Snapshot of a conversational morning

I’d like to share a small sample of how I use social media.  Not for a spectacular event, nor a comprehensive overview, and definitely not in a professionally ethnographic way, but just to demo some ways social media can work well, even in 2020.

Let’s start with Twitter, then head to blogging.

This morning – after minding the dog and cats and feeding my wife her coffee – I checked Twitter’s leading hashtags.  It’s an easy way to get a rough snapshot of what the Twitter-using world is thinking.  That’s useful for me as a person (the world says hello) and also for me as a futurist (always minding trends).

Twitter trends 2020 Feb 11

Interesting.  We see the New Hampshire presidential primaries, a government tech meeting I hadn’t heard about, a housing meeting I also didn’t know, a huge technology business development, and DC news.  I had no idea why queso is trending, nor what PECOTA was or is.  Things to learn, if I chose to.  (These results are skewed somewhat to my geographical location in the DC area)

Next, I simply asked Twitter: what was on folks’ radar?

Bernard Bull – podcaster, college president, and upcoming Future Trends Forum guestswiftly replied with this:


Which is fascinating!  I poked him back to see what else he could say.

Dan Blickensderfer responded with another educational topic:

Which is a potentially very big story.  Caroline Coward responded to that with her own news along that line:

Other folks jumped in, some making professional connections.

Another friend replied with a mix of politics and personal health.  Still another one mentioned his work on an important education data gathering project.

Naturally, I contributed my share to the discussion, which is the right thing to do.  I fed Twitter with some stories that I found, like this huge telcoms merger decision (remember the hashtags?):

In another tab I checked this blog’s comments and links (ably hosted by Reclaim).  I do this each morning, sometimes in the afternoon as well, to make sure I approve any non-spam comments that the software held for me.  This led me down a nice blog path.

A few days ago I posted about the possibility of rebooting academic conferences in the light of the planetary climate crisis.  Five very good comments followed.  Then Stephen Downes blogged a very interesting and somewhat contrarian response.  He argues that society is deeply structured to encourage us to burn more carbon, and that to step back from flying would diminish his ability to do his work, which he sees as having social value.  Instead, we need to push on those who make global decisions to change the rules of civilization, and that is a better use of our time. (I wrote a comment; as of this writing it still hasn’t appeared.)

Downes blog post

Then Alan Levine* responded to both of our posts, also in an interesting and somewhat contrarian way.  He reached back in history to reflect on the sad stability of conference tech, as well as to note some Second Life explorations (and reminding me of this 2005 article I co-authored).  He also praises Virtually Connecting as a way of breaking up that stability. Comments flowed in, including one from Sandy Brown Jensen, which reminded me to reread her blog with its ongoing digital storytelling practice.

Sandy Brown Jensen blog header

I responded with two comments (not live as of this writing).

I have all kinds of thoughts about these comments and posts, of course, and the entire discussion is feeding nicely into my academia and climate change research effort.  But here I just wanted to step back and note the conversational flow.  It begins with a blog post, continues to comments on that post, moves to another blog post, adds a comment there (I hope), leaps to another post, then expands to more comments still, then returns to this very meta blog post.  Comments here, blog posts elsewhere, and comments on those sites could follow.

Note how I’m trying to represent as much of this as possible in the post you’re reading now, from summaries to screen grabs and lots of links.

Back in 2002 David Weinberger captured a sense of this multi-site conversational style with the memorable phrase small pieces, loosely joined.  The web has moved on since, obviously, but this principle still lives.  It even lives in the Twitter conversation I described up above, even though those very small pieces are part of an increasingly feared behemoth.  Maybe the term doesn’t hold up in 2020, but the practice it named is very much alive.

This is one good way to use what we now call social media, even alongside those things we find troubling or terrible.

My hat’s off to everyone who participated in these conversations.

Next blog post up: disease!

*Alan’s blog style has infected this post, as you can see from the high incidence of images.

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6 Responses to Snapshot of a conversational morning

  1. Alan Levine says:

    Happy to be an infector, though your prolific, thorough, and consistent blogging is itself an influence, as well as this still of “this is how I work” type of posts.

    To me it speaks to not counting on one tool / platform / space to be everything, that you fluidly move across and in between. That’s the way to be.

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      A fine way to be. It takes some care and practice.

      Thanks for the kind words, Alan. They remind me to keep doing these posts.

  2. Chris L says:

    I get tired just reading this summary. My hat is off to you!

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