digital rhetoric

how many microblogs/social networks could a woodchuck chuck?

Ok, so here’s a rundown of what I’m using to some degree or another right now.

I’m also on Facebook (like everyone else), in Second Life (aka Alex Asylum), using PBwiki, and in Vox (though I not really using it). I don’t say that to brag (there are many others doing much more); in fact it could be mildly embarrassing.

But the question I asked in Twitter, Plurk, Seesmic, and now here is whether or not all this is too much? Is there are point to being in three different microblogging services. I can use an application like Twhirl to aggregate Twitter and Pownce (and perhaps Plurk soon too), but what’s the point of sending the same message to three networks (plus updating my Facebook, AIM, Google status messages) with the same data?

The answer is there’s probably no point. At least none that I can see. I’m only in these things b/c I’m curious and like to try things out. I can’t imagine I’ll be using all three microblogging tools in 6 months, but who knows?

I’ll be interested to see where Disqus and Friendfeed get to. What I like about them is that they offer me a way to curate my social capital. So if every blog had disqus, then when I commented there those comments would be aggregated on Disqus, which is connected to my Friendfeed, which also collects data from most of the other social networks I use. Hence Friendfeed offers a snapshot of what I’m up to. It would also give me an insight into my colleagues.

If they used Friendfeed… or any other of these tools.

Now clearly I have colleagues across the blogosphere, and there are many people that I have met through these networks. Some of them are super plugged into all this business. I’m thinking more about my more physically proximate colleagues, plus many folks in rhet/comp who have only partly dipped their toes in this business.

This gives me a two-fold question. The first question, as suggested by the title, is how much is too much? But the answer to that question is somewhat based on what might be possible. So I want to play a little thought game where I imagine colleagues being as plugged in as I might want them to be.

And let me be clear that the point here is NOT to proselytize. Some folks struggle to deal with e-mail. I do some days. E-mail sucks. I find phone calls for the most part even more annoying. (I know; I’m a friendly sort.) That’s why I do these other things.

No, the point is to posit the limit of usefulness as a hypothetical question in a best case scenario of sorts and then scale back. Ideally, I could imagine carrying on conversations in a variety of formats. Quick questions on microblogs. Informal conversations on seesmic. Fuller dialogs through blogs. Collaborative projects through Ning or Facebook and/or wikis. Online meetings and real-time presentations through Second Life. Sharing resources through delicious, bloglines, youtube, flickr, etc. Establishing our social capital through friendfeed.

More specifically. Let’s say that in the fall I’m teaching a course on Writing for Online Publication that focuses on our locally-produced magazine NeoVox (to quote Spandau Ballet, "I know this much is true"). Now let’s say that I might hope for the following:

  • to work with faculty on-campus teaching audio/video production and graphic design to collaborate with my writers;
  • to work with other faculty on-campus who might have students producing texts that could be of interest to the magazine and which might students might edit;
  • to extend beyond the campus both nationally and internationally to collaborate with students and faculty on the magazine’s production.

So far all true. Now, I could see how microblogging and social networking (and even Seesmic if we got that adventurous) could help us form community bonds. Second Life could be great for real-time interaction and meetings. Other sites could help us share media and information. And that would be one course.

Similar activity might typify other courses, working with Kairos, conducting collaborative research, campus committee work, and so on.

I shudder at the notion of trying to accomplish this work through e-mail alone.

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