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 2: twitter

Last Monday, I discussed how I’m using Pinterest for my troublemaking. Today I want to discuss twitter. I’ve written a lot over the past few years on how I’m using twitter to make and stay in trouble. Luckily, so far I haven’t been in trouble by using it…yet. I noticed the other day that my “twitter” tag is one of my largest tags. Actually, with 28 posts, it’s second only to my “Judith Butler” tag, which has 40 posts. Here are a few highlights from those posts:

on live-tweeting 
tweeting your thesis? good. rethinking purpose of thesis? better
more twitter hatin’ and conflatin’
twitter and feminist pedagogy
the undisciplined self via twitter

While there are all sorts of ways to use twitter for making/staying in trouble, like sharing sources, posing/answering questions, connecting with other users, I use twitter primarily to document my notes, thoughts and reflections on the various ideas I encounter everyday. Sometimes I tweet my notes and questions as I’m reading an article. Sometimes I tweet my thoughts as I’m watching a show. And, while I haven’t really done it yet, I’d like to start tweeting my process of creating digital stories.

In addition to using twitter, I also am researching it. I’m particularly interested in how people/organizations are using it to practice an ethic of care. Imagining twitter as a space for deep and meaningful engagement (and care) is troubling for many; the general consensus (based on both anecdotal evidence and popular and academic articles on twitter/twitter and ethics) is that twitter is bad for our souls.

While many folks dismiss twitter as destroying (or at least weakening) our ability to be ethical, many (maybe some of the same folks?) encourage it as good for business and promoting our self-as-brand. I like the idea of people using social media for their businesses and for connecting with clients/communities, but in ways that are meaningful and more than just promotion.

Here’s an infographic that I came across (and pinned on my “Troubling Infographics” board last week) that seems (at least to me) to illustrate twitter-as-tool-for-promotion:

Okay, this infographic isn’t really that useful (well, isn’t that true of most infographics?) because there isn’t that much difference between the best and worst types of tweets and it’s organized very poorly. The more I look at it, the more confused I am about what I’m actually supposed to be learning about good tweeting practices. But, regardless of how bad this infographic is, it still is a helpful starting point for thinking through how many people use twitter to promote their own cleverness (“random thought”), their self-as-brand (“self-promotion”) and their expertise (“information sharing”). And this infographic is helpful in thinking through how my own practices of and reflections on/about twitter trouble these popular uses. In looking at the “worst types,” I am not surprised to see that many of my favorite twitter practices–“opinion/complaint,” “me now,” and “conversation”–are on there.

Studying this infographic closely makes me want to do my own dis/infographic with Pixelmator. Look for it soon, along with more analysis of how my tweets trouble the best/worst types on this graphic. 

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?

Storify This!

While I was looking over one of my latest archives on storify, I noticed a new feature (well, I think it’s new; this is the first time I’ve noticed it…okay, I just checked and this bookmarklet came out last fall. Where have I been?): Storify this. Storify allows you to add a bookmarklet on your bookmark bar. When you find something on the web that you want to use in a storify story, just click on the bookmarklet to save it to storify. The next time you want to create a story, it will be waiting for you in your story pad. Nice. As this aside might demonstrate, I haven’t experimented that much with storify; I’ve almost exclusively used it for archiving my tweets. Lately I have been wondering if it might be a better way (than embedding tweets in a blog post) for further and deeper reflection on my live-tweets. I can imagine some cool assignments for students using storify…

Tweeting for 5 and 6 year-olders*

Recently, I came across (via someone? on twitter) an article about kindergarteners tweeting in TriBeCa, NY. I think it’s a really cool project for helping students express themselves, share experiences/events/details with each other and family members and learn important digital literary skills.

The teacher, Jennifer Aaron, has set up a private account that is available for parents/friends. Several times a week she has students collectively reflect on what they did that day. She types it up and then, before tweeting it, they all discuss their statements–are they accurate? do they make sense? are they tweet-worthy? can they fit in the 140 character word count? The teacher also offers up tips for using twitter, like the shortcut of using “&” instead of “and” in order to decrease character count.

Central to Aaron’s twitter project (and, I’m sure, central to the willingness of parents to let their 5 and 6 year-olders tweet in school or tweet at all), is the fact that the account is private and is only used by the teacher (in consultation with the students). While I usually don’t like making tweets private (for me, twitter is about tweeting to broader, sometimes unknowable, users and learning how to navigate online public spaces), I think it works here. It seems valuable to provide younger users, ones that aren’t yet able to grasp the consequences of their public declarations, with a way for learning (from mentors and with other peers) how to tweet responsibly. Then, when they are older and able to have their twitter accounts, they will have developed important digital literacy skills.

I liked Aaron’s idea so much that I was inspired to tweet about it:

Here’s a cool video about the experiment:

One important thing to note: The success of this twitter assignment seems dependent on how “plugged-in” the parents already are. Anna R. Phillips from the New York Times writes:

Ms. Aaron had more difficulty cultivating a following at her last school, which was in the South Bronx, where few parents had Internet connections. But the parents at P.S. 150 are a plugged-in group.

The article merely mentions this in passing, but it seems like a pretty big deal to me. What should/can be done about the digital divide and lack of access to the Internet? Could this somehow be incorporated into a twitter assignment for elementary school kids? I want to do some research on these questions and find out how different schools are using twitter and engaging with access and digital divides.

*My daughter RJP refers to herself as a 6 year-older (as opposed to 6 years old).