Tag Archives: community

Twitter and microblogging: Instant communication with your community

Twitter in Plain English from leelefever on Vimeo.

“What are you up to?”

It’s how we greet friends and strangers alike everyday. It’s also the question behind one of the web’s most popular social networking sites: Twitter. Voices of the Past posts links to its news, along with other community announcements, at www.twitter.com/heritagevoices. So what is microblogging, and what can you gain from it?

Microblogging, a term that refers to the plethora of micro-blog posts on the sites of services such as Twitter, and Tumblr, lets users update their friends (or followers as Twitter calls them) about what’s going on right now. For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll be looking at the basic ideas behind microblogging with Twitter. Yes, the first time I heard about it I too wondered who in the world would spend their time on something like this.

Lots of folks, evidently. According to the measurement website Tweetrush, about 2 million “tweets” (a.k.a. posts) are released into cyberspace each day. And in a time when most companies are going to the government for the funds to stay afloat, venture capitalists gave Twitter $35 million it didn’t even necessarily need.

It turns out that most people like the freedom of expression that blogging promises, but aren’t crazy about the commitment. While some of us may enjoy the process of researching and crafting a blog post to stand the test of time, others just want to share their admiration of meal well done or vent their complain about unsatisfactory service. The sentiment is short, sweet and instantly out there for millions to see.

Ease of use is where much of Twitter’s popularity lies. There is no logging into an administrative panel to create headlines, tags and the other components of a blog post. And the interface is immaculate, unlike the chaos of Facebook or MySpace. Type in the homepage box and press send. That’s it. Dozens of Twitter update applications have been built for quick updating via desktop applications and smartphones as well.

Obama on Twitter
Obama on Twitter

More than 250,000 Obama followers on Twitter aided in his presidential victory through spontaneous meet-ups and fundraisers announced through the service. In February 2009, “Twestival” was celebrated for the first time in more than 180 cities all over the world. Twestival essentially began with groups of Twitter users rallying together to support the cause of clean water in developing countries. Hundreds of gatherings were held to raise money for public works projects.

Twitter can be used on a personal level for project management, conference meeting communications, to-do lists, notetaking, job networking, flash focus groups, and getting all the family together at the same time for dinner. It can also be used to aggregate news in an easily accessible way.

But Twitter is merely the delivery platform. It’s up to the users of the service to determine what the conversation is about. Groups who are on archeological surveys can use these services to update their friends and colleagues about their findings almost immediately after the fact through the use of cellphone integration that many microblogging services offer. These services can allow almost real-time communication: something that is virtually unheard of within the preservation field.

After Twitter, a flurry of microblogging services were hatched only to go the way of the dodo. Jaiku, Pownce, Plurk, Brightkite were among the players I remember best from the early days. Today, Twitter commands much of the action, though you can find the current microblogging services reviewed in this post.

Twitter Lists

To me, “lists” are the functionality that make Twitter worthwhile. It takes the firehose of information and contextualizes it. These lists take a while to build, but are worth it. If you are looking for content to get started consuming information on Twitter, here are my curated lists of folks in digital heritage. You can follow these lists with your account or use them to build your own lists. My list “Heritage Influencers” is embedded below with the latest tweets from that group.


5 Ways to Use Twitter for Good

Newbie’s Guide to Twitter

Latest news on Twitter

KSU Digital Ethnography Project – An Analysis of How Students Learn Today

by Dylan Staley

My average class size is 115.

18% of my teachers know my name.

I complete 49% of the readings assigned to me.
Only 26% . . . relative to my life.

I will read 8 books this year, 2300 web pages, and 1281 Facebook profiles.

I will write 42 pages for class this semester,
And over 500 pages of email.

Such is the disheartening tale of student life portrayed in 2008 Professor of the year Michael Wesch’s short film entitled “A Vision of Students Today.” Wesch leads a Kansas State University working group dedicated to exploring and extending the possibilities of digital ethnography. The video was created by surveying 200 students from Kansas State University about their daily lives as students. The video is powerful and thought-envoking, but, is it really this bad? Is this really how we are trying to teach our students?

If we want to achieve true education, there are going to have to be radical changes within “the system.” Thanks to Dr. Wesch, students are beginning to realize that this is not the only way to be taught, and that for true education to be achieved, both teachers and students are going to have to take several steps back and analyze how they are learning and teaching.

I love learning . . . but I HATE school. – 2007 Professor of the Year Christopher M. Sorensen

While writing a blog post isn’t going to change how students are educated, and neither is a video, we cannot hope to change a problem that we don’t know exists. The first step to change is knowing what needs to be changed. And if we want to bring up the next generation of great minds that are going to preserve our history and carry us on into the future, we cannot feed them age old information. Our history is important, we must preserve it. But it is a degradation of our culture and heritage if we allow it to be taught in this way.

Voices of the Past seeks new and innovative ways to bring education to the masses. It is not a class, it does not have an instructor. It is created by normal people, inviting others to join in their work. This blog could be one of the best examples of the way education can evolve: into something that is both by and for the community.

We are not teachers. We are not students.

We are all learners.

We invite you to post your comments on this blog post, education, and whatever else you see fit.

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Heritage resources define community, even in their loss

It’s in times of hardship that a community’s character is revealed. The destruction of the Kate Chopin House by fire this past Wednesday was a harsh test of character for the heritage community in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana–where I was born, and live still.

The Kate Chopin House was a Creole-style structure in Cloutierville that was named for the groundbreaking feminist author who lived there during the 1880s. The house was important enough to have been named a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of Interior in 1993.

Just days ago, the house was a testament to what small-town heritage organizations could do. Without the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches, the house would have been gone decades ago. Local memory had faded so that not many folks remember the extent to which the house had deterioriated before APHN became steward of the property in 1979. The organization invested in several restoration projects, including the installation of central air and heat in 1999.

Indeed, countless people have invested their time and hearts into the restoration of this structure. So much had been done. But the real tragedy lies in how much more could–and would–have been done to make the Kate Chopin house a preservation showcase for the country. There was much to love about it–the architecture, the history, the literary tradition.

Witnessing the house’s utter destruction–not to mention the loss of the entire contents of the Bayou Folk Museum–was a hard pill to swallow. So many locals had donated family heirlooms to the museum that it literally defined the community.

And it’s still defining us even in its loss. By Wednesday evening, representatives from most of the heritage groups in the parish had been to the site and were finding ways to help. Early Thursday morning, students from the Heritage Resources programs at NSU were moving surviving contents to a safe location. The National Park Service offices provided funds and manpower as well. Even Stine Hardware donated many needed supplies to assist the response effort.

And thank heavens for forethought! For folks like Dusty Fuqua who led a Cane River National Heritage Area grant to document the museum’s major contents through his Cultural Lore organization. It was a laborious effort that was only recently completed, and an earnest example of why folks in the heritage community do what they do.

Where do we go from here? With so little left, folks assisting with the recovery effort are taking special care of every item that is pulled from the rubble with some semblance of its original character intact. It’s a process of expanding our collective knowledge about proper conservation response.

And through this process we recognize that even through the smoke of our biggest cultural loss in recent memory, we have more resources, better knowledge and stronger determination to do the right thing. There’s a measure of comfort in that realization.