sweet child o’ shrine

Tina’s last post had various commenters getting nostalgic for special moments from the Golden Age Of Social Blogging.  Here’s another: remember when we were reluctant to link to the Sociology Shrine blog because every time we did, they would respond by deleting their blog entirely?

Anyway, we’re all older now, and the Shriners appear to have found a sufficiently stable identity that only occasionally involves referencing sociology blogs.  So hopefully I will not send them down another self-erasing rabbit hole by mentioning them now. They have offered an opinion on the recent thread regarding tweeting-talks:

Given that [Jeremy] always seems to believe we have some sort of bone to pick with him – in fact, to the contrary, we adore him – we should be clear that we question only his reluctance to “take a stand” for the radical idea that those suffering from technology-induced A.D.D. might very well try to give someone or something their undivided attention for all of fifteen minutes.

[First, who doesn’t like being adored? Smooches, Shriners.]

But there seems to be a question in the air: if we are going to celebrate the fact that Twitter offers a permanent public record of discussion about a talk, and the talk in question is only 15 minutes, is it too much to ask that people wait until the end of the talk to start tweeting their opinions about it?

Eh, I get their point.  But my failure to “take a stand” on this issue does not involve a lack of nerve. If Cyborgology used the free space on their alternative bingo card to propose another ASA dues increase, believe me, I’d speak out.

Instead, I have a mixed set of feelings between (1) my strong belief that conversations about talks are a good thing–and public conversations are even better–and (2) my moderate incredulity about how useful superbrief public assessments launched in the middle of talks can actually be to anybody not in attendance. Maybe I could do a full read of #asa2011 and come up with a clearer view, but, well, skimming the distribution of tweets-per-person makes it seem like this phenomenon is presently confined to a relatively small number of people anyway. (Mathematical sociology aside: Not all that far from Zipf’s law, in fact.)  

I’m more convinced that posting very brief comments during a talk improves the engagement of whatever people are in the room commenting to each other at the time than that it is especially instructive to people who are not there.  I could be wrong, and, regardless, not like it does any harm.  Plus, I’m sure that having these discussions be nonetheless public likely does lead them to be more civilized than whatever folks would be saying if they were just text-messaging each other.

In any case, it looks like the strong majority of people who were using Twitter during the meetings are not using it for this purpose.  I wonder if use of the medium at sociology conferences will evolve to where there are separate hashtags for people who want to have conversations about specific session content and people who want to just use it to share broad or fun bits.

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

3 thoughts on “sweet child o’ shrine”

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