Networks diffused. Blogjune. 28/24



A woman wearing glasses. The glasses are clipped inside a plastic frame twice their surface area with markers every so often.

I spent too long choosing glasses that are too expensive. Apparently they don’t just do the old cross in texta on the lenses any more. I wore this frame with reference points around my new glasses while the technicians took a photo face on, and then from the side. Just like a mug shot.

I replaced both my reading + computer glasses and my multifocal glasses. The latter let me see distance while I am cycling, read the signs in the shops AND read the small print on tinned foodstuff, but for long term close up work I prefer lenses with less variability.

I wanted to post on something else, riffing a bit on snail’s where have all the people gone? Read that one first.

His comment, reflecting on the demise of Twitter as a central meeting hub, gave me pause:

I don’t know if it matters that there is no longer a single community, perhaps it was time to take a break and try other directions.

It matters to me because it affected how well I did my job and the value I could bring to any organisation. As a teaching academic, I had a window into the daily routine, challenges and solutions of people in the profession I was preparing students to join. The theory I could bring, and skill I had at helping people reach their own aha moments, were not the complete package I could offer. I often said to my students “There is a lot of experience here in this class. If we just rely on my knowledge, experience and ideas; and only hear about that, then everyone is shortchanged and we miss the richness”. Being connected to a group of engaged and sharing professionals let me bring all that into the classroom. Once Twitter was not there – or rather I did not welcome the evil overlords and bailed – I felt myself getting out of touch with the profession. I had far less confidence and spidey-sense that what I was sharing or pointing students toward exploring, was best for that moment.

What scares me is that this applies also to my own sense of knowing about what is happening in the world.

I remember reading that when the Brexit campaign happened, and in the US elections in 2016, people trying to sway the result did not try to make voters agree with their position. They went for lower-hanging, easier to harvest fruit. Convincing people that their vote had no impact. There was no point voting. To stay away, not care.

In Australia, with compulsory voting, we saw this tactic with the “If you don’t know, vote no” slogans around the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum last year. Not trying to convince people to think or engage. In fact, encouraging people to believe they are incapable of knowing what is going on, and should just be apathetic. Normalising not knowing and not finding out…. then turning that into a vote for a particular position.

Today in the course I am doing about community management/engagement for communities of researchers, we were discussing scaffolding we can create to help participants get what they need from a community. Someone shared their challenge the week before where their community decided they wanted to keep in touch, but this person hated Discord, and that person couldn’t use Slack at work, and the other person had not heard of any of the alternatives… and we all nodded our heads empathetically. In the end? Too hard, no regular communication channel set up.

Snail wonders whether blogging will be a way around that disconnect. I remember the blogger’s meetup I was part of in 2007 going from people talking knowledgeably and passionately about blogging one month, to the next month everyone raving and excited about the immediacy and connection they were feeling from Twitter. Yes, we were physically in the same space (the balcony of a pub), meeting in real life.

Perversely, I think that people feel, after the endless Zoom meetings of the last three years, that meeting in person is a luxury with little to gain compared to the inconvenience of physically getting to and from a location. We are in a spot where online networks are diffuse and spread across so many platforms that the centre does not hold – but also people are avoiding in-person contact because they somehow believe they can achieve the same online.

Solutions? I wish I had some. To me the world feels smaller and more unknowable, and I miss my friends in the computer.

2 thoughts on “Networks diffused. Blogjune. 28/24

  1. Life and connections ebb and flow. I’ve now been through a few of these for which the biggest loss is not the twitter implosion but usenet. Usenet was an even larger version of the town square with votes for groups, rebels, and even structure.

    Sometimes you hit a point collectively, where everyone needs a break, to retreat, to consider, to regroup, to move find a different way onward. I sorta feel like that’s healthy.

    Face to face and in person, seems far more valuable right now. After a few years of online only, I value that time in person. Other forums will arise eventually and may require us to be different.

  2. That’s a fair comment from Snail. And a fine post Kathryn. I remember Alison Croggon, author and poet, lamenting that if she left Twitter she would never find all the people she needs in the same place. I must look at her website and see if she stayed or not. (X wont let me in of course to look.)
    I am enjoying spending less time on Mastodon than I did on Twitter though.

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