Monday, November 16, 2009

The Web as a Community of Scholars

The "Connected Student" video presents an overview of the web tools a student might use in a school setting where students are encouraged to find things out for themselves, to be creative and self-starters. Students can not only use the Web to read the most information on their topic, but can personally connect with others, including experts in the field, who might easily be persuaded to talk to the student’s class via video conference. Finally, students can contribute to building knowledge by social bookmarking, writing blogs, or creating wikis or videos.

But it is not only students who need to learn information management skills and how to develop networks. The web tools and approaches presented in this video are equally useful for professors trying to keep up with developments in their field or for any learner/scholar.

I am considering assigning this video to students and asking them to write comments and discussion questions. I am particularly interested to hear their reaction to this self-organized mode of learning (as contrasted with the traditional teacher structured mode).

Thanks to the Clio and Me blogger for calling this video to my attention and for providing an excellent example of blogging as a tool for sharing knowledge about what works & what doesn’t, about useful tools & techniques for college teachers of history.

About WS445 Women and Computers Class

I just completed a short slideshow designed to recruit students to the Women and Computers class I teach for Women's Studies. Only 20 slides long, it presents a few snippets of the issues we explore in 3 major aspects of the course:
Gender, Race, and Class Perspectives on the Web and computers
How Feminists and Social Justice Activists use the Web
Hands-on Training with free software and online Web tools
I am using the slideshow to give short speeches in several classes to inspire (I hope) students to enroll. If interested, you can view the show at

Sunday, November 15, 2009

YouTube Video - Politics of Class Online

Just discovered the YouTube video "danah boyd - PdF 2009 - The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online" with an excellent discussion of how Facebook users differ from MySpace users. The main point of danah boyd’s speech is that we really need to think about how online networks are perpetuating class and race divisions. And that as activists, if we only appear on Facebook, we are really limiting our audience. A rough draft of the text of her talk can be found at

Are NonProfits Perpetuating Class Divisions Online?

Interesting piece at a New Organizing Institute blog post of 9/30/09 which opens with quote from Sarah Perez blogging at ReadWriteWeb “about a new Nielsen Claritas study finding that Facebook users tend to be better off financially, while MySpace users’ income is generally lower. She opened saying:

Oh how the mighty have fallen. The one time king of social networks, MySpace, now has the honor of being the site where the less affluent members of the online population stake their claims by way of bedazzled profiles overrun with auto-playing videos and songs. Meanwhile, the upscale, financially solvent users have moved on – and by moved on, we mean to Facebook, of course.

After criticizing the condescending attitude of Sarah Perez, the New Organizing blogger goes on to say "As a movement, we need to ensure that we aren’t tricked into ignoring online tools that reach large and important segments of the population -- regardless of whether you like the design of one site over another. All too often, online organizing efforts have Facebook pages, but fail to reach out to MySpace users at all. According to a study released earlier this summer by Anderson Analytics , roughly 32 million MySpace users do not have a Facebook page. That is an awful lot of millions to ignore." (emphasis added)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Causes (fund raising app) Abandons MySpace

Beth Kanter, in her excellent blog devoted to How Nonprofits can Use Social Media, reports on 11/6/09 that

"Amy Sample Ward reported that Causes notified 184,725 users that its MySpace app will be removed from MySpace as of today. The email encouraged MySpace users of Causes to join the cause on Facebook.

"One wonders what the motivation was? Amy's post spoke about the implications for individuals and communities, raising the question - "In abandoning MySpace, is Causes abandoning nonprofit groups organizing online with poorer users and people of color?" Justin Mass went as far as to say that the move was "social network redlining."

In class we discussed research by danah boyd showing that the users of MySpace and of Facebook were quite different - with Facebook users being a more college oriented group (who looked down on MySpace users). MySpace users tended to be more low-income and liked MySpace because that's where there friends were and because MySpace enabled people to customize their templates more in terms of color and layout.

Hence if Causes abandons MySpace, it likely makes it more difficult for nonprofits to do fundraising among working class people. Beth Kantor goes on to note that the Causes application can be criticized for failing to really involve people and so its loss might not be so dreadful - perhaps nonprofits should develop their own ways of more effectively interacting with users of MySpace.