When I selected “Networking” as my blog post topic, I was not at all certain of what to expect from it. Social networking and teaching had never been something I had associated with one another. Reading Dorothy Kim’s The Rules of Twitter reminded me that the internet itself is a learning experience, something that we might not think about while we’re following links and scrolling down our Facebook timelines, Tumblr dashboards, or Twitter feeds. She put terms to concepts I’ve known of but not thought to define—the digital mediated public space as a protest space and a place for public grief. She puts an emphasis on the ethics, rules, and etiquette of using a microblogging platform, and rightly so.
Her introduction to this mediated public space is to point to those predicting “the demise of the social media microblogging platform.” Considering everything that has happened and will keep happening, I couldn’t help but feel incredulous. Kim points out the use of hashtags such as #Ferguson and #BlackOutBlackFriday—both of which I was aware of while they were happening because of social media. These are signs that the microblogging platform is still going strong, despite what the “white male pundits” who “always imagined [Twitter] as safe, suburban—by default—white, and upper-middle class” are lamenting. I recall during the December of 2010 when the Arab Spring began and the only news I was hearing about it was from bloggers and tweeters experiencing it. Kim goes on to say Twitter “was never a porch, it has always been a mediated public space, a hacked public space.” This is the Twitter I know and appreciate! This porch business, narrow and limiting, has nothing to do with the online space I know.
Twitter as a platform for learning is an interesting concept, which we’ve touched on during the semester. The ongoing conversations “annotating” the texts we read, entire tweet conversations mulling over the same question or related issues that come to mind is only a fraction of what one could do on Twitter. In addition to how we’ve used it, the idea of public lectures and live tweeting conferences are interesting new ideas to me, ideas I'm not certain how one would apply to a classroom. The hashtags encouraging open discussion can be another means for students to connect with the information out there. Students who know how to use Twitter and know the etiquette and ethics can engage in the hashtags and open forums. Kim rightly points out that “harvesting, quoting, and using others tweets without consent, attribution, discussion, or compensation/credit is a major problem.” Any students writing essays on subjects that require cited sources from Twitter need to know how to source correctly and ask permission to use the material. We do it for academic journals and websites, Twitter should be treated the same—by both journalists and academics.
Like Kim, my Twitter is a “space of activism and justice.” While I do not actively Tweet—unless there is something of particular interest to my father who is a prolific Tweeter—I keep an eye on my feed for news and happenings among those I follow. I have seen feeds set ablaze by current events—raging at the events happening around the world going largely ignored by the major news groups, by society, and by governments. If students understand, as Kim says, that “you will earn respect by what you say and what you do; by who you defend and who and what you fight for,” they can garner a truly interesting perspective on events and a chance to explore it with those involved, if they dare to engage.
But what might a “Twitter assignment” look like? The articles linked by Kim, such as #TwitterEthics Manifesto, could be efficient starting points in teaching students the do’s and don’ts of Twitter (and online) life. Social Media is a Conversation Not a Press Release by Zeynep Tufekci builds on that. The resources are there for students to explore and learn. They could even take a hashtag such as #Ferguson and explore the what, how, and why’s of it.
And finally, to the class, what do you think? What do you use Twitter for, how do you see it used, and why do you see others use it? Do you think there’s a place for it (or other forms of social media) in the classroom?