Faculty Technology Days 2008

I was involved with two sessions at this year’s Faculty Technology Days conference on campus. The first one was a keynote panel on “Social Networking in the Academy” and the second was “Weblogs as Personal Repositories.”

Social Networking in the Academy

When we were planning the Social Networking panel, we realized that some of the faculty members might not be familiar with social networking, or with some of the aspects or implications of it, so we thought it would be a good idea to start the 2-hour panel session with a brief introduction to the topic so we were all on similar pages. Being the geek in the group, I volunteered to take that on. I wound up giving about a wiki-powered 25 minute intro to social networking (what it is, what it means, some samples, etc…).

This was followed by Paul showing some of the really cool stuff the library is doing with social networking (specifically, the Facebook groups for MacKimmie and Health Sciences libraries, and ad campaigns). Those librarians, I tell you. Always doing cool stuff to make their resources easily available to students and faculty…

Maria spoke about some of the issues she sees, specifically pertaining to compelling students to publish and engage in a highly commercialized and privacy-invasive environment. Maria also asked one of her grad students, Todd Andre, to join the panel, and it was great to hear some of the perspectives from the other side (as opposed to just making educated guesses).

After taking a few minutes for the participants to warm up, the session turned into a great discussion about social networking, covering a pretty broad range of topics. We talked about the geek stuff. We talked about intellectual property. Creepy Treehouse. Digital identity. Network as People. It was a really fun, interesting, and vibrant discussion. And we could have used another 2 hours because we had to wrap it up just as people were really getting into it.

Paul streamed the whole thing live via UStreamTV, and the video archive is still there.

Weblogs as Personal Repositories

It seems like every year, I get designated to “do a talk on blogging.” Usually, I try to focus on the reasons to do it – the network effects, contributing to the community, etc… This year, I decided to appeal to people’s sense of pragmatism. Blogging primarily as an outboard brain, for organizing and searching information that is important to you. And, secondarily, as a way to share information with others.

I think that was the right angle to take, but I’m not sure my implementation worked out very well. It’s still a pretty broad topic. I tried to do as much live demo as possible, showing concrete examples of how it works. I also created 2 blogs (one on WordPress.com and one on Blogger.com) to show what that looks like. The resources and links were all powered by a wiki page as well. Another form of outboard brain, but I used an institutional variation for this one.

I think the session went well. It wasn’t stellar, but I think people at the bare minimum got that blogging as an activity of documentation and organization can be an important way to manage the volume of information we have to deal with. If even one of them winds up starting a new blog, I’ll consider the session a success.

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