22 April 2010

Twitter's Game of Telephone

I find the criticisms of Twitter, especially by literate people or authors tiresome. They are so wrapped up in their own cherished conception of what literacy, writing and authorship is, they can't see the creativity and value of Twitter's social sharing mechanism.

At its best, Twitter is like the game of telephone. That is where a child tells the child next to them something, then that child tells the next child, and after going through several children, a slightly different story emerges. I believe this is a _good_ thing. What I loved about "retweeting" when I first discovered it on Twitter, was how it was a editorializer's paradise. Tweets in the process of being retweeted simply begged me to rewrite them, reorganize them, expand or comment on the idea, adding my own ideas and thoughts to the original tweet. Perhaps even shifting it entirely into my own framework. I posted my retweet in the glorious knowledge that someone else might take my words and reformulate them. I welcomed this lateral change.

The social retweeting created a kind of sideways motion as a tweet passed through many hands unlike anything media has ever seen before. It is not commentary, nor sharing, but a process only a social network could produce. It was not an author reacting to another's essay. Or a commentator commenting on an original with an original of their own. It was more like the wiki process only sideways through time and information space. Each person contributed a small effort, made a small change, but the results were not collected together into a single document, but spread out through time and place.

This was something completely unexpected by me (I had worked on a blog system in the late 90s that enforced a limited content length but gave up on it as being impractical...who would want to use it? But combined with social following and sharing, that was something entirely different. The brevity of the post lowered the barrier to participation, but the retweet and the resulting game of telephone was something unexpected). Its a shame the new built-in retweet system discourages this fabric of editorializing. I suppose it was done in the name of efficiency, or perhaps fears about copyright resulting from the game of telephone. It would be a shame to bring such a wonderful experiment to and end out of such absurd fears.

(By the way, this game of "telephone" adds value, not noise to the signal.)

21 April 2010


The post print project is thinking about how mobile devices and networked media "could redefine how we do a couple of very basic things: how we tell stories and how we learn."

I'm fascinated with this.

I believe story telling is bound to the way our brains evolved and isn't really going to change much no matter what technology does. The networked and mobile space we inhabit could change how we learn and use information. I think it already has. I've been reading Jane Austen's novels as Gutenberg etexts on the iphone. The iphone is passable as a reader. I've not got eyestrain yet. I find it hasn't done anything new, but it has restored reading as a regular activity for me. I hate reading at the computer. I'm too lazy to go to the library (I'd have to drive across town to the central library where all the really good books are). Its just too easy to pick up the iphone, download a new book and start reading. That is different. I am unwilling to do this on the desktop computer.

I think the uniqueness will come from how mobile network devices let us assemble small bits of information together, get timely information, communicate with friends easily, or keep to ourselves in a private moments of reading or listening to music. It might influence learning by enabling people to draw together different sources right in the palm of their hand while they are experiencing something, which is often important for learning.

18 April 2010

People want their life to tell a story

People want their life to tell a story. When life diverges from the
story they wish it to tell, they become anxious and frustrated. Zen
Buddhism teaches desire is the cause if suffering. When we as the
fulfillment of the desire us threatened. By avoiding attachment to the
story our life tells, we can be free of suffering caused by our life
failing to live up its story. We are then able to enjoy our real life,
the one that just happens, without requiring it to tell a story. This
is the true story of our life.

This is not a passive attitude toward life. Life happens to us and we
make life happen through what we do and our choices. Life happens, we
make things happen, and chance and the cards we are dealt govern our

07 April 2010

Stop the Excuses for School Bullying

Although I doubt prosecution will do any good, that is not the real question, it is just the only response a failed society has to clean up the mess its made, to lessen the shame of failing to provide a safe learning environment for Phoebe. Stalking, assaulting and verbally abusing an adult is a crime. It ought to be treated seriously when one child commits violence on another.

Bullying is a serious violation of human and civil rights of the individual. Those rights do not disappear just because a person is a child. Ensuring the right of an individual to autonomy and safety requires greater vigilance when a child is concerned, because they are less capable of defending their self or even prohibited from self-defense by school rules, which the bully does not care to follow, but the victim must to avoid being doubly victimized, first by the bully and second by the clueless school administrators.

The bullied child is often put in a situation with no way out. They are forced by law to attend the place of torture (school). They must choose between suffering the assaults of the bully or the punishments of the place of torture (school). They may see the only way out of their predicament to be suicide or violence. It is the school that ties the hands of the victim for the bully. In that way they are responsible.

Although children must be given room to make mistakes, it seems absurd on its face to classify bullying, a premeditated, systematic and consistent assault on a child, as a mistake. We are told teenager's brains are not fully developed. The victim's brains are not fully developed either, yet there is no protection for them, no consideration for them; the bullies are adept at manipulating the school rules, pulling the wool over the eyes of administrators and teachers, while the victim may be without the social tools to deal with them. Most children are not true bullies and they make mistakes in teasing, but bullying is not teasing. If we can't recognize the difference between teasing and bullying, perhaps the adults need to go to school. Our concern should not be for bullies, but should be for the victim of bullying. The bully has made their bed, let them lie in it. That is the best way for the them to learn the folly of their ways.

It is claimed the bullying was no more than that experienced by other children at the school. Are we to say she did not have a right to a safe learning environment because others did not either? Are we to judge and determine Phoebe's experience, moreover, by those who would bully her, who may have bullied her, who were indifferent to her and who are said to not be as sensitive to bullying as her? It only matters what the experience was to her.

Research into bullying at school and in the adult workplace shows a connection between bullying and the prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a serious matter with life long psychological and health consequences. Who will pay for these consequences over the lifetime of the victim, society? Are those who say a certain amount of bullying is just part of growing up willing to compensate victims?

Each child has the right to a safe, peaceful, comfortable learning environment without exception and it is the responsibility of society to ensure it as long as children are required by society to attend public school. If society cannot secure such an environment, then children should not be required to attend public places of torture (so-called schools).

(In reply to Should we be criminalizing bullies?)