Wednesday, March 28, 2012

SIGDOC 2012 posters

I hope you're strongly considering submitting a paper to SIGDOC 2012. (Paper deadlines are June 1.) But I also hope you'll help us spread the word. One way would be to share this picture with interested colleagues. Post it to Facebook, print it out and put it on your door, anything you can do to let everyone know about this great conference.

Questions? Contact us through the website. Or in the comments here. Hope to see you in Seattle!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reading :: Net Smart

Net Smart
By Howard Rheingold

Howard Rheingold is known for books investigating how technology changes communities, books such as Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution and The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. But his latest book, Net Smart, is not an investigation. Think of it instead as a handbook for being a successful member of such communities.

Net Smart is a light book, and much of it will sound familiar or even obvious to those who have closely followed his previous work. That's okay. Rheingold says that this book is for a range of people, including adults who are online but are having trouble managing their time and attention; intelligent but fearful parents of children who are going online; young people who enjoy being online but want to interact in deeper ways; older people who are puzzled by new media; businesspeople who want their employees to be net smart; and educators who want their students to connect old and new literacies. In other words, if you've been attending South by Southwest Interactive or working on your MA in media theory, this might not be the book for you.

On the other hand, it might. Even though Rheingold writes simply for this broad set of audiences, his long and deep experience with online communities has given him keen insights that others may not have. Rheingold covers several lessons, including:

  • Controlling and being mindful of our scarcest resource: our attention.
  • Critically examining and testing assertions (a.k.a "crap detection").
  • Recognizing and developing participation skills for participatory culture.
  • Understanding collective intelligence and crowdsourcing.
  • Understanding social networks and social network analysis.
And although the book is for a general audience, it's easy to see that it's based on deep experience. Personally, I found myself highlighting references to more scholarly texts such as texts on social network analysis.

In sum, Net Smart is a well written and timely book. You may find it useful for yourself. But if you already consider yourself "net smart," consider giving a copy to someone who could use it.

Ryerson University

I'm in the Toronto airport waiting for my flight back to Austin. Toronto's a great city, about the size—and vibe—of Chicago. Downtown, among other things, is Ryerson University, where I spoke yesterday.

Ryerson is a polytechnic university. Among other things, it has a relatively new Master's program in professional communication. It's a one-year terminal MA for fast trackers, and it looks fascinating—and not at all conventional. The standout sight for me was the posters that students produced in a theory course: each poster graphically mapped out relationships among theories, and each was beautifully, professionally produced. Judging from the students' work, and from the students' questions during the presentation, this is a unique program in the best sense.

I've long been a fan of the work of Catherine Schryer, who is now the chair of the School of Professional Communication at Ryerson, so when she invited me to speak at Ryerson, I jumped at the chance. I'm really glad that I did.

Thanks to all the faculty and students who came to hear me talk about genre theory, Castells, Latour, spambots, hipsters, Galileo, SEO, Pokemon, shuttle buses, and cardiologists. (It was a wide-ranging discussion.) And thanks especially to Isabel Pedersen, who served as my liaison throughout the day. I hope the visit was as valuable for you as it was for me!