A Dis/infographic: The Best and Worst Types of Tweets

If you’ve spent any time on Pinterest, you might be familiar with infographics; people love pinning and repinning them. An infographic or information graphic takes complex information and date and organizes and represents it in an easy-to-read graphic or set of graphics. As Reif Larsen writes in their “This Chart is a Lonely Hunter: The Narrative Eros of the Infographic,” infographics are everywhere:

our media are now saturated with such infographics, both on-and off-line, as a host of publications such as The New YorkTimesGoodTheGuardianWiredTime, The Economist, The Believer, and The Wall Street Journal all regularly depend on data visualizations to provide their readers with that on-the-spot, quasi-highbrow sociological analysis.

And many of the infographics created in these publications are pinned and repinned on Pinterest. Many people (myself included) are skeptical of the value and usefulness of these infographics. What exactly do they tell us about anything? Do they just look pretty on our computer or iPad or iPhone? I suspect that’s why they get pinned so much on Pinterest, which is often lauded for how “pretty” it is.

A well done infographic, one that allows us to make connections and understand complex data can be a wonderful thing. But what about the bad or fluffy ones? What purpose do they serve? And why do people want to pin them so often?

Lots of folks are discussing the limits and benefits of infographics. On my Pinterest board, Troubling Infographics, I’ve slowly been gathering articles about infographics and examples of (mostly bad) infographics. I’ve also added my own commentary, usually in the form of critical questions, to these infographics. After studying an infographic about twitter yesterday, I’ve decided that it was time to create my own infographic, or what I’m tentatively calling a dis/infographic, that troubles (challenges, questions, wonders about) the data on the graphic and how it is mis/represented. To create this dis/infographic, I’m putting my limited Pixelmator skills to the test.

Around 2 or so hours later…

Ugh. It’s a few hours since I began working on this dis/infographic, and I’ve finally finished. Let’s just say that I’m not good friends with Pixelmator right now. I’m happy that I experimented with making it though. I can’t decide if I want to try it again or not? Is it too much of a time suck or a useful exercise? If I could build up my skills some more, it might be a good way to trouble graphics, etc. Hmm…still not sure. For now, here’s my dis/infographic:

And, here’s the study that the original infographic (and my troubling of it) is based on: Who Gives a Tweet?

How I’m using social media for troublemaking, part one: Pinterest

Since January, I’ve been experimenting a lot with social media, partly because I’ve really interested (theoretically/practically, personally/professionally/academically) in social media and partly because I’m working as a social media specialist/educator at Room 34 Creative Services and want to be familiar with different forms of social media. My approach has been to pick out a limited number of media that look promising (which means that I might be able to use them for meaningful engagement in making and staying in trouble) and experiment with them.

One media that I’ve, perhaps stubbornly, refused to experiment with is Facebook. I have seen it used effectively, like by my grad students, but I just can’t get past the privacy issues + overall tone of site + the games + over-controlling of user experience by Facebook admin, in order to experiment with it. My twitter feed does get posted on Facebook, so I do use it a little. And, I do like seeing what my friends/family are up to on it. 

Yesterday, I finally convinced STA to add social media buttons to this blog (see upper righthand corner of this blog). In honor of this occasion, I want to offer up a series of brief descriptions of how I’m using social media right now for making and staying in trouble. Today’s description: Pinterest

I’m using Pinterest for critical and creative experimentation. So far, I have 11 boards and 95 pins. Almost all of my boards are related to troublemaking, like my trouble role models, apps I want to trouble and troublemaking books for kids. I’m also experimenting with a Beside/s board. So far, I haven’t done too much with that board, but I see it as having some interesting potential.

(P)interestingly enough (ugh…I need to stop doing this pun), I’m not really using Pinterest to connect with other pinners. I don’t follow that many boards or repin many items from other people. I also don’t comment and don’t receive many comments.

One of the only comments I received, on my pin for Mattilda Berstein Sycamore, still pisses me off every time I see it. I chose not to engage with the person (should I have responded?), but their response, especially the YOU in all caps made me think comments might not be useful for me on this site. Thinking about my reluctance to use comments or to engage that much with other pinners makes me wonder, what exactly makes a social media site social? 

My Pinterest Boards as of April 23, 2012

I really like using Pinterest for keeping track of some of my ideas and examples. I’m hoping that the various boards can serve as inspiration for current and future writing and video projects. As I write this description, I realize that I want to think and write more about how I use/want to use Pinterest.

2 Questions to return to later

What makes a social media site social? What sorts of engagement do social media offer, beyond sharing and communicating with other users?

Practicing an ethic of care on Twitter

When I was researching an article on caring about, for and with women who’ve had abortions in late 2011, I started coming across various sources that discussed how people are using twitter for health care. Then, last December, I found an article on Jezebel about Xeni Jardin and how she was live-tweeting her first mammogram. During the live-tweet, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I marked the article on my Safari Reading List and promised to come back to it after I finished my article on live-tweeting abortion. This morning, I came across a tweet by Maria Popova that reminded me of Xeni Jardin’s use of twitter and her current situation living with breast cancer.

I checked out her twitter feed and found that she has continued to tweet about her experiences. I decided to create a storify in which I archived many of these tweets. The last tweet I archived was particularly striking to me:

Since I’m thinking a lot about cancer this week (with my mom’s birthday yesterday; she would have been 70 if she hadn’t died from pancreatic cancer in 2009), I was particularly moved by her tweets and her efforts to make some sense out of her cancer and to provide others with care.

She tweets a lot about chemo and her experiences going in for treatment. I only accompanied my mom once in her second round of chemo–the round that really ravaged her body and eventually killed her. Would she have appreciated a network of others experiencing the same thing on twitter? Probably not; she didn’t use social media much. But I think having access to more information and insight on how people experience cancer and chemo might have helped me to connect with her more in those last few years.

I think my mom might have appreciated one aspect of Xeni Jardin’s social media ethic of care, her Pinterest board. Ever since I first saw Pinterest, I thought my mom would have enjoyed it. Here’s a board that Jardin is experimenting with in the documenting of her experiences living with breast cancer.


John Waters/Justin Bieber: Experimenting with Pinterest

Even though I’ve been wary of Pinterest over the past couple of weeks, I’m still using it. And I’ve actually found some fun/playful/useful ways in which to experiment with it. In addition to continuing to add onto my Troublemaking Role Model board, I just, a few minutes ago, created a new board: Beside/s. It’s inspired by my continued interest in beside/s as an important concept for troublemaking and troublestaying. My first pin on this board? John Waters/Justin Bieber.

While looking for an image of John Waters (I’m planning to add him to my troublemaking role model board), I came across an article headline, “Justin Bieber could win an Oscar, according to one director”. Of course, I tweeted about it:


I also had to post about it on my new Tumblr. Here’s what I wrote on that post:

Wow, I find this fascinating. How does it fit with my tumblr? J Waters is one of my troublemaking role models and I like to create curious/troubling/playful juxtapositions: queer camp/bieber fever, shit/bubble-gum?

I don’t think that I want to do too much theorizing about this juxtaposition, but I’m glad that John Waters/Justin Bieber inspired me to create a new Pinterest board on the concept of Beside/s. I’m not sure what I will include in it, but it could be a great space for visually representing the various juxtapositions/besides that I want to perform. This board could complement by Beside/s category on this blog. Here’s my description of that category’s purpose:

BESIDE/S: In this newly developed category (as of January, 2012), I post blog entries that enable me to experiment with being beside/s. Being beside/besides is a concept and practice that I find extremely compelling for working with and through readings, ideas, understandings, and experiences; it was the central organizing principle for my essay and blog posts on living and grieving beside Judith and for my queering ethics course last spring.

Having ideas or things beside each other is to see them as next to each other. Literally, beside is a reminder of the material spaces that we inhabit. This might mean being aware of how books that you are reading/researching reside next to each other or how multiple tabs, with the various posts you are processing, are open at the same time. Conceptually, ideas or things beside (next to) each other indicates that you are reading them together, sometimes through each other, sometimes against each other, but always in ways that recognize that the various ideas/concepts/things that you are engaging with influence and shape each other. These ideas don’t necessarily fit together (and they don’t have to), but, taken together they influence how you read, interpret, understand, and produce your own ideas. To put ideas and things beside each other is to put them into conversation with each other. The process of putting them into conversation is a form of exciting and challenging work that involves much more than sitting alone and staring painfully at a blank screen.

Beside also means besides, that is, in addition to or instead of. Besides can involve the labor of thinking about and being open to alternatives to the ideas that one is reading. It can also mean de-centering one’s own perspective or the perspective of any one idea as the Idea and considering how multiple ideas/theories/experiences outside of ourselves can provide new insights and new understandings. Embracing that which is besides enables us to be, albeit temporarily, beside (not quite outside of) ourselves.

Experiments with Social Media

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and engaging with various social media. I’ve been writing about them on this blog and talking about them on my podcast with STA. Today, I also tweeted about my experiences using my blog, Pinterest and Tumblr to track trouble in different ways:

I was inspired to tweet about different social media spaces after just creating a new board on Pinterest and then blogging about it on Tumblr. I wonder, how do others use their various social media spaces in connection with each other? How do they work (and fail to work) together?