Thursday, January 12, 2012

Back to the firepit?

  • Here goes - my first posting.  I am responding to the third question which is really a statement - old media never die. I am a believer in the statement that what's old is new again, but will admit at first glance it would not seem there is very much 'old' about new media.  The following may be a stretch, but here's one take.   
  •  People have spent ages trying to communicate with one another ever since the community began to expand beyond the firepit, when eventually face to face interaction became more difficult and then almost impossible.  
  • The printing press enabled the printed word to be shared. The invention of the telegraph allowed people to communicate that printed word across compressed time and space.  Moving forward, the telephone was able to transfer one's voice over space in compressed time. It no longer took the stage coach 3 months to take a letter from one destination to another.  
  • Today, skype adds video to the communication - across space and again in compressed time. Families that used to send a video tape to the grandparents can now skype and the grandchildren can interact face to face with their grandparents who live across the country or across the world.  It isn't around the firepit, but maybe it isn't that far in other ways. The elders can still participate in the family dynamics.  I recall one story about a family that places their computer on the  dinner table and once a week they eat dinner 'together' with family who live far away.
  • Thinking back to the firepit, when the whole community could see and comment on your actions, you had to watch how you behaved.  With Facebook and other social media, the community is larger and not necessarily known but it is still watching. But we have not grown up with the community "in our face" so to speak. Some new rules need to be learned. 
  • Perhaps 'new' media is a way to return to the collaboration that existed when we lived face to face; while not face to face exactly, it does require a new way of thinking as it brings us together in ways that we have not been used to for a very long time.
Kim Denstedt 


  1. Thanks for sharing Kim. Don't forget to add some labels to your post (back in the editing view).

    Nice metaphor of the fire pit! Very apt.

  2. Kim, I really appreciate the firepit metaphor too, and your statement that "new rules need to be learned." In new media environments we don't always appreciate how large the circle around the firepit is - we're not quite sure who's listening in the shadows. The immediacy of the environment lulls us into a sense of cozy fireside intimacy - but we forget that thoughts we share with our close online friends may also be seen or heard by strangers.

    Google+ seems to be addressing this concern with their "circles" concept - the participant is able to easily place their contacts into different circles, so that it's easier to choose who content is shared with. It looks promising, but the network effect hasn't kicked in yet for me - until more friends and family members join Google+, there won't be enough fireside warmth to attract me there. Perhaps I can talk some classmates into signing up... ;)

  3. I felt first hand recently just how much richness social media can add. I've lived 'away' from where I grew up and where most of my family live since I was 20, yet I've managed to see my family several times a year. My sister and I are very close and some of those visits would center around our time together. Yet when we got together last fall, I was astonished to realize that although it had been over a year since we had occupied the same physical space, I felt a very connected with her in a physical way.

    Some of how we had connected was through the telephone - old media. We had applied the art of letter writing to email and by posting to an extended-family website. Texting is becoming more important to us.

    Yet I think connected us the most closely was the Web 2.0 iteration of the family game night - we always have a game of Scrabble going. So we not only communicate like grown ups, we battle it out like siblings on the game board, matching wits and emotions.

    1. I'm still on a blog learning curve - I was the unknown person who posted above. Hopefully, unknown but not unknowable.

  4. Communicating communities are very important and while the modes utilized continue to evolve the desire to make a connection remains. As you mentioned Kim, families are continuing to enact the traditional family dinner by video conferencing in family members who are separated by physical distance. Illustrating the desire and need for connections face to face or otherwise.

    My Mom and I maintain a close connection via Facebook and telephone calls. She only lives two hours away but we always have scrabble game going on FB. Even when we visit each other we continue to play our virtual scrabble game. It’s actually kind of bizarre now that I think of it, we may be playing a game face to face but our virtual game continues.

    Ps The firepit is a nice metaphor

  5. Communicating effectively across the grand span of NM surfaces as my biggest challenge! LMS,email,texting, Skype, and online collaboration tools are easy tools for my mainstays - a protocol is established. However, as a facebook and twitter "viewer" and VERY occasional adder, I ponder my effectiveness in communication with the go to tools of the many. I want to share effectively but have yet learned the best attack method to share with the many who look to dive New Media services to do so!

    1. Liz - I appreciate you sharing that you are challenged to communicate effectively across the span! I feel that way personally, but also with my students who must be prepared to use SM in business. I was heartened to read predictions for 2012 by a group of social media 'experts' who are part of a Linked-In group that I joined. I like to follow their discussions. Their predictions for business were that rather than trying to do it all, business will learn to focus on the 1 or 2 SM tools that suit their market the best and do those well. Next, they will plan their use. Makes 'common' sense to me but when new things come along I think there is often an attempt to try it all before settling to what is best for your own situation. As Linda said, she likes Google+ but needs more people on it to make it useful.

    2. Kim and LJ, I think you're both absolutely right. We mustn't jump on the latest bandwagon (be it Twitter or Google+ etc...) just because it's new and *everyone* is trying it. As in our professional lives, we must choose the tools that are appropriate to us and our business plan/project/etc. I do think it is easier to be swept up in waves of excitement for new platforms because we are surrounded by people telling us about them (google searches, FB, Twitter, blogs etc) but part of being transliterate is knowing what you want to create and choosing and employing the right tool.

  6. Nice post Kim. Your use of the firepit as a metaphor and your discussion on new rules and kitchen tables, brought to mind the concept of etiquette. My mom would often try to teach us about dining etiquette around the kitchen table as we sat for dinner, but in a family with four sons and a daughter many of the lessons would not stick. There were a number of 'rules' that I did not understand and if I couldn't see the reasoning behind them, then I wouldn't follow them. What after all was wrong with having ones elbows on the table. What I didn't appreciate is that my mother was trying to prepare me for future dining circumstances with other stranger dinner companions. My mom had the experience of having been in the situations that she was preparing me for. What is interesting is that when we think of etiquette, we tend to think of dining situations first, yet we would have been taught etiquette in many other areas of our lives. This, I believe is because of the frequent use of the family table to demonstrate and discuss etiquette.

    As you suggest Kim, there is a need for citizens to develop an awareness of outsider perceptions regarding our online behaviour. But, this lack of 'netiquette' should not be surprising. In the new media realm there is little opportunity for the kitchen table conversations. Children and youth are often using new media by themselves without the participation of their parents. Furthermore, new media is developing at such a rapid rate that children are often adopting technologies in advance of their parents. Ultimately, there is little in the way of good models for appropriate online behaviour and the new rules are being made up as we go along.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Great post, Kim. Thank you for getting the discussion going. We may have moved away from the firepit but now we are gathering around the small screen.

      As Atypical Albertan says, etiquette is important. All users go through a learning curve when we use new technology, but when we make a mistake on Facebook or Twitter, more people can see it.

      One of my favourite posts from Social Media Today is '10 things your grandmother can teach you about social media' available here: Number 4 is "keep your elbows off the table" but they interpret it as acting respectfully so others can see that your input has value. When you read their tips, you can see that most of them are common sense rules but added to a new technology.

      However, the exciting part of new media is that we are still in the process of developing the new rules and netiquette. Twitter co-founder, Evan Williams, described how the most exciting uses for Twitter were created by users and expanded the use of the platform beyond their wildest dreams. He says that users shaped their system. Here’s the talk:

      The interesting side note to this discussion is that Evan Williams was also responsible for launching this platform, Blogger.

  7. Atypical Albertan - I've been re-reading your comment and my eyes keep going to the segment on children adopting the technology before their parents and the implied problematics that raises. I'm wondering if this is really a *new* thing linked to web technology? Would this have existed with tv - parents perhaps did not grow up watching cartoons and (belatedly) learnt of links between agressive (and other) behaviour and *screen time*.

    I suppose I'm also thinking about the (implied) notion that etiquette is passed on by women (mothers, grandmothers) and perhaps this is what is raising my query; who now teaches etiquette? Parents who don't know the tech? Teachers who (usually) aren't given the time/support to learn the tech? Does it matter if we learn the etiquette as we go? I myself did not have a *family* to guide my online development - that came along in unison with my own exploration of html, facebook, twitter and the like.

    I wonder how many of us (born digital or not) do not overtly learn 'net etiquette?

    NB: I do know that many elementary and secondary school programmes (as well as some undergrad.!) do teach appropriate online conduct (but this is relatively recent).

  8. It's been interesting to read a conversation sparked by Kim's throwing a metaphorical analog on the fire. I think it's a way for us all to use what is old (the fire pit) as we grapple with what is new, even though the new is tougher to put in place. How new our times may actually be is suggested by Manovich who made me stop my reading cold when he predicted (16) that the future will look back on us and and honour interface designers, computer game designers, music video directors, DJs as the true cultural innovators.

    So, that would be one way that new media is new, I suppose: the hall of fame has different folks in it!

    Manovich presents eight propositions on what is the essence of new media. Some focus on technology; others focus on ideas.

    What intrigued me the most was the proposition that we view the genes of new media in the age of the 20th century avant grade period. This somewhat follows Kim's suggestion that new isn't as new as it is recycled. Where avant grade artists of the 1920s dealt in collage and photo montage as a way of encouraging their audiences to see the world in new ways, the new media practitioners of our time use the analog record (television programs, films, audio recordings) to repackage the record.

    New media has something to do with being a different kind of reader, or, maybe, not a reader at all. Old media is the novel; new media has something to do with connections with words and branches of thought they take us onto. From the reading I have done so far, I sense that new media asks me to be something new: more aware, alive, interactive, critical. And it facilitates this technology by having my thoughts fork into the past, back to the present, off to the future.

    So, yes, it's a fire pit, but it's a different kind of fire, a different kind of pit, and it's a fire that burns across time.....