Thing 13 of 23: reflections in a convex mirror

On the 23 Things course, we were asked last week to do some reflective writing on the course so far. But the reflection I’m coming up with so far isn’t like your ordinary mirror, where you hopefully get to see something near reality. It’s more like the distortion you get from a convex mirror, with my thoughts diverging and scattering over a large area. I haven’t been able to get my thoughts on social media into a coherent narrative yet. Instead, here are some not very connected fragments (the broken shards of a mirror?)

When I started the course, more than a month ago, I said: I’m looking for a structured way to prod myself into trying some new technologies, and expand my technological horizons and that’s certainly worked. Without 23 Things I would not have tried Twitter or Delicious or a feed reader, and I would not have a good sense of how these might work. Paradoxically, it’s because 23 Things works counter to my own natural learning style that it’s been so useful. My natural urge is to read about things rather than experiment with them, but you can’t get a proper feel for many of these social media tools without hands-on experience. (This does rather confirm my prejudices about learning styles – that some things are just better learned by one method than another, and learners have to learn to adapt accordingly).

Not only have I learnt about the specific 12 things so far, but via people’s blogs and comments I’ve also heard about several other interesting tools I want to play with in the future, such as Dropbox, Evernote and Academia.edu.

I could have done longer with longer playing with some tools – I’ve probably been making up my mind too fast about them. Especially, because some Things have been slow-burn: now I’ve got used to a feed-reader, it’s very effective and I’ll keep using it post-23 Things. Maybe I need to post another 23 Things update in six months time to see what I’m still using and what I’ve changed my mind about.

I’ve posted something on all the things so far, but some of the posts have rifted on particular topics rather than exploring them in depth (like the SlideShare one). All I can say in my defence is that it’s hard to write an interesting post on a tool that you don’t find very interesting, and that part of blogging (and social media more generally) should be about taking ideas and connecting them together in new ways.

I hoped when I started 23 Things to be able to combine perspectives from being both a historian and a librarian. But in practice, when I’ve being talking about the Things, I’ve found it hard to ‘think like a librarian’ about them. Perhaps this is because I’ve got a specialist role (cataloguing) in a small and rather unusual library, where I’m working in the same rooms as my main users, so social networking is mainly done face to face. But I think it’s also that librarians’ view of technology is inevitable very context-specific: it’s a lot easier to think about how something might or might not be useful for your library than for ‘libraries’ in general. In contrast, I feel I can generalise about ‘historians’ a bit more, even though we’re often in very different kind of institutions.

It’s been interesting trying to balance the material for librarians and non-librarians in the posts. I’m not sure I’ve always got this right, but more than specific terminology, it’s wider cultural differences that have sometimes emerged in the comments (like around conference presentations and the role of Twitter). I think the discussions on this blog have been good, although I’m conscious of a familiar problem of mine, not always replying quickly enough to comments. And because I’ve been following quite a number of other blogs, I haven’t always got fully involved in discussions on them, but instead been prone to ‘hit and run’ comments. I have been impressed by the variety of posts, however, whether it’s technological expertise, the heartfelt articulation of shared frustrations, or weird photos from the archive.

For the rest of the Things, if my schedule will allow, I want to try and give a little more attention to them as they are, rather than stuffing them into preconceived boxes and accepting or dismissing them. I’m not sure I will ever really gain a coherent image of social media: as fast as I get to grips with one program, 15 more spring up. But I want to try and repeat the reflecting again as I progress further through the course and after its end.

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3 thoughts on “Thing 13 of 23: reflections in a convex mirror

  1. I’ve been really enjoying your Cam23 posts, although also feeling a little intimidated by their thoughtfulness and coherence. Learning that “I haven’t been able to get my thoughts on social media into a coherent narrative yet.” makes me feel less worried about my own feeble attempts to draw my thoughts together!

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  2. Yes, I’ve been [guiltily] aware also of stuffing things into preconceived pigeonholes, and in my case have often resisted heaving them out again. Reflection and further trials [if not extensive] are definitely needed on some of these new toys. It would be fascinating to undertake a similar exercise in a year’s time, and see what has become a mainstream library tool [oh, not Twitter, please….] and what has become Betamax. Hopefully not all of the toys will have been thrown out of the pram

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