can blurred by Twitter. I can augment my presentation by scheduling tweets I ’ ve written earlier to appear during my presentation. I can also continue and extend my dialogue with other participants later.
  • This is a picture of a monitor using Twitterfall to display conference tweets at the University of Plymouth (PELC2010). I use it to illustrate the hybridity of most conferences today. Speakers present to an audience co-located in shared physical space and their presentations are tweeted about in virtual space. However, through the installation of screens displaying the conference hashtag-aggregated tweets, the virtual is made present in the physical environment. We take pictures of the presenter and his/her slides and post them in our tweets. Sometimes, we see a monitor displaying a set of conference tweets to the side of the speaker. Occasionally, the chair of a session will alternate taking questions from participants in the physical environment and selecting questions from the Twitter feed from participants who may or may not be present in the conference venue. For a less sucessful use of a screen displaying a conference Twitterfeed see dana boyd ’ s blogpost. screenana http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2009/11/24/spectacle_at_we.html
  • This is a much larger variant of the monitor shown in the previous slide. It ’ s was installed at a temporary ice rink outside the Natural History Museum in London last December. Starbucks were the sponsors of the ice rink and encouraged users to post festive tweets using the #SpreadTheCheer hashtag. Many users tweeted accordingly – 20,263 minutes til Christmas!!! #spreadthecheer – but some used the hashtag to post tweets critical of the low level of tax Starbucks had paid (less than 1% corporation tax over 14 years). Here’s one nice example: Espresso your view. Does Starbucks make a mochary of tax? Other chains Costa the economy a lot less and pay full corp tax. #spreadthecheer. Kate Talbot, a Twitter user present at the rink, took a photos of the Twitter wall displaying offensive tweets that had escaped the attention of the wall moderator and tweeted it. It was, it’s claimed (Morse 2012), retweeted thousands of times. What’s interesting about this episode – and I think it’s really interesting on a number of levels – is the way the virtual space of Twitter was integrated into the physical reality of the ice skating rink via a large display wall. A digital image of the wall at a particular moment in time was then captured on a cameraphone and tweeted, i.e. a representation of a physical object was then returned to virtual space. References Morse, F. (17 December 2012). Starbucks PR Fail At Natural History Museum After #SpreadTheCheer Tweets Hijacked. The Huffington Post . Retrieved April 8, 2013, from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/12/17/starbucks-pr-rage-natural-history-museum_n_2314892.html
  • Miller, D. & Slater, D. (2000).  The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach . Oxford: Berg.
  • Twitter conference backchannels are the most striking contribution to what has been called the “augmented conference” that is less bounded and more permeable than pre-nnetworked conferences and is enacted across multiple topologies. Twitter backchannels and other digitally-mediated practices (e.g. live blogging, video streaming) reposition conference participants as hybridised "cyborg" subjects interacting with one another in both physical and virtual space.

More than just passing notes in class: Twitter backchannels as new literacy practice More than just passing notes in class: Twitter backchannels as new literacy practice Presentation Transcript

  • More than justpassing notes in class?Twitter backchannels as new literacy practice Tony McNeill (@anthonymcneill) Kingston University, UK
  • funny how conferences now havea soundtrack - tic tic tic tic tic tictic
  • My core question:Do Twitter-enabled backchannelsconstitute a ‘new literacypractice’?
  • To answer it we need:•descriptions of practice•theorisations of practice
  • Backchannel: my definitionThe digital communications spaceused for primarily textualinteractions alongside live spokenpresentations generally deliveredin a physical environment.
  • Jurgenson’s critique of the term… there will not be separateonline and offline conferenceshappening, […] Twitter isn’t abackchannel and the sessionroom isn’t the front.
  • Theoretical frameworks1.New Literacy Studies2.New Mobilities Paradigm
  • 1. New Literacy Studies (NLS)Literacies are:•plural•socially embedded•about identity and power
  • ‘New literacies’• new digital technologies = new literacy practices?• do Twitter backchannels involve both “new technical stuff” and “new ethos stuff”?
  • Types of backchannels tweets:• minute-by-minute/live tweeting• note taking/resource sharing• personal commentary• dialogue• banter
  • Backchannel conventions• use of event-specific hashtag• @ messages• retweets (RTs)• direct messages (DMs)
  • One backchannel exchange (1)articulatedesign:I really *want* to like this talk. ButI dont. Not "speaking" to me
  • One backchannel exchange (2)articulatedesign:judgng frm twts, im not alone inmy discomfort. my neighboursreading a blogpost on "why i hateApple" (cos of the lock in!!!)
  • One backchannel exchange (3)articulatedesign:salespitch suckfest with tinklepiano
  • One backchannel exchange (4)janefrand:@vilnius @articulatedesign@rdtechie must... eat... brains...no wait... buy... apple... products
  • One backchannel exchange (5)articulatedesign:@[janefrand] mmm brains nomnom nom (note to self; sell youripod, time to stand firm)
  • 2. The new mobilities paradigm• social life no longer about physical proximity• technologies enable remote connections
  • Critique of sedentarismSedentarism treats as normalstability, meaning, and place, andtreats as abnormal distance,change, and placelessness.(Sheller and Urry 2006: 208)
  • The ‘sedentarist’ conference• face-to-face encounter• bounded in time and space• impermeable (delegates only)• backchannels a “distraction”
  • Backchannels challenge binaries• virtual/physical• digital/analogue• then/now• not here/here• interloper/delegate
  • Early ethnograpnic perspective… we need to treat Internet mediaas continuous with andembedded in other social spaces(Miller & Slater 2000: 5).
  • A (tentative) conclusionBackchannels constitute a newliteracy practice and support:•the “augmented” conference•the “cyborg” delegate
  • anthonymcneillhttp://kingston.academia.edu/TonyMcNeillhttp://www.slideshare.net/amcneill/http://www.scribd.com/Tony McNeill