On the 23 Things course, we were asked last week to do some reflective writing on the course so far. But the reflection Im coming up with so far isnt like your ordinary mirror, where you hopefully get to see something near reality. Its more like the distortion you get from a convex mirror, with my thoughts diverging and scattering over a large area. I havent 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: Im looking for a structured way to prod myself into trying some new technologies, and expand my technological horizons and thats 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, its because 23 Things works counter to my own natural learning style that its been so useful. My natural urge is to read about things rather than experiment with them, but you cant 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 peoples blogs and comments Ive 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 Ive probably been making up my mind too fast about them. Especially, because some Things have been slow-burn: now Ive got used to a feed-reader, its very effective and Ill keep using it post-23 Things. Maybe I need to post another 23 Things update in six months time to see what Im still using and what Ive changed my mind about.
Ive 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 its hard to write an interesting post on a tool that you dont 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 Ive being talking about the Things, Ive found it hard to think like a librarian about them. Perhaps this is because Ive got a specialist role (cataloguing) in a small and rather unusual library, where Im working in the same rooms as my main users, so social networking is mainly done face to face. But I think its also that librarians view of technology is inevitable very context-specific: its 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 were often in very different kind of institutions.
Its been interesting trying to balance the material for librarians and non-librarians in the posts. Im not sure Ive always got this right, but more than specific terminology, its 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 Im conscious of a familiar problem of mine, not always replying quickly enough to comments. And because Ive been following quite a number of other blogs, I havent 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 its 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. Im 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.