In Your Face(book)!

Oh, the wisdom of the interweb.  You see my incredibly smart interlocutors below?  Much to think about as I try to sort out the uses/abuses of FB.  Rather than try to answer directly, I’m going to try to get at some of the ideas  that occur across their responses.

Kim and Jenn, I think, push on the practical applications of FB for users.  Kim’s  notion of FB as a one-stop shop to avoid the necessity of fresh content in multiple places is really a version of Jenn’s idea about the single place to check on RSS feeds*.  The first is about economy of produsage, the second about singularity of consumption.  In both, it’s about building a digital space that will function as aggregator of web functions.  [I can’t help but think, here, of Henry Jenkins’ “Black Box Fallacy” from Convergence Culture, in which companies beat each other about the head and ears to come up with the single appliance that will do everything that a consumer would want—games, tv, video, internet, chat, phone, launch the space shuttle, etc.  His argument, if I remember correctly, is that in the convergence moment, it’s not about getting everything in the same piece of tech, because we aren’t sure what all we’ll want combined.]  Yet, there are any number of web platforms that are struggling to do the same thing—get it all in the same place.  What becomes interesting, I suppose, is the particular functions that are included, and to what extent the particular platform encourages some uses over others.  This goes to Jenn’s guess (which seems right on to me) that students go to FB more often than Google Reader, and thus embedding an RSS app. in the former makes it more likely that they’ll keep up to date with class blog entries.  But they’re not going there for the RSS, right?  Which begs the question: why do you go to Facebook, and why do you go multiple times a day (so says the latest statistics)?

Ashley’s point is also one that’s close to my heart, and I’d wager is the one that’s had me in a dither about what kinds of information to include in my profile.  How do we structure information so that we maintain the kinds of relationships among each other that we want?  This is not just true of the teacher/student rapport, to be sure, but let’s take it as one example.   The more I thought debated about it yesterday, the more I began to wonder if these new technologies do the kind of damage that we worry that we do.  Or, in other words, is the dream of a perfect understanding of power relations among people a function of nostalgia?  When I was a grad student teaching composition ten years ago (well before the dominance of FB), I had some of the same difficulties navigating boundaries with my students that I  do now: when is it okay for us to contradict each other?  what is it that we’d like the other person to call us?  in what ways do institutional protocols enable and impede our ability to exchange honest ideas?  How do we ethically acknowledge and manage our biases, our influence, our responsibilities to individuals and communities?  In the last few years, I find myself leaning more and more toward the idea that these get explicitly negotiated on a case by case basis, and the less I expect people to know what I expect, the easier it is to articulate what I prefer (not that that keeps me from cringing when people call me “Ms. Middleton” or worse “Ms. Meyer” (my husband’s name).  That last one often sends me around the bend).  If that is indeed the case, then a FB page and its “friend” function aren’t going to change anything.  [And yet there’s a part of me that says two things in echo of Ashley: 1) I may be totally naive—it may change everything, and in ways I can’t even begin to contemplate  and 2) different student populations handle these kinds of interactions very differently.  This is not the kind of experiment I would undertake if I were, say, at a school with 25,000 students, with no time to know individual students.]

Last but not least, there’s an article in the Times today that connects a condominium in NY, designed to encourage voyeurism and exhibitionism, to the “glass house” of FB.   And like the people who have weighed in here, there are reasons for, against, and indifferent to choosing to exist in proximity to such a building.

More reports from the glass house as we go along.  Thanks to all for the food for thought!!

*Thanks for the tip about Dennis Jerz, Jenn.  I haven’t looked at his blog in awhile, but I’m going to go and see if he’s got anything up there on FB.

7 thoughts on “In Your Face(book)!

  1. I think that’s a good point about our schools’ respective student bodies. I do have 25,000 students, and, I suspect, a very different population than you do in terms of experience with higher ed, intellectual engagement, etc. And I know I sound like a crazy draconian (Want power! Teacher smash!) in re: anxieties about authority. I’ve just had one too many students tell me about how whatever poem we’re reading that day reminds me of their boyfriend, and am really kind of over it.

    I also use a lot less technology in my classroom than you do–primarily as a function of how tech-poor my university is–and I suspect I might feel differently if I were, say, running a class blog.

  2. I don’t think you sound like a crazy draconian at all. (That’s far too Flash Gordon for you.) I think it’s weird and uncomfortable when students see us in ways that we don’t feel comfortable being seen (one that took me utterly by surprise at a previous institution, and is my reigning least favorite professorial role ever: the authority figure who serves as the figure against whom to rebel so as to succeed in the class. Dude. I’m invested in you succeeding; why we gotta play this game?). And it true that we (you and me and others) use blogs outside the institution to develop very specific communities—a very different function than those for which we might use educational computing.

    So, it’s all complicated and stuff—with new technologies come new social protocols, and I don’t have it all figured out yet. I want to think more about the ways that the local context shifts specific interactions with this stuff (ie., FB is different at a college of 5,000 than at a college of 25,000. Blogs are different Saint Rose than they might be at Wellesley, etc.). My guess is that that kind of analysis would buy us more than thinking about any of these new media as producing monolithic effects. But now, I have to grade papers.

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