Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Selective engagement and the switch-off factor

Have been having a mull about online tools  and connections for a while... and I'm going to try to get some of the thoughts that are trapped out onto virtual paper.

First - I finally saw the use of Twitter!  Okay, so it wasn't a lightbulb moment, but a creeping realisation that it did have some worth.  I've heard it being described as being like a virtual water cooler and to an extent I guess it is... but it's more (and less!) than that all at once.  You can opt out of it 100% and y'know, it doesn't seem to matter one tiny bit... then... when you have time, you can opt back in and the general flow of online activity bubbles around you as if nothing happened.  For me, it's been useful for finding online resources (Tony Hirst, it turns out, is uber-guru at knowing everything about everything... and being able to find it within seconds - THANK YOU!), hearing that there is life beyond these four walls (kinda important when you're working from home and fighting for head space from general domestic chaos) and a level of support equivalent to the smaller bits of day-to-day communication we use but which doesn't require the 'normal' conventions of phone calls / letters / e-mail.  There's beauty in the concise!

So... second realisation... there's a joy in feeling information sloshing around you.  RSS feeds delivering online interest.  Social networking sites making or confirming connections.  But, as with Twitter... it's an opt out world.  For the past few months life has been wa-a-a-ay too busy and generally 'interesting' (for interesting read: the equivalent of drowning in a bucket of treacle) and I just haven't time to check through feeds.  Check on the various sites and e-mail accounts I seem to have acquired.  Web 2.0 requires a fair bit of time investment and although one of the oft cited benefits is their collaboration and community-building nature... if you haven't got the time to engage with that and make a commitment to being part of that community... then... you might as well be Web 0.0.  Switching off completely is easier than frantically paddling in order to keep up.  For me, Second Life falls into that category.  I get why some people enjoy using it and find it a really valid tool... but bumping around in a slightly surreal fashion in a digital environment which eats into time I have to engage with 'real life', just doesn't work for me.  The time-investment factor is too great.

Final realisation.  It can be a lot easier to switch off than switch on when it comes to Web 2.0 and the use of technology in education.  If it's not a feature in your life anyway (think Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants and all that good stuff) then when other commitments become more pressing it can be easily side-lined and it really doesn't seem to matter that much.  When will technology in education become anything more than a bolt-on?  How can you bridge the gap?  Should it be bridged?  I tend to find that you get the most out of things when you engage with them as fully as you can.  But... sometimes you just can't... so what then?  Is time a big factor in terms of online exclusion and a reason why online communities don't always work when face-to-face communities would find a way of doing so?

Mull, mull, ponder, ponder...

PS  Isn't it always funny how I find time to write reflective stuff when I'm in the middle of writing an assignment?  :o)

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2 comments:

  1. Glad you've avoided the temptation of trying to "drink from the information firehose" - tune in, drop out.
    It's also good to hear someone say they like the feel of information sloshing around (to continue the watery metaphor) - it scares the willies out of most people!

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  2. This is exactly how I feel Sarah - a lot of people (ok, two), ask me how I can follow so many people on Twitter, get any work done, etc. But I don't feel compelled to read all posts, or respond to every reply, etc. Dip in, dip out. I have a guilt continuum that goes (from feeling guilty if I ignore to not feeling guilty): email- blog reader - twitter.
    Not coincidentally, my enjoyment of using the tools increases as the guilt decreases.

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