Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Are "dinner tweets" really trivial?

Are 'dinner tweets' - you know those tweets describing what the twitterer is about to tuck into (e.g. "I'm preparing pan-fried seabass on a coulis of ...") - really as trivial as Twitter's detractors claim?

I'm tempted to argue that they play a part in the 'taste performances' (Liu 2008) that are integral to most social networking sites. It's one of the ways I project or perform my identity online.

By describing to followers what I'm preparing and/or eating I'm also performing a particular identity. For example, if I tweet that I'm cooking a dish with locally-sourced ingredients that keeps the food miles down, I'm projecting an identity that's discerning and environmentally aware; if, on the other hand, I tell you I'm serving up a dessert of frozen Creme Eggs, the identity I'm performing is offbeat and fun-loving.

Far from being part of the anti-Twitter camp's imagined stream of trivia, the 'dinner tweet' is, in fact, an integral part of the repetoire through which twitterers perform the 'ongoing narrative of the self' (Merchant 2006: 238).

So, next time someone moans about 'twitterhea' and the banality of the 'dinner tweet', tell them it's all about identity performance and refer them to Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens.


Liu, H. (2008). Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1): 252-275.
Retrieved April 29, from

Merchant, G. (2006). Identity, Social Networks and Online Communication. E-Learning, 3(2): 235-244

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Twitter profile field as minimal - but laminated - identity performance

Here are some example bios:
  • e-learning, read/write web, participation, user-centred, activism, agency, democracy, curry, beer, cycling, cricket, football, indie music, indie film

  • lecturer, researcher, poet, new-ish father

  • Researcher (e-Learning, m-Learning and technology enhanced learning), vather, techgeek and i am a mac-user ;-)

  • Library geek, datamonger and allotmenteer

  • librarian, mom, social media, information literacy, punk rock, 60s reggae, edupunk, educational technology, author, subcultures, chronic overtweeter

  • Librarian and repository manager for a X university by day; blogger, video maker, writer, gamer. Lord of all weasels, llamas and gooses by night

  • Community building and general change management for online distance learning. Running. Cider. Electric bicycles.

  • Learning Technologist wondering why the one line bio is 160 characters??

  • Married with 2 boys who have now flown the nest. Work in education, teach ICT and love gadgets

  • dad, senior learning technologist at University of X, educational technology consultant, moodle guru and uncompromising bike commuter
What identities are performed here? Professional certainly (learning technologist, librarian, teach IT). Personal too - as mothers or fathers (mom, dad, newish father). As fans (indie music, indei film). As politically committed to particular causes (democracy, user-centred activism). Affiliated to a a myriad causes, interests, affinity spaces ...

More to follow.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Twitter, the backchannel and 'laminated discursive spaces'

Initial random thoughts on a Sunday morning (woken by children and unable to get back to sleep) on Twitter, the backchannel and 'laminated discursive spaces'.

What do I mean by 'laminated discursive spaces'? Um ... I don't stop being a father, husband, francophile, daydreaming timewaster, rebellious teenager (in his mid-40s!) etc. just because I enter a lecture theatre. Although a singular aspect - or one layer of a laminated identity - may be more in play in one particular context (e.g. my academic identity when I'm at a conference) , other identities may also enter the foreground too. So, there's always some element of identity lamination on our social interactions and I think the Twitter backchannel exemplifies this really well.

Here's a great quote from an article I've been reading:
Because social practice is dialogic, heterogeneous and distributed in functional systems, activity should be understood as laminated or layered in Goffman’s sense, and, following Goodwin and Duranti, as mutable, dynamic frames that are relatively foregrounded or relatively backgrounded. Thus, there are no spaces where the social histories of people, practices, artifacts, and institutions disappear, no pure monologic activity systems, no places where identities can be figured simply in terms offered by a dominant institution’s map (where a person is just an engineer, just a student, just a teacher). Lamination is not simply a notion of the multiple identities of the person, but also applies to mediational means, with heterogeneous histories embedded as affordances in the words, texts, tools, and institutions that mediate activity.
Prior, P. (2003). 'Are communities of practice really an alternative to discourse communities?'
Paper presented at the 2003 American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) Conference
Accessed from:

I think the Twitter-enabled conference backchannel is an example of a 'laminated discursive space' . What I've observed in the #pelc09, #shock09 and #beyond09Twitter backchannels are different socioliterate practices - some academic, others less so - woven into a stream of hashtag-specific conference tweets:

  • posting links
  • brief summaries
  • expression of appreciation/thanks to individual presenters/conference organisers
  • side conversations between participants (remote and proximate)
  • banter (participants also have a shared social history of nights out, common interests and projects, past conferences, shared contacts)
  • bitching ("salespitch suckfest" was one comment on an Apple presentation deemed too corporate)
  • sharing of other resources (mainly photos and URLs)
  • requests for information or attempts to collaborate (e.g. on a set of Delicious bookmarks)

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Digital Literacy definition

... digital literacies, quite simply, involve the use of digital technologies for encoding and accessing texts by which we generate, communicate and negotiate meanings in socially recognisable ways. (Lankshear & Knobel 2oo8: 258)


Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2008). Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices. New York: Peter Lang.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Twitter workshop ideas

These are my rough notes from Matt Lingard's workshop

Section 1: face the front bit with Matt talking

Starts with personal use of Twitter for professional purposes. Also brings in a few strong quotes about the importance of Twitter culturally and economically.
Those who criticise use of Twitter at work haven't seen the tectonic plates moving. Social networks such as these are the way businesses will be run in the future.
Victor Keegan Technology Guardian

Twitter practicalities
  • create an account

  • you'll need a username - this can be anything you like but you should also add your own details as this will help people follow you.

  • The home page - this displays the tweets of those that you are following. The core of Twitter is to follow people.
Matt has a really good PowerPoint that makes a distinction between the Home and Profile pages.

Matt showed a video (Martin Weller: Twitter Love Song) that explained what it was and how it might be used.

Types of tweet:
  • @ replies

  • direct messages

  • retweets

Other Twitter stuff

  • embedding links

  • uploading photos

  • hashtags

  • Twitter searches

Next bit is the hands-on.

Section 2: hands on session

Matt gave a useful handout.

Matt got us to write on a postit our usernames then put then up on a PowerPoint slide. We were then asked to follow fellow participants and interact via tweets.
  • uploading pictures (Mobypicture)
  • adding feeds (Twitterfeed)
  • hashtags
  • Twitter searches

Presentation available online at:

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Twitter and passing notes in class

One of the things I noticed at the Shock of the Old 2009 conference ('official' and 'unofficial' hashtags) was the largish number of participants sending tweets during presentations. The "backchannel" has found, or so it seems, a new technology.

Idea for paper: More than just passing notes in class?: tweets as new literacy practice. (my online survey)

My initial suspicion was that sending tweets 'remediates' the analogue textual practice of passing notes in class. However, I think there's more to it than that.

My hunch is that it's being used as a space to quibble, query and demur, to have off-stage dialogues with like-minded colleagues or contacts either present in the lecture theatre or elsewhere. So Twitter is a another means, potentially, of breaking the broadcast/monologic format of the conference paper and providing additional opportunities for comment and dialogue.

I think it's also - and some of the comments on the LDHEN JISC mailing list almost confirm this hunch - a space for the performance of identities at odds with those expected of colleages at a conference (e.g. for flippant, dismissive or bitchy commentaries that can't easily be made public via a comment or question to the speaker).

I’m coming from a position that views literacy practices as complex social acts that can be inclusive or exclusive. Web 2.0 doesn’t automatically = inclusive/democratic.

On the one hand I can see how the use of Twitter exemplifies one form of ‘networked participatory culture’ (Jenkins) by enabling new forms of conversation; on the other hand I can see how the technology provides a platform for opportunistic gossiping which can shut out other participants (e.g. those who are not Twitter users).

Monday, 6 April 2009

First quick thought on digital literacy conference

At the end of last week's conference on digital literacy, there was some (Prenskyite?) discussion about young people's technology-mediated multi-tasking and the effects on their brains.

It struck me as yet another example of (parental, teacherly etc.) anxieties about the effects of technology on young people's behaviour and intellectual development.

A couple of days later, my nine-year old son spent most of the weekend playing football in the park with other boys. He's at an age where I'm not sure if I should let him play in the park unsupervised (it's only 5-6 doors from our house) or if I should be there. Anyway, I let him play unsupervised, occasionally wandering down to check things were ok. Finally, as afternoon turned to early evening, I had to drag him back home: That's enough fresh air and physical exercise young man, don't you think you should be playing some video games.

My point is, I guess, that those making statements about the harmful effects of technology on children's cognitive development probably need to take a chill pill. Most of the nine-year olds I know are as busy playing football or collecting Match Attax cards as they are glued to the PSPs or XBoxes (i.e. not very different to what I got up to as a nine-year old).