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A break from social media ~ reflection

After I took a week off from social media, one of the first posts I came across on Facebook contained this video. The post was followed with a series of comments about the use of phones and our loss of connection with being ‘in the moment’. Prior to my break from social media, I would have agreed that the phone is the issue but after my self-imposed break, I discovered that without the lure of social media, I rarely reached for the phone. Instead, the phone lay dormant on the table attached to the charger for hours. My break from social media, indicated it was the lure of social connection and interaction that kept that phone close at hand.

I have come across a few articles recently, debating the negatives and positives of social media. One article highlight’s narcissism, and self PR campaigns, in the individual use of social media as a misconstrued need to display a sense of constant awesomeness. On the other hand, this debate in the New York Times points to the virtues of access to an audience, self publishing and instant interaction as presenting opportunities for individual growth.

Interestingly, being without social media is not all positive, just as being constantly connected is not all positive. A friend (from my social media world) joined me in my mission to abstain from social media for a week and we shared insights about the experience via SMS. He shared this article ‘I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet’. What is interesting in this article is how the writer chronicles his personal experience of taking a year off the internet concluding that the positive/negative divide is not straight forward.

I decided to switch off social media for a week, beginning just two days before New Years Eve 2013. Celebratory times often attract increased posting, so it was going to be a challenge. The decision was spontaneous and partly based around my perception that my contributions were tired and felt somewhat laboured in the month of December. You see, I had been online since the end of 2011 diving into many social media apps including; Instagram, Facebook, Momentage, Backspaces, Twitter, Vine, Picyou, Eyeem, taada, Streamzoo, Wattpad, lightt, Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, Pheed, Scoop.it…

and the list goes on…..

The majority of these apps were a process of trialling for evaluation purposes, so my presence was short lived. However, my presence on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Vine have been constant. I’m not certain how much time I spent online with my phone, but it was definitely daily and on all four platforms. I would check each app every morning and participate in conversations, contribute content, check events, click on posted links and read/view content shared, read collated stories from Zite, share to targeted and appropriate social networks and so on and so forth… I’m pretty sure that was just two hours in the morning. I haven’t calculated time throughout the day nor the relax time after the evening meal when the kids are in bed… To say the least, four hours of online engagement may be an underestimate….. if I was being honest… (jaw dropping to the floor in realisation!)

I was feeling socially exhausted and needed to retreat, to think and refresh. The need to question the value of my contributions, the purpose, my connections and interactions seemed quite strong both online and in real life. Even with interactions IRL (in real life) I often feel the need to retreat and gather strength so that I can be social again. I suppose the virtual world had reached that point too.

Without social media, it became apparent quickly how few my connections are. SMS, email and phone are definitely much less active and interactions come from fewer people. The world felt somewhat silent. On a positive note, I relaxed more and just took time out. I even finished a novel in one night (it was a short novel). My time with my kids was less interrupted and seemed more positive. More than anything, my kids loved how unhurried I appeared. As a qualifier, this was the holiday time so relaxation was on the menu regardless. I actually started to feel relaxed and recharged too.

I found my thought processes seemed less hurried and distracted. I could think about what ‘it’ is about social media that is positive and consider the benefits of social networks online. I certainly missed my interactions and conversations with people that I connected with online and was looking forward to the time I could interact again. I discovered finding articles of interest, with no-one to share, made the conversation and knowledge construction seem far less interesting and rewarding without the social media platforms.

Without social media, the web is very static. Just reading articles and not contributing to conversation and adding to knowledge is something I tire from quickly. I suppose, knowledge is constructive and involves conversation. Social media has enabled this. With the networks that are formed, based around communities of interest, we are able to obtain various insights and access to information that is pertinent to specific interest areas. This helps to build on our thoughts, triggering connections with ideas we have come across and prompting further sharing and knowledge construction. In my social media networks, my communities of interest have developed around street art, writing, information access, arts, filmmaking and activism. With these areas I’ve connected with groups and conversations specific to these areas. Not all the people I connect with are connected with each other. Instead communities exist as various circles of interest that sometimes intersect but mostly remain distinct. Ultimately, this is what I view as a positive aspect of social media alongside the possibility of extending online relationships to real life relationships and vice versa.

So in 2014, one of my key resolutions is to increase my collaborative creative efforts with people from my social media world with a focus on improving both online and ‘in real life’ interactions. It is this aspect of social media, over the past couple of years, that has provided the most rewarding experiences. Clearly, this is the ultimate positive enablement of virtual communities.

Another resolution is to take breaks from social media. After a week’s break, I came back feeling refreshed, filled with ideas and wanting to contribute again. I’ve identified social interaction in the virtual world as no different to social interaction IRL, in terms of the need for retreat to replenish… in my case anyway. Just as I need a break to recharge IRL I also need this in the virtual world. Otherwise, I start feeling exhausted and unable to contribute.

 

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13 Project ~ Cyber Safety for Global Citizenship

Click on the image to go to the website and explore the cyber smart initiatives

Click on the image to go to the website and explore cyber smart initiatives

The primary school, where I currently work, is in the midst of investigating safe social networking sites for children. There is an acceptance that children are connected to technology on a daily basis, using it for educational and recreational purposes and in support of global citizenship. As a consequence, cyber safety is a significant focus. Currently, our students participate in many online environments including blogs, and posting to Vimeo.

The release of national statistics in 2012 by the minister for education, Peter Garrett point to disturbing figures of the prevalence of cyber bullying in his Be Bold Stop Bullying Facebook Campaign Launch. This is a major concern for the school community highlighting the need for constant revision of cyber safety practices. This has contributed to a greater focus by the school in assessing our current efforts and discovering where we can improve.

As part of this school-wide initiative, I investigated library based initiatives in support of schools’ efforts to promote cyber safety. I discovered the 13 project via a thread on the OZTLnet list serve and then investigated further. 13 Project was launched on 1st March 2013 by school library associations across Australia in recognition of the important role of school libraries and participation of school library staff in schools’ efforts to help keep their students safe online.

As a librarian, in a school based environment, being able to locate resources and provide access to these resources is of primary importance. This professional learning activity enabled a connection with the information needs of the school community and the library in resourcing those needs. Via the 13 project, some of the resources mentioned were areas our school identified for investigation, namely social networking sites that are safe environments for children in this age group. I evaluated the suggested social networking site Skooville. After the initial evaluation I shared the online resources from 13 project with teachers in our school and provided a recommendation of the Skooville program to be considered for implementation across the school. I attended the morning briefing during Cyber safety week and discussed this resource with staff thus saving them time in investigation of this important area.

Discovering a national library-based advocacy initiative, with a focus on cyber safety, was the most significant learning from this activity. With the networks to library professionals accessed via OZTLnet I can transfer the learning and extend the library into the school. This affirms the importance of the library for school based initiatives with a focus on curriculum and community needs. One of the tools particularly useful to school administration is the Safe Schools toolkit  as it provides an online audit tool to help with school prioritisation in this area. This information was shared with the leading teachers.

At this stage, I can see there is more that can be done by the library and staff in this area. Prior to this, our library had no knowledge of 13 project and the Skooville site. This activity has enabled the beginning of this knowledge and connecting with the wider school as a result.

The next step in this professional learning will be to involve the school in some of the other suggested initiatives as part of the National Cyber Security Awareness week. This will be explored for the next year.

Cybersafety is an ongoing learning curve needing constant evaluation and awareness raising. 13 project is a great starting place and resource.

 

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Visiting Libraries….

A Web of interconnections

This past session, one of the subjects I completed included the study visits to various information agencies. Interestingly most people visiting the Melbourne organisations were from other States of Australia or regional areas and I was definitely amongst the minority from Melbourne on the visits.

The places visited include

I’m not going to venture into detail about each of the organisations but rather provide a focus on Melbourne Library Service.

In previous posts, I have mentioned some of their innovative programming such as the Gallery Space hosting exhibitions, the cafe poet, the public piano and various workshops including Zine making workshops. It’s incredibly exciting to learn about the community engagement offered by Melbourne Library Service and how it provides a glimpse to the changing nature of libraries as space and how they are utilised.

In line with the rise in the creative maker culture, Melbourne Library Service reflects this, not only in their programming of workshops but in their collection building too. For instance, the Zine creation workshops lead to Zines that become part of the library collection that a wider audience can borrow, just like books, ebooks, audio books and CD’s. In effect this is an example of  great community engagement by a public library facilitating publishing and sharing.

Another interesting transition, exemplified in their plans for the library that is being built at Docklands due to open in 2014, is the incorporation of multimedia production facilities, a performance space and a Green room (for special effects). With these facilities, enabling multimedia production, they are planning to employ two multimedia technicians to facilitate the process and enable community to create films, audio recordings and even have performances or screenings.

Clearly, exciting times are ahead for public libraries as they transition to being the Hub of the community. The public library provides meeting spaces, resources and enables creative engagement. It provides connections to artists and community and facilitates the sharing of a local voice to a global audience.

Funnily, the study visits were meant to clarify the kind of information agency I would like to end up in. Currently, I’m in a small school library and for a few months I was convinced it was audiovisual archives and preservation that I wanted to focus on. After the visits, I came away liking all of them and have now broadened my choices rather than narrowed… Maybe next year I’ll narrow it down and the sky will provide a clear and narrowed focus 🙂

 

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Puppetry inspiration

This past year has been hectic, with deadlines for assessments, especially as I studied a WISE subject via San Jose State University. This meant there were no breaks between semesters, and often I was working endlessly to meet assignment deadlines. All I could do was forge ahead and not think about it too much… My only respite, to the assignment madness, were my streetart photographic adventures; shared mostly via Instagram.

So… what do you do when your study deadlines slow down and give you some breathing space? Engage your creativity of course, and revisit some past passion. This is just what I did with puppetry.

Luckily, Barek an artist from Brisbane announced a competition via Instagram titled #makemeabarek. The competition was run via Facebook and as my account had been inactive for a significant time, I had to reactivate to participate. What was involved was creating a character and including the signature Barek eyes.

I have never been able to complete a puppet in such a short time-frame but decided to give it a shot. Working collaboratively, with my partner we lost sleep and kept at it until we realised the day before that we were going to meet the deadline… Yippee!

Not only did we meet the deadline but our character was the winner! For our joyful effort we have an original
Barek artwork on the way… WOW!

Apart from the sheer joy of working on puppets again, I’ve enjoyed dipping my toes into Facebook and finding some of the talented artists I admire there too. I had been somewhat resistant of Facebook for quite some time but not any longer.

Following are some photos of the puppet entry. The inspiration for the puppet technique is Japanese Bunraku puppetry, although we have modified the actual technique and the puppet will be operated by two people without the strict adherence to the traditional form. The scenery is inspired by the talented Melbourne based artist Suki.

I’m now working on another character and hope to create a short video demonstrating the puppets. Stay tuned 🙂

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The benefits of the hashtag aka #

Having just completed a subject devoted to Describing and analysing information resources as part of my studies, I can now look back at my initial understanding and chuckle. It was limited to MARC and Dewey, an idea of subject headings, authority lists and a very vague idea of Z39.50. Oh dear, how little my knowledge base was….

Whilst, there is still a great deal to know in this field, concerns about what is relevant seem unchanged since Younger (1997). Younger asserts that the basis of cataloguing is still the same, in that resource creators want their resources to be found and information seekers want to be able to find resources (p.463). Furthermore, it is clear that a uniform approach is not an easy achievement, nor even a desirable one. Information agencies have different requirements in terms of resource description. Hence “One size does not fit all” and a focus on interoperability between standards becomes the imminent aim (p. 465).

This post, however, will not be focussed on the different standards. The weblinks embedded in my blog provide examples of the standards. Instead, the focus is the benefits of keywords or hashtags, as provided by ordinary people, in the facilitation of information retrieval.
Guy and Tonkin (2006) define folksonomy as “a type of distributed classification system…. usually created by a group of individuals, typically the resource users. Users add tags to online items, such as images, videos, bookmarks and text. These tags are then shared and sometimes refined.” Furthermore, hashtags are a useful addition to formal classification though not a replacement. Moulaison (2008) points out that the application of tags is defined by the purpose of the tag and ranges from personal retrieval needs with exo-tagging to promotion of user generated content with endo-tagging (p. 101).

In assessing the usefulness of tagging for web retrieval I have chosen the mobile photo sharing application Instagram (IG) that can be viewed online via web.stagram or with statigram. The experience of tagging in IG corresponds to Moulaison’s (2008) concept of endo-tagging user-generated content in the form of photographs that are uploaded and shared with the larger IG community internationally.

Moulaison (2008) suggests that user generated content that is uploaded such as videos or with photo sharing apps the tags can be “more stable and long term”. (p. 107). This is definitely the case with IG where the app has a search function embedded. You can search by users or tags to find either contributors or actual photos in defined categories. The result of the tags, and this search function in IG, is a system where the majority of contributors apply mostly accurate tags that benefit all. Beyond this, the tags applied are endo-tags by the contributor of the photo and they can be modified or added to at any point. This ability to modify at any point is great because you can correct misspellings. Other users will often pop in to comment feeds and provide suggested tags that may have been missed or the contributor may not have known, for example an artists name of the artwork photographed. This tag is often then applied enabling this photo to be located in this category or location.

Critiques of folksonomy include the perception that they are imprecise, inexact and too personal (Guy & Tonkin, 2006). Moulaison (2008) citing Tennis (2006) also mentions the idea that social tagging is for personal benefit (p. 108) as a type of filing system where one can locate resources quickly at a later time. In IG elements of personal benefit are evident with the more obscure rogue tags assigned that only one person contributes their photos to. This is evident with some travel photos shared for instance where the tags incorporate the name of the person contributing the photo and place eg #sarahinparis.

In my photo-sharing experience with IG, the tags assigned are often agreed tags by the larger community. However, as there is no limit to the amount of tags you apply, you essentially can incorporate a mixture of tags that are both for a broader benefit, where everyone can search and locate the photo with other similar resources, to more personal tags that an individual can search to locate their own personal category where the photos are only contributed by that person and pertain to something specific. An example may include a series of photos that act as a photo essay and grouping them together with a specific hashtag such as #photoessayeiffeltower2012. However, as Guy & Tonkin (2006) point out the use of single purpose tags are not the dominant. As the purpose of IG is to share to a wider audience the consensus on shared meaning becomes the norm.

Another critique of folksonomies is the argument by Shirky as cited in Guy and Tonkin (2006) of the lack of synonymous relations. In IG the manner in which some users have tagged photos suggests the idea of synonymous relationships as present. As an example, #wheatpaste, #pasteup #poster provide the relations between these three words as being synonymous with each other and act as descriptors of the same type of art within the broader category of #streetart and #graffiti, two tags that are also often applied as synonymous categories. Users often apply as many synonyms as possible thus enabling the photo to be located in each of the tagged areas in IG. This is very useful when searching as a person may only be aware of one term and yet still be able to locate this resource because the different terms have been tagged. Beyond this, as an international app, often the tags from contributors in countries where English is not the dominant language will have tags ascribed in both English and the language of the home country too. Potentially multilingual descriptors could be applied.

Tags in IG demonstrate a type of hierarchy with broader categories and narrower categories. They enable relationships to be defined between terms for example defining the photo as streetart (what it is about) tagging what type of street art such as “stencil” or “pasteup”, tagging the artist name of the streetart (creator) and tagging the location (geography) from broader to narrower #Australia #melbourne #brunswick #laneways #zombiedancelane and so on. Effectively, tags supply metadata and the more tags supplied in IG the more specific is the description.

Some tags also suggest what equipment the photo was shot with eg #iphone #iphoneography #nikon300, the shutter speed and may indicate if the photograph has been modified with filters or even with apps. The interrelations of users can be indicated via tags too. For example there are IG meetups organised, where groups do a photo walk and then post the results to the tag of the #instameetup with place. Another example is #mobilephotogroup of photographers dedicated to the use of mobile phones in photography. People share photos with each other by making them available to specific hashtags dedicated to the purpose of taking and modifying or altering the original and then reposting the result. They organise exhibitions and have dedicated hashtags that repost the happening or attendance.

In resource description the focus has been on controlled vocabularies as a process of increasing uniformity in description and disambiguating terms. Consequently, the use of natural vocabulary or folksonomies is perceived as problematic. A point worth mentioning,  is the suggested solution by Hider (2008 p. 183-184) of the imposition of a selection of controlled vocabulary terms that can be chosen by users for tags. However, having participated in a number of photography sharing apps including StreamZoo, PicYou, Tadaa, EyeEm and mobli, the apps that have provided a designated vocabulary list to choose from and, imposed limitations on how many tags to assign, produce description results that end up being too broad and less specific.

As an example, EyeEm only allows the assigning of one category for the type of photograph and the assigning of location. It does not allow further elaboration except what you may include as a title for the photo. If I took a photograph of street art that is a Paste-up of a deer by the artist Kaff-eine in a particular laneway at Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia, with EyeEm all I can assign is “Streetart” “Fitzroy”, “Melbourne”.  This is very limiting and not specific enough. Whilst the resource is placed in the broader category of Streetart and the location, these are the only two areas I can search to locate the work.

The audience base and user generated content of the other photo sharing apps appears significantly smaller than IG thereby it is still easy to locate the specific resource. However, on IG, Streetart, as a broad term, produces a result return of over 500000 photos. Consequently, the need to search more specific terms becomes paramount. In EyeEm there is no ability to search for the artist or the specific type of art either, which may produce a more accurate and specific result.

It is very useful to be able to search by artist for a streetart piece as well as by sub genre and even for far more specific locations. This is the advantage of applying more tags; as the description becomes more specific and enables the resource to exist with other resources that are also identified as having that specific category too.

This just touches on some aspects of how tags are utilised within IG and some of the purposes that tags demonstrate. The benefits of tags in web environments are certainly evident and not just related to a personal filing system. I suspect like other types of classification systems tagging or folksonomies will continue to evolve with purpose and function. Tags in IG do indicate an ability to effectively apply descriptions and can increase in specificity of description because there is no imposed limit on how many tags can be applied. The ability to title work or even contribute a mini or longer write-up about a photo further contributes to the description.

Guy, M & Tonkin, M. (2006) Folksonomies: Tidying up tags? D-Lib Magazine, 12(1)

Hider, P. (with Harvey, R.) (2008). Organising knowledge in a global society. (Rev. ed.). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Moulaison, H.L (2008) Social Tagging in the Web 2.0 Environment: Author vs. User Tagging, Journal of Library Metadata, 8:2, 101-111.

Younger, J.A. (1997). Resources description in the digital age. Library Trends , 45(3): 462-481

 

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Library Design for Community spaces

Silence is not so golden in the modern library  and this is a very interesting point to consider when thinking about the design of a library. As I have been musing about library design, the focus is on the purpose of libraries in communities and how library spaces and resources help to facilitate knowledge creation and conversation.

Lankes (2011) states “the mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities”  (p. 31). With this in mind, the design of a library should accomodate resources, spaces and facilities that enable creation. Zoning spaces for groups, both small and large, quiet and loud areas with adequate access to technological resources and expertise helps fulfil this mission.

I have been visiting libraries over the past few months that have been recently built or refurbished to gleam an understanding of design principles applied to facilitate this mission. The following presentation was created after visiting City Library of Melbourne Library Service, Waurn Ponds Public Library and Lara Public Library of Geelong Regional Library Corporation and Deakin University Library, Waurn Ponds.

A better view of the photographs can be obtained from my Flickr photo feed.

Lankes, R.D. (2011) The Atlas on New Librarianship, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Armitage, C. ‘Silence is not so golden in the modern library’, Sydney Morning Herald, March 6, 2012.

 

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Library 2.0 Inspiration

I love this TED talk and I came across it via the Library as incubator project. This fits my philosophy perfectly!

 

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