Friday, October 06, 2006

Blogs for Learning is now open

Blogs For Learning is now officially in open beta, meaning the password is gone and we are welcoming folks in to take a look around. Specifically I'm interested in getting high-quality articles in the pipeline, focusing on any aspect of blogging in the classroom: pedagogical, technical, social, legal, etc. The site is available at so please, give the site a spin and let us know what you think. We want this to be a valuable tool for anyone wishing to incorporate blogs into their teaching.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Yes, there really are that many starbucks

Came accross a cool mashup today - one that charts Starbucks locations using Google Maps API: Find By Click
My worst fear has been realized as I now have proof that there are multiple Starbucks within a few blocks of each other.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

facebook interview

A reporter with the Daily Universe, BYU's paper, interviewed me via email about Facebook, social capital, and the announced rollout of Facebook to non-academic settings. I've copied some of my responses below in case they are of interest to others:

3) After conducting your survey, do think there is any harm as far as privacy issues on the site?
NE: There is the potential for students to disclose personal information without realizing that their true audience is not limited to their on-campus friends.

4) Facebook is planning to open up its eligibility to anyone with an email address- what do you think about this?
NE: I think depending on how it’s implemented, it could mean very little changes for current members, or it could be very disruptive. There is already a movement growing to protest this change; Facebook should tread carefully so as to not alienate its core userbase – college students who value the exclusivity of the system.

5) do you think this will affect social capital?
NE: Theoretically, it could lead to an increase in current members’ bridging social capital. This kind of social capital is based on having lots of “weak ties” – people you don’t know that well but who might provide you with valuable information or resources. Of course, it all depends on how the new system is implemented and how easy it is for people to connect with those outside their network.

6) How do you think this will affect college students willingness to use facebook?
NE: see 4 above – we could see a backlash of students who leave Facebook in protest, or because they think they’ll have encounters with people they don’t want to connect with. Some of the message boards have talked about it becoming non-exclusive like MySpace or full of pedophiles. I think this fear is overblown, but I do think Facebook will have to manage the rollout carefully. I’m surprised they are doing it so soon after the NewsFeeds incident.

7) Do you think usership will increase or decrease?
NE: Overall, it will increase. Among college students, it could decrease, depending on how the system is set up and the reaction among existing members.

8) Is there any other information, you learned while conducting your study, that you think would be valuable for college students to know?
NE: Facebook can be a valuable tool for getting information, staying in touch with people, and finding out more about people you want to get to know. But be aware that it’s not as exclusive as most people think – it’s fairly easy for law enforcement, future employers, marketing companies, and others to get access to it. Give some thought to how you want to present yourself online knowing that you may have multiple audiences for your profile.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Dark Side

This morning my daughter, K, and her friend M and I were driving to school, chatting about our three cats. We all decided Mr. Friendly (the one K named, if you couldn't guess) was our favorite. Then I mentioned that Sasha (who K thinks is "evil" because she won't submit to being put in a paper bag and dragged around the house) was Daddy's favorite. K looked at the window and remarked quietly, "Daddy always goes to the Dark Side." How did she know?

Speaking of the dark side, i'm going to be officially a Mac person again in a couple of weeks once my new macbook arrives!

New Facebook Feature

I spoke with a WSJ reporter yesterday, then sent her to my colleague Cliff Lampe who was quoted in the short story they ran about facebook's new newsfeed feature. My reaction echoes that of Alex and no doubt others as well: this feature isn't doing anything other than make visible in a very transparent way the vast amounts of information that students are placing into Facebook. My sense is that students don't necessarily understand the true audience of their facebook profiles. This feature, which has generated a huge backlash among users, may be the proverbial wake-up call prompting users to either rethink the extent and nature of the information they provide or revisit their privacy settings. Unfortunately there is some evidence that suggests even after being made aware of some of the privacy issues regarding facebook, students didn't change their privacy settings.
I think Cliff's point is a good one- students feel ownership of facebook and want to have more of a voice in the design of the site. It will be interesting to see how the facebook team reacts.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Blogs For Learning in Beta!

I'm pleased to announce that "Blogs for Learning" is now in Beta! BFL is a web-based resource for students and instructors interested in blogging in the classroom. Our primary audience is college instructors but as there seems to be a lot of movement on this front among high school teachers, we are trying to include content for this audience as well. More information soon...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I again have been less than diligent in my postings. This has something to do with my lack of clarity regarding the audience for this blog. Another big article last week in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the perils of blogging for those dreaming of tenure: "The Hazards of Academic Blogging." My solution is to create a second blog which I'll post to anonymously. This blog, then, will be updates about my academic work and commentary about things related to my area of study - new media - with personal tidbits thrown in here and there of course.
Since my last post, I've had two articles appear in print. Both are linked from my homepage. I'm especially proud of the JCMC piece, Managing Impressions Online: Self-Presentation Processes in the Online Dating Environment, a birthing many, many months in the making. Both of these pieces deal with self-presentation in online dating contexts, an area that is particularly fascinating to me.
In other news - we are revising our Facebook paper for publication, I'm working on another piece exploring the use of blogs in the classroom, "Blogs for Learning" is close to being ready for beta-testing, and I just got back from a week in the Bahamas having "encounters" with wild dolphins, sharks (nurse, lemon, and tiger), rays, sea turtles, and more Europeans than you could shake a stick at. I should put in a plug for Jim Abernethy's Scuba Adventures, the diving operation out of Palm Beach that ran the trip. Except for a few small unavoidable logistical problems, everything was top-notch. Now back to reality!

Saturday, April 08, 2006


My posts have been sporatic at best and I am going to remedy this.

I participated in my first online conference last week - HigherEdBlogCon. I co-authored two presentations - one with Ethan Watrall on an online web resource we are building (with a team of undergrads and support from our college) on blogging in the classroom, which is available here; and a second presentation titled "An empirical test of blogging in the classroom" which is based on the data I collected last Fall. Although I wasn't too keen on the lack of immediate feedback while recording the screencast, the comments have been useful and I am less skeptical than before of the possibilities for these kind of events.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


We're in Northern California for the holidays, and I happened to meet an old college friend of my husband. I noticed a stack of old, manual typewriters in cases along a wall in their apartment and inquired about them. As it turns out, this woman and her husband organize letter-writing campaigns, gathering a group of like-minded ("left wing") folks together to type out letters to politicans. The motive behind this scheme is the oft-touted belief that one visibly hand-written letter is considered a representation of 100 individuals (as opposed to, say, an e-mail petition or even a computer-generated letter). They encourage individuals to mark the letters in some way so that it is clear they are generated by live human beings - putting a coffee ring on one, or perhaps crossing out a few words here or there.
This made me think about some of the findings that have emerged from my interviews with online dating participants. Many of these individuals disucssed the way in which the words in a profile (the content) were not as important clues to identity as were other stylistic aspects of the message, such as the time an email was sent, the extent to which the message included typographic or grammatical errors, the length of a profile description. I'm still thinking about the meaning of this, but I think there's something interesting here about the ways in which technology gives voice to more individuals, but in doing so mutes their individuality. And thus we work harder to insert this information back in (lugging manual typewriters around) and to discern information about others ("What time was this message sent? 1 am? He must be desperate."). Of course, SIP (Social Information Processing) theory does a similar claim, but I think there's more there to uncover -- especially as CMC norms continue to develop.