I’d been updating Librarianautica for my Social Media class but those posts (and their comments) have now been imported here. No need to pay attention to that space any more (until my next class with a blogging requirement).
Following up on my last post, I’m not so sure that “web 2.0 itself implies creativity.” I mean, I get the Clay Shirky idea that making something is better than watching Gilligan’s island so making LOLcats is fine, but I think remix culture allows for a lot of laziness.
Some of the most interesting Web 2.0 projects I’ve seen are about rewarding creators who can work outside the traditional model. Molly Crabapple’s Week in Hell (she’s locking herself in a room to create for a week) raised thousands of dollars on Kickstarter (over five times her original goal so now they’re going to make more stuff with the extra money). She’s helped raise the question of whether Kickstarter is more important/useful than Arts Council grants for artists.
So yes, social media is helping fuel that kind of creativity, but it’s important to note that people are giving her this money because of her talent. The connections are about funding and supporting creativity, not inspiring it.
I love Neil Gaiman as much as the next person, and his presence on Twitter is huge. But, I don’t love him because of that social media scene. I love the work he does. Making meaning from the banal is a nice idea about social media’s relationship to creativity, but the fact is that most of the banal is still pretty banal, even when it’s aggregated.
I guess I’m saying that “fostering connections, building networks, creating new knowledge” isn’t creative in and of itself. It has to be supportive of some actual talent.
I wrote a post about social media being only a means of supporting creativity on Librarianautica.
There’s an idea in the social media-verse that “conversation is the content.” That kind of quote makes me angry. In the article linked to (which isn’t specifically about libraries but for other businesses engaging in social media) Christopher Rollyson is talking about marketing and how content doesn’t mean anything when you’re talking about marketing. For him, social media being social is about not outsourcing your social media to marketers because “people can smell manufactured content a mile away,” which is a different thing. I think too many people involved specifically with Social Media! ignore the idea that collaboration about nothing is empty, and having good content is bedrock essential.
Now, Rollyson has a good point, clouded by a stupid italicized quote, especially in the library world. Manufactured content is dumb and nobody wants to waste their time with it. But equally bad is the idea that a library can just be there being social with nothing to talk about. Chatting about nothing, trading jokes like a real person does on Twitter might be engaging but isn’t useful for a library or organization.
I think you’ve got to have cool stuff to talk about before you start a conversation. That’s how you get Rollyson’s “human spark of knowledge and caring.” Maybe that’s just my aversion to small-talk, but if you want someone engaging in conversation on behalf of your institution that person needs something to talk about. Just talking doesn’t mean shit. If you want an audience to return you’ve got to be doing good work (or at the very least spotting good work others are doing and pointing it out) to be talking about.
We’ll be getting into this more in our course when we’re talking about Creation, I’m sure, but the Rollyson article ticks me off because the blueprint for success in social media needs Vision, Strategy, Test and Services (though the services bullet point is so filled with marketing buzzwords I can’t even read it). Nowhere there does he talk about making something worthwhile to be talking about.
That is my biggest problem with social media. Just because “the medium is the message” doesn’t mean that’s a laudable state or that you can ignore your content. It seems that people get so starry-eyed about it they forget that there needs to be good work going on to be promoting.
Chatting and collaborating just to garner retweets, favourites +1s, or buzz in whatever new digital form is empty bullshit that I for one don’t want to be participating in. I’m in a substance business, not advertising, and though we can use social media to promote our items of substance the medium can’t be our goal.
The best collaboration tool I’ve used so far in library school is hands down Google Docs. I use wikis at work and we used BaseCamp for planning the NetworkEd UBC project, but nothing beats the big G on this.
The best part about it is when you’ve got five people collaborating on a document and everyone has it open on their respective laptop and everyone is editing the text at once. There’s a bit of give and take on that, since it is annoying to be working on the exact same sentence as someone else, but when something like deleting typos becomes a race that’s a fun tool.
When Google Wave came out I got in on the open beta, but there wasn’t a lot to do with it. My friends and I created a Wave to plan a road trip to Chicago, and while it worked, there wasn’t anything about it that was fun or useful. Integrating the best bits of Wave into Google Docs was a great step forward.
I think part of the appeal of Google Docs is that you are producing something, not just talking about producing something. I mean, it’s fine to use tools to chat and plan and such, but if it’s not integrated into the actual production, it’s just another step being pushed into your workflow. If you can collaborate directly on the work that’s a huge deal. You don’t have to reproduce your notes or people’s good ideas into the thing you’re producing, because it’s all right there.
Now, so far I’ve only handed in assignments straight from Google Docs for in-class types of things. Getting them out into LibreOffice is important to get the layout as right as I get fussy about. But separating out the layout/final touches kind of work seems far less onerous than separating the collaboration itself.
That’s what I want out of collaboration: actual work being done rather than having a separate step to talk about the work we want to do. I hate meetings that are just about assigning tasks when you could just be getting to it, right there. The rapid-prototyping model is built into this kind of collaboration. A person writes a sentence. It doesn’t work and gets rewritten right there. There’s chatting in the sidebar about why it doesn’t work and what would be better. “How about this?” someone can ask and you can see if it works or not. There’s no separate step of coming together to pull words apart and then going back to work on it again. Everyone sees the sausage being made, and that’s a good thing.
In my mind this also deals with a bit of the design by committee problem. You aren’t coming up with innoffensive ideas that’ll make it through, you’re putting stuff down with the knowledge it could get zapped straight off but if you delete something you’ve actually made a hole in the project that you need to fill. Maybe that’s not how it works for other people, but that’s the kind of collaboration model I see as a worthy goal, suggested by Google Docs. Collaboration can’t be a separate step, because that makes it easier to ignore.
Really though, I just like racing cursors.
I wrote a post about collaboration and cursing racers in google docs on Librarianautica.
Information professionals should be using social media if they care about the rest of the world. I mean, I’m a fan of cataloguing in a cave, but engaging with your community is important. Even if you’re the most locally focused librarian ever in a community where none of your users give a shit about Twitter it’s important to be using it to pull in information and to show off the knowledge being created in your community.
One thing we learned in our Community-Led libraries course with Beth Davies and Annette de Faveri was the importance of not coming into a space with an agenda. Not showing up and saying “Here are some awesome things the library can do for you!” but hanging out and asking what is happening with them, letting the community lead the library. That takes a long time. I think participating online requires a bit more push than that, because if you’re just hanging out as a library, not talking on Twitter, you’re invisible (in a way you aren’t when you’re sitting in a halfway house with a box of donuts).
I also think the idea of a limit to our participation in social media is stupid. I mean, sure, posting pictures of patrons on Facebook without their permission is a bit sketchy. But stopping information professionals from being part of the world just because of who their employers are is bullshit.
A story from work: A library in Northern Australia was making use of some of Koha’s features to integrate a blog onto the front page of the OPAC. The library staff were creating this information to participate in the wider world and were really proud of it. And then their Communications Department found out and shut it down. Not because of something bad that happened but because of stupid bureaucratic power disputes that said librarians aren’t authorized to create publications. That story makes me incredibly angry. To have participation curtailed by the communications department who wanted more control over messaging is kind of terrible.
Part of my visceral reaction to that story has to do with my personal history working at a public library that had a regressive attitude towards people talking about things online. I was disciplined for blogging about work on my personal time. The disciplinary hearing involved the director of our library telling me I was not fit to be a librarian and shouldn’t go to library school because of my disrespectful attitude. This experience led to my disclaimer/explanation page you can see linked to on my library blog’s on Opinions page, and you can read some of my other ruminations about privacy and the like when that former library actually created a social media policy because of me. That link includes a response to a danah boyd article.