Tuesday, 1 January 2019

What if God was one of us? What would He be Tweeting About?

This post wonders if the kind of kindness and collaboration from The Well is one of the potentials of social media going forward... If you look in the right places it's certainly looking promising!.

Since first hearing about the awesome impact and acts of kindness on the early online community 'The Well' in 2015, I have been fascinated with this virtual community... so much so that when planning any new projects I review some of the awesome resources about this fascinating space.

A few days ago I found out about NodeXL (@NodeXL) founder Marc Smith's (@Marc_Smith) college thesis about The Well ...
  • Before seeing kindness trending on Twitter via Penny Appeals (@PennyAppeal) homeless campaign #WhatWouldJesusDo,
  • This was followed by Sarah Millican's (@SarahMillican75) annual #JoinIn campaign for people who are alone at Christmas.
  • Then on Boxing Day I heard about Give And Take's (@GiveAndTakeInc) platform Givitas via Good Morning America.
This led me to wondering if the Mosaic Science article is correct, like RedditRevolt Vs Reddit Place, that social media growing out of it's adolescent phase? 

Or to put it another way: As it's Christmas + given the #WhatWouldJesusDo campaign + The kindness shown via #JoinIn + all the Christians who get involved with Trump & Brexit politics... I wondered, as the lyrics from Joan Osborne's song puts it:

"What if God was one of us?"
Just a slob like one of us 
Just a stranger on the bus 
Tryin' to make his way home?"

Where and when would He be getting involved on Twitter and Facebook on the bus on his way home? 

I've been fascinated with The Well and Adam Grant's (@AdamMGrant) Give and Take since I read about both. Through reading Katie Hafner's (@katiehafner) book (In 2015) I wondered if social media today would head in the same direction as The Well did.

July 2015         The Epic Saga of the Well
Jan 2016          DigCitSummitUK Closing Remarks - Own Your Words
May 2018        Why Good People Turn Bad Online
June 2018        Tech Story 2 - The Wild West of the Internet (Inspired by New Power)
June 2018        What has Natures Metropolis (And ISTE2018) Got to do with the Internet?
June 2018        A Day in the Life of the Internet... Or the Plot to a Toy Story Movie?

Politicians talk about "The Wild West of The Internet," in EXACTLY the same way visitors spoke about Chicago in the 1880s... Surely the internet and social media will get settled in the same way?

The Epic Saga of the Well highlights both the potential of social media and online collaboration... and the dangers when there are differences of opinion.

As I'm doing some planning for a new project I reviewed Howard Rheingold's (@hrheingold) book 'Virtual Communities'

My Christmas Online... Some Serious Learning!
18th Dec Virtual Communities - Ch 1 The Heart of The Well
Whether my #StartupEduChat/#EdTechBridge involvement, my interest in the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, The UK Digital Citizenship Summit I was involved with, Being an early support of Declara or developing the #CMAD inspired 'Connected Educator Appreciation Day' since 2015... Jane Jacobs work and the things that members of The Well achieved have been inspiring to read about:

"Within hours, people started doing things in half a dozen directions on their own initiative. The raw scope and diversity of the resources available to us by pooling our individual networks was astonishing. People who had medical connections in New Delhi were brought in; airline schedules and rates for medical evacuation were researched; a fund was started and contributions started arriving. Casey used the net to find a possible telecommunications site in New Delhi where they could relay information for Frank, Elly's ex-husband, who had flown to Asia to help with what was looking like a grave situation… Within hours, we knew how to get such medical equipment in New Delhi and whose name to mention. We knew whom to call, how to ask, what it cost, and how to transfer funds to get Elly delivered to a hospital in the San Francisco region. "It gives me goosebumps," reported Onezie, as the topic unfolded on the WELL. "This is love in action."

Educators may recall that Howard featured in Michelle Cordy's (@CordyM) ISTE 2016 keynote.

The extract above reminds me of Jane Jacobs 'Life and Death of Great American Cities' which I read in 1999 as part of my OU course in Human Geography about how order is created in the chaos of the city.

"When Jimmy Rogan fell through a plate-glass window (he was separating some scuffling friends) and almost lost his arm, a stranger in an old T shirt emerged from a bar, swiftly applied an expert tourniquet, and, according to the hospital’s emergency staff, saved Jimmy’s life. Nobody remembered seeing the man before and no one has seen him since. The hospital was called in this way: a woman sitting on the steps next to the accident ran over to the bus stop, wordlessly snatched the dime from the hand of a stranger who was waiting with his fifteen-cent fare ready, and raced into the Ideal’s phone booth. The stranger raced after her to offer the nickel too. Nobody remembered seeing him before, and nobody has seen him since" The Life and Death of Great American Cities

Why on earth The Well founder Stewart Brand's (@StewartBrand) 1997 "How Buildings Learn" wasn't part of this course, I'll never know! Marc Smith's 1992 paper about The Well reminded me of Jacobs work

18th Dec Voices From the Well
I read this paper three times and simply could not believe how insightful it was...as well as how relevant it was to social media today. I think I tweeted half the report out, but a particularly relevant comment for this post is:

“Faced with vast quantities of information, getting just the right piece can be a formidable task. The WELL acts as an organic knowledge filter; each of its thousands of users sift through large amounts of information, they often hold expertise on one subject or another, and each can be drawn upon by others in the community” Marc Smith

25th Dec Charting Connections in Your Community
After reading Voices from the Well I watched a 2016 San Francisco #Octribe video with Marc Smith talking about NodeXL.

Smith highlights how:

"Some of the people who borrow money from you are not the same ones who would lend you money or drive you to the airport" (What Adam Grant might call a 'Taker'?)

"Are there neighbourhoods [on social media]? If so what separates group one from group two?"
With so many people now on social media, do we need to now think of this space more like physical spaces?

For example, there are lots of tourists in Glasgow's City Centre and in the museums etc, but few might be visiting the most deprived areas that make up for some 59% of the 100 most deprived areas in the UK.

"Some issues that you think are controversial aren't all that controversial... it's just that 15% of the population are really noisy"
Marc advises that there are some conversations you would not join in on. It would be HIGHLY unlikely that I would visit Holyrood (Scotland's Parliament) if I was in Edinburgh and join in any debate

... So why do I do it online? What is the impact of reading all the 'Trending' tweets? For politicians to turn us all into 'gammons'?

"Once I took a cab ride with a driver who was listening to a talk radio show. The program was a litany of the host's resentments and anger toward other individuals and groups.

The cab driver apparently listened to this poison all day long, and he was quivering with rage. He responded to the litany with foul expletives, occasionally slapping his hand on the dashboard for emphasis. The cab seemed filled up with hate; I could barely breathe. It was a great relief when the cab ride was over.

This incident showed me that Right Speech is not just about the words I speak, but also the words I hear. Certainly, we cannot banish ugly words from our lives, but we can choose to not soak in them.

Practice of Right Speech has never been easy, but thanks to 21st-century technology speech takes forms unimaginable in the Buddha's time. Through the internet and mass media, the speech of one person can be flung around the world. 
As we look at this global net of communication, there are plenty of examples of speech used to inflame passion and violence and to separate people into sectarian and ideological tribes. It's not so easy to find speech that leads to peace and group harmony.

Sometimes people justify harsh speech because they are speaking on behalf of a worthy cause. Ultimately, stirring up acrimony is planting karmic seeds that will hurt the cause we think we're fighting for." Right Speech
So that's some of the learning that's gone on from a personal perspective over the last couple of weeks.

...Let's take a look at what's been happening on the world wide web.

"...even if The Well itself should disappear, its mystique will continue to exist in the minds of people searching for a reason to venture into cyberspace. Forty years from now, The Well may be remembered only dimly, or not at all. But it will have left behind a lasting imprint on our culture, as we will be left with the lush promises it whispered into our ear" The Epic Saga of the Well

"The good news is that, in spite of the horrible behaviour many of us have experienced online, the majority of interactions are nice and cooperative… As Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil points out, we’ve had thousands of years to hone our person-to-person interactions, but only 20 years of social media. “Offline, we have all these cues from facial expressions to body language to pitch… whereas online we discuss things only through text. I think we shouldn’t be surprised that we’re having so much difficulty in finding the right way to discuss and cooperate online.”

As our online behaviour develops, we may well introduce subtle signals, digital equivalents of facial cues, to help smooth online discussions. In the meantime, the advice for dealing with online abuse is to stay calm, it’s not your fault. Don’t retaliate but block and ignore bullies, or if you feel up to it, tell them to stop… If social media as we know it is going to survive, the companies running these platforms are going to have to keep steering their algorithms, perhaps informed by behavioural science, to encourage cooperation rather than division, positive online experiences rather than abuse. As users, we too may well learn to adapt to this new communication environment so that civil and productive interaction remains the norm online as it is offline" Why Good People Turn Bad Online

Christmas Online 2018
24th Dec: #WhatWouldJesusDo 
On Christmas Eve Homeless Charity @PennyAppeal's Christmas campaign #WhatWouldJesusDo was trending, encouraging people to help out with homelessness.

Unfortunately, it did not take long for the chatter to go from discussing homelessness to others joining in with all kinds of political & religious snarkiness (...As well as some good humored and funny comments too)

25th Dec #JoinIn 
On Christmas Day I saw the #JoinIn hashtag trending with people taking time out to chat with those who were feeling lonely at Christmas... If you've not seen Sarah Millican's interview with Russell Howard, it's well worth checking out!!
26th Dec Give And Take: Givitas
On Boxing Day I spotted a Tweet about Reciprocity Rings and '5 Minute Favours,' clicked on it... and LOVED! what I saw:

I loved it so much that I put this Givitas Declara collection together with over 80 articles about Givitas

Based on this Beat Generosity Burnout article, this platform seems particularly relevant to educators

"Some of our favorite recent data points come from more than 400 second-year teachers (from pre-K through high school throughout the United States). At the start of the year we asked them a series of questions about their approach to helping; their answers allowed us to predict how well their students would do on end-of-year academic achievement tests.

Here’s a sample question:

Imagine that you’re teaching a geometry class, and you’ve volunteered to stay after school one day a week to help one of your students, Alex, improve his understanding of geometry. He asks if you’ll also help his friend Juan, who isn’t in your class. What would you do?" Beat Generosity Burnout

Both The Well and Adam Grant highlights that there are extremely generous 'Givers' out there, as well as plenty of people who will take advantage. (Keep an eye out for my 'Anonymous £40' and @BeMorePirate 'Here Be Dragons' posts in the New Year).

Both The Well and today's social media demonstrate that they have addictive properties about them.

So, I'm looking forward to seeing what this '5 min favour' purpose built platform will look like and what it will achieve.

My hope is that NodeXL and Givitas will help any networks I am part of to become 'Community Clusters' who encourage a culture of giving.

"You are the result of all the relationships you have" Marc Smith.

I've learnt a lot about the relationships that I have online in the last 12 months... I guess Henry Timms (@HenryTimms) and Jeremy Heimans (@JeremyHeimans) is right

"Those on the side of the angels, who want to spread compassion, promote pluralism, or defend science must grapple with a painful reality: That New Power can supercharge hate and misinformation"

"What if God was one of us?"
Just a slob like one of us 
Just a stranger on the bus 
Tryin' to make his way home?"

Where and when would He be getting involved on Twitter and Facebook on the bus on his way home? 

I wonder who I'll meet online and where my social media adventures will take me in 2019?

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