Digital Literacies

Researching New Literacies, Learning and Everyday Life

Archive for the ‘social networking’ Category

Private Facebook ‘Support Groups’

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Issues of Privacy Online

I have joined a private group on Facebook. You cannot find it through the Facebook search facility or via Google.  You cannot see if your friends are members of private groups. This is the info from Facebook about the different types of privacy for groups:

From Facebook:

Online privacy – or lack of it – has of course been a hot topic over the years and Facebook in particular has been held up as a major offender for the invasion of private information and selling it on. Despite offering services free of charge, Facebook has made a lot of money from selling our information. But now we all know about it, maybe we should just act responsibly and not say too much online that we don’t want shared:

Locked Gates - Cemetery Road Cemetery Sheffield

Private Facebook Groups
The group I have joined is for ‘ME Mums’ . I was told about the group through another support forum for carers of people with ME and it was only via invitation that I could have joined – being linked to the group by an existing member. The group allows us to talk privately  – sharing information and grievances. We also have some laughs.

Community / Grassroots level Expertise
The group has been a source of a great deal of valuable info that I would otherwise not be able to find out – in fact having a daughter who has had ME for 15 years, I  have gained more info in the last month or so than I managed to collate on my own over those years.  Expertise is of the kind Gee writes about when he describes Affinity Spaces. Expertise that is valued is the ability to behave like a hunter gatherer, bringing jewels to the nest from other parts of the Internet. Hyperlinks are common on the ME Mums space – reaching out to other support groups; marginal medical research; useful gadgets to buy – eg heart rate monitors being a popular one at the moment – ; ‘good people’ we can trust; videos on YouTube and to other ME organisations across the world.

The group has no official ‘certificated’ experts – no medical doctors and the like. Respect is earned through online reputation within the group – and the greatest gurus are highly valued and receive lots of ‘likes’ and affirmative remarks on their posts. They post daily, lengthily and bring lots of information. Furthermore, such gurus mediate the info – explaining its relevance to others in simple language. Other members refer to such posts and to the documents the gurus share. Other ways of acquiring respect is via the amount of support you offer; a sharing approach is universally expressed and no negative judgements are ever articulated. the ‘like’ button is used liberally – and with multiple meanings.

We have created – and continue to create – an archive of symptoms, of bad experiences and of good, that could be the basis of some good research.

Risks – Breaches of Confidentiality

This online space of which I am a member will not become the focus of my own research; this would not be ethical and would jeopardise other types of benefit I get from the group anyhow. But I am learning things from being a part of this new type of online space – which I think has real dangers as well as benefits. Because whilst we may all keep everything secret – there is no guarantee of this, we hope to trust members, but who knows? Also, maybe at some point someone will hack in – and maybe Facebook will decide to make our info available to a third party. We always have to be on our guard. Not just because there is information we are sharing about our children online – which they may not wish to share and which is confidential; but also because we are sometimes specific about professionals we criticise (perjury? slander?) but also because at this stage, children are still taken into care when they have ME – on the pretext of Munchhausen syndrome by proxy. We only have to think about politicians’ leaked emails to get a clue about the damage seemingly innocuous digital texts can do sometime.

The downside of user driven expertise
On the downside, I see some people getting in a big state over the information they are given and I have seen how they can easily end up worrying too much. The problem with people researching for themselves is that they are so close to the situation – and while this has absolute advantages (insider knowledge etc) sometimes distance is necessary for perspective. This kind of grassroots level research is a great thing but at the same time I keep thinking that it would be good if this were not necessary – that if medics and social services etc co-ordinated themselves as well as we have, we would be able to trust them to care for our children as well as they care for heart patients etc. People with orthodox carefully diagnosed illnesses get better help. Traditional experts – medics in particular – have power and also access to privileged information and funding for treatments and support and research. If they could only see our conversations sometimes, it would make them very angry; but after the anger they may learn something very valuable.

Educational application of private groups
In terms of education … I did not realise exactly how private you can make a Facebook group and so this does have some useful affordances for teaching and learning – will muse on this at a later date. I like the idea of creating a Facebook space for students now that I realise I can reassure them their friends will not see the group and it will not interfere with their existing presentations of self online!! And as I have seen, when the motivation is there, the group can work very impressively. This is what online participation is all about.

Written by DrJoolz

July 12th, 2012 at 11:02 am

Habbo Hotel under Siege

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For all the best possible intentions Channel 4 recently exposed how a large number of peodophile and predatory interactions take place on a very regular place on Habbo Hotel. Habbo is a Finnish social networking site aimed at teenagers, wiki describes it here.

In an extensive piece, they talked about how undercover researchers joined Habbo Hotel and found that they were immediately and regularly sexually propositioned. They were subjected to sexual talk and coercive behaviour which sometimes attempted to move virtual chat through avatars from online ‘sexting’ into requests for individuals to strip in front of webcams. The Channel 4 investigation also revealed the identity of a couple of men who have already been prosecuted for such activities.

Habbo seemed unphased at first but when they realized what a storm Channel 4 had provoked they immediately silenced all interaction on their site. This was undoubtedly exacerbated by one of Habbo’s sponsors immediately withdrawing their interest from Habbo.

Despite all my interest in researching teenagers’ online behaviour over the years, I had not been at all interested in Habbo. perhaps because not one of my research participants ever mentioned it to me – although I had heard of it.  In fact as it has been around so many years I had assumed there was not activity on there. This is apparently not the case with wiki reporting that by 2011 230 million avatars had been registered (such figures need to be regarded with caution as some people will have multiple avatars and many avatars will have been registered but never or rarely been active).

It looks like the site is going to only unmute the talk and text functions once it has put into place much better more stringent moderation features.

My comments on all this are that:

(a) As usual the research that Channel 4 undertook was research that I think is pretty flawed. The adult researchers did not behave in the same way as teenager researchers and I thnk they should have involved teenagers in a much more authentic exploration of the site. What adults do in the site is not going to be the same as teenagers. This could have been asking teenagers to consent to being involved in research, asking them to join and observing them while interacting on the site – obviously a range of safety and ethical features would need to be set up for the project.

(b) The researchers made all kinds of assumptions about how young people might react to the propositions and lewd interatcions from the resident peodos perverts etc. Agtain, involving teenagers in the research would have helped with this.

(c) The researchers had a model of teenagers and young people as helpless victims. They did not think to consult teenagers who were already using the site about their observations and experiences.

(d) the researchers made the classic mistake of trying to immediately understand the site and to participate without lurking first. I would always advise researchers to first lurk about a site before participating… and this is what most people do before they join in on a networking site too.

(e) I am against covert research. Although the researchers like to get a scoop and love the thrill of under cover operations, I think they woud have got a great deal more from the research if they had got permission ethical approval and then done a thorough and multi faceted research project.

As a result of Channel 4’s research, not only has Habbo itself reacted by taking action which it should have taken long ago in relation to trolls, peodophles and pervs (!!) but  many of the sites users are using the internet  as a way of speaking back, protesting and making it known that they would like to be acknowledged as having some agency. For example here and here.

I like the way that this player critiques Channel 4’s use of the site. You can see from the video that many young people are utterly distraught by this decimation of what they see as THEIR space.

(It is somewhat naff, btw, that Channel 4 have disabled the embedding of video material they put on YouTube.)

I am very happy to see also how young people were finally invited to be on Channel 4 to have their say and this was a very good piece.

Hopefully Habbo will involve young people in the moderation of the site and to play a major role in advising on policy etc. But the whole piece is a really great example of why we need to teach about and with social networking in schools and to see young people as research participants as opposed to subjects.

Written by DrJoolz

June 22nd, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Banned blog and back again

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Ah. The power of social media.

Google image Screenshot capture of school dinners.

Martha Payne’s very popular blog, Never Seconds where she posts about her daily school dinners – with photos – was banned. A popular blog – with over 2 million readers – her work shot to further popularity – 3 million readers – after the press caught the story.

This is the BBC’s take. And The Guardian.

Apparently catering staff feared for their jobs because of  Martha’s regular updates about the meals. The ban has since been lifted … but it is certainly food for though (LOL) that a caterer automaticaly gets upset about publicity. What did they have to be ashamed about? Here is Martha’s report of the ban.

Lovely to see this little girl taking the power of the media so seriously and equally wonderful that she just concentrated on doing the job well. What a sweetheart.

Anyhow we all love U-turns, and in a popular trend, apparently someone at the top listened, and changed their mind. Hurrah. And it turns out that this all helped Martha’s original cause – raising money for a school kitchen in Malawi!!

Written by DrJoolz

June 19th, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Performance, Sharing and Display

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I love the way technology insinuates itself into so many areas of our lives. It helps to make everything join up together – making all these connections between people, things, activities , interests.
One example is the website walk, jog, run. My neighbour told me about it. You can use it to plot your running routes so others can follow. But you can read other people’s routes and follow them. You can use the site to hook up with other runners and find out about local events. I did this run designed by someone else. It was quite exciting as I hoped to see the designer of the run – I may have done as I saw a few people jogging along. It makes the whole affair companionable. I like the way I can use this software in such a local way. It is yet another example of how we use the WORLDWIDE web to usually do stuff in our neighbourhood (preferring LOCAL to GLOBAL).. (I have written more about this kind of stuff here ).
Perhaps better still are sites like this one which connects with wearable computers you run with – equipped for example with a GPS and heartrate monitor and so on. It taps into all the obsessions of so many runners (cyclists etc) and allows them to display everything on Facebook – for example. here is another example, where someone can log a run and show all the details of their run, their heartrate and speed etc.

I think it is amazing that some people hate that we are constantly being monitored n the street by cameras, yet others (or maybe the same people) , show the most intimate (I think) details about how their body works, (and more) to all their friends (and more) online. This is not just about tracking our performance, but inviting others to do so as well. Some would say this was showing off, some would say it is about sharing.

More info here. Note the 340++ reviews

Written by DrJoolz

August 21st, 2011 at 10:17 am

Speak no evil

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Speak no ....

The riots in the UK have rightly kicked up a different kind of storm. Politicians, parents, community leaders – pretty much everyone I know – have all got something to say about the riots. And if you know someone who had their entire home and contents burnt down, (as I do) it is hard to stay level-headed about it all.
However it seems to me very extreme to start talking about banning people from using Social Media, simply because it was used as a vehicle for communication amongst the troublemakers. And this sentence in particular seems senseless to me – where two people who tried to start riots elsewhere – but failed – were imprisoned because of their attempts to incite. It strikes me that the medium is being imbued with a negativity it does not deserve.
Frankly, if someone incites a riot and violence through social media, banning their access to this will not mean they start thinking differently. I go back to my roots. Think of The Tempest, where Caliban says:

You taught me language; and my profit on’t
Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!

Clearly it was not wrong to have taught Caliban language – indeed it is he who has the most beautiful speeches in the play* – but that in teaching people ANYTHING at all, you need also to teach responsibility in its use. Here we fall back nicely … into the arguments for teaching Critical Digital Literacy as a major thread in the school curriculum.

* Lovely speech …

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.

(maybe I am arguing that in thinking about what we should do to prevent riots, we should think of all our looters as if they were Calibans. They are all Potential Poets. ) (Just Joking. I just mean that we should educate our young. )

Written by DrJoolz

August 18th, 2011 at 12:46 pm

You never know who’s listening …. (Lest we Forget)

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We all now know that poor old Gordon got caught unawares talking about a prospective voter in unflattering terms. After a walkie talkie stroll a couple of weeks ago, he had to try and be diplomatic with a woman who had (at best) some seriously strange views and weird questions to ask. At worst, she was a bigot – and maybe many of us would agree.

I think it is very normal to do what Gordon did; grin and bear it, be polite to her face, and slag her off afterward. This according to most linguistic ethnographers is normal; Ron Carter found that the most common topic of everyday talk is about other people. Also sociologist Erving Gofmann would say that Gordon just wanted to save the woman’s face and not attack her in public; so was polite to HER, but then slagged her off after. I know we all pretend we don’t do this; but you and I know, that this is what we all do.
The advent of new technologies meant that Gordon got caught being normal. He thought he was talking in private, but his comments were broadcast publicly because he left his microphone switched on. So he attempted to talk privately; journalists overheard, and then publicized it across worldwide media. Gordon was revealed saying something in private, and the reaction given was outrage. He was slated in the press for this incident days and weeks after. I anticipate it will be re-called repeatedly in years to come. Poor Gordon.

Technology broadcast the words of Paul Chambers also, in ways he had not anticipated. Tweeting in exasperation about the closure of Robin Hood airport, he joked to his friends (he thought) that he would blow up the place:

“Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week… otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!”

Poor old Paul; his tweet got read by a wider audience than he imagined, and he was contacted by the police … then done for time wasting.

How many of us tweet away; rabbit on on Facebook; blather on our blogs; (etc) without ever dreaming that more than our envisaged readership is reading?

We often forget how technology can make what we think of as a private space, a public one. By the same token, we sometimes confuse a public space with a private one.
We have to learn to be careful with new technologies. (Even when we remember their power most of the time …. sometimes we forget).

Here’s some nice technology for teachers:

Written by DrJoolz

May 10th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Public Displays of Connection*

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*(Title refers to a paper: PublicDisplays)

Interviewing a group of 17 – 18 year old students about their uses of Facebook yesterday reminded me of a few things. Firstly, that there are a great many ways of engaging with the same thing; secondly, that even if the activities that young people are involved in over time might change superficially, young people remain pre-occupied with the same identity and social issues as ever.

Before I explain, I think maybe I should say that I don’t think I will try to discuss anything and audio record it, with as many as eight people again! That aside, it was very useful to have done this, as it reminded me of the dynamics that exist amongst young people who are attending courses together and how they banter and tease etc etc This was a good reminder of the meatspace stuff that inevitably filters into the Facebook activities.

Number one finding – the students all told me that they did not like completing their Facebook profiles; most had only put in their name, photo, date of birth and city where they live. After that, they say they rarely update their status; they do not write on their wall, and don’t like it when others do so. They said they mainly chat on the instant messaging facility in Facebook and that they also join groups. The groups are for joining and looking at , but they rarely write anything. They spend a lot of time looking at girls’ photos, talking with each other about them and trying to get the girls to ‘add’ them as friends. So my first point is that while there is a lot of looking, & some reading happening, there is not much writing or much straying across to lots of other sites to get links etc

The boys are making lots of collections however; they have lists of which groups they belong to (automatically created by Facebook) and they can display, in their ‘friends’ section, the profile pictures of the girls they have managed to add; there is something here of the collector; the groups are about funny things and the girls are to do with sexuality. (Many of the pictures of the girls’ pix are sexually provocative etc). These are the public displays of connection the boys seemed keen to share on their Facebooks.

This was all a really fascinating wake up call for me and reminded me of stuff I had been writing about ten years ago for my PhD thesis around boys’ demonstrations of hetero-normative masculinity in school…. (Paper here: expressionsofgender)…. In the classroom, I noticed these demonstrations had to be made on a regular basis, so that they would be construed always as ‘proper’ male and as heterosexual. In the classroom, such displays were often highly disruptive, anti-academic and anti feminist. In being interviewed, in showing me the Facebook pages, the students continued to banter the whole time, licking each other into shape, making each other behave in the hetero- normative ways. I liked this group of kids; don’t get me wrong. But they are a far cry from the Facebooking people I had been envisaging for a while – who have been writerly, keen on presenting themselves in text and looking for alternative possibilities. These boys were reflecting their college selves into their Facebook selves, that’s true. But the digital revolution is not one that is transforming these essential aspects of young men.

When I have managed to transcribe the recordings, there will be more to say no doubt.

Below we have a piece from Charlieissocoollike – with his take on teenage boys. Charlie is clearly VERY middleclass and has now, I noticed, got an international following of adoring girls. These girls make video responses to his films and echo many of the techniques that he sees in his work. A fascinating cultural phenomenon – we see some memes across these videos – some of which are multimodal – but I do not see Charlieissocoollike as demoonstrating anything like what is typical in Internet use. Anyhow – have a laugh at this:

There is something very Adrian Mole and certainly very English in all this. Now a video response from a fan in Australia ….


Written by DrJoolz

March 26th, 2010 at 11:37 am

Wireless, Blogs, SNS and teen use

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Kristen Purcell from Pew Internet Research has this today:

I wonder if the statistic about using the Internet more if you are a ‘wireless’ user indicates that having wireless facility MAKES you use the Internet more .. or if it is that you get wireless as you are already mad crazy about online stuff. Prob a bit of both. We ‘went wireless’ approx seven years ago … just as we had so many people in the house using the Internet and could not afford to put routers everywhere. then we gradually all got laptops and drag them round the house with us, room to room. We take our computers with us when we go away, storing all our vital stuff and our stuff that seems vital (but probably isn’t).

I am not surprised that the SNS usage is most popular amongst the young (73% se SNS); while those going into Virtual Worlds is just 8%. I would have liked to have seen stats on gamers too… we hear often in the popular press about the huge sales of video games and about the immersive activites of gamers. But I think the gamers get attention as they are SO immersed and that involvement in game is extra to Real Life stuff … as opposed to augmentive of, RL stuff. Gamers seem to use the computer to ESCAPE, while SNS people use it to KEEP IN TOUCH.

In the February 2010 report, Social Media and Young Adults, Amanda Lenhart, Kristen Purcell, Aaron Smith, Kathryn Zickuhr explain that:

Two Pew Internet Project surveys of teens and adults reveal a decline in blogging among teens and young adults and a modest rise among adults 30 and older. In 2006, 28% of teens ages 12-17 and young adults ages 18-29 were bloggers, but by 2009 the numbers had dropped to 14% of teens and 15% of young adults. During the same period, the percentage of online adults over thirty who were bloggers rose from 7% blogging in 2006 to 11% in 2009.

Again, I am not surprised… when I was looking at young people’s uses of Diaryland and of personal websites on servers like, Web 2.0 had not really arrived in the way it now has. We can produce bite size (byte size) chunks of text, that is ephemeral and possible to generate while on the move. The early versions of blogs were hard work and actually I think were used by those who already loved writing (or would have done if digital processing were not an option). Maybe they were for the ‘writerly’ type of young person. Now, with blogs being a bit more accepted, a bit more embedded in the culture, the oldies have taken them on and they are being used by them as ways of indulging their writing desires. But also those who blogged as teens in the early millenium years may now be in their twenties and some of them will be blogging still. SNS sites allow you to drop by, do something else and then drop by again. They allow for in and out attention, as opposed to blogs which tend to ask for sustained work.

looking forward to reading the report later.

Travelling to London

Written by DrJoolz

March 22nd, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Twitter Witter

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It’s been a bit of a toughie week for me in a number of ways. Firstly my Twitter account got hacked on FOUR occasions. This meant that not only did I send out hundreds of pornographic Direct Messages to all my followers ( and others besides), but that I also had to read hundreds of messages from people I had sent these messages to, telling me my account had been hacked. I have spent a LOT of time this week sending polite thank yous to all those people, apologising and explaining that “Yes, I will change my password.” What a pain in the B. U. M. A plus side was finding this video on YouTube telling me what to do if my Twitter account got hacked:

talk about laid back! I love this guy’s style. In my wanderings, looking for a hacker solution I also came across the good old Hitler ‘Downfall’ meme which this time has a Twitter slant:

Anyhow, that aside I have also been irked by the inane criticisms of those who ‘tweet’; the criticisms are usually about how Twitter people write banal rubbish all the time. This morning we had to endure comedienne Bridget Christie on Broadcasting House moaning on about how tweeting is

‘adolescent and childish and undignified and ridiculous’.

Reading a report if The Sunday Mirror about the policeman who uses Twitter and sneers at him, reading out his tweets in mocking tones. Obviously I don’t want to moan on too much about dear Bridget, and I am sure she was only trying to make us laugh. But basically, Twitter is going to represent the thoughts of a cross section of society, some of whom will get on our nerves, some of whom we will dislike intensely and some of whom we might even admire.

But it is just people talking to each other. Think of it like people talking on buses. Some groups of people on buses will talk to each other – and if you want, you can probably listen in. You can even JOIN in if you feel brave. Or you can listen to your ipod and tune them out. These people will be talking about all kinds of stuff and maybe the topics of their conversations will reflect something about the kind of people they are; or how they know each other; or it might have to do with where they are going. Sometimes the stuff they say will be profound and sometimes not. When we hear people saying stuff that is not interesting to us, or that is only about the weather, well that’s fine. They may just be doing their whole phatic thing and this is part of human behaviour. It’s all about saying hello; are you OK? I acknowledge you and your humanity and your right to be in the world. So. Leave the people on buses alone. And by the same token, let people say what they like on Twitter.

They will sometimes be talking about stuff that interests you and sometimes not. And yes, I know this stuff has all been said before.
But I will probably say it all again soon too. Because that’s what life is like. Bakhtinian Buzz.

Talking on the bus

Written by DrJoolz

February 28th, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Social Media Settling in Nicely

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Aaaaahhh. That feels a lot better now.

It seems that it is becoming much more common place to accept that social media is OK; that the big media people are coming along with us. That journalists and social commentators are getting stuff published which says that we can carry on Tweeting, blogging, facebooking, YouTubing … etc. Cory Doctorow has this in The Guardian. He argues that:

Criticising social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook is as pointless as knocking people who discuss the weather.

Such a relief to read this kind of stuff which recognises the social function of online activity. You never know, one day people may no longer have to defend the fact that they watch Coronation Street (or deny that they do). It seems that it is still not the case that television has ever totally shaken the ‘chewing gum for the eyes’ type of snobbery it attracted when I was at school (some 33 or more years ago). If things get popular really quickly then it seems that there is always some kind of backlash which assumes that just because the masses love it, it must be bad. There is an assumption that mass consumption means mass idiocy. But maybe, just maybe, lots of people can recognise a good thing when they see it.

Anyhow, here’s a tree which looks vaguely rhizomatic and networky:

Kate's Tree

Written by DrJoolz

January 5th, 2010 at 10:47 pm