My twitter is not your twitter

There’ve been several discussions -which I’m too lazy to link to- about twitter: What it is, what it should be, the right/wrong way of using it, who you should follow, who you should unfollow, and most recently, how to measure authority (whatever that is: influence? credibility? trustworthiness?)

I resist any attempts at defining the right way to use twitter and I urge you to do the same.

The right way is that there shouldn’t be one right way.

It all comes down to the way you view the world:

Possible worldview #1: The world is complex, pluralistic, and fragmented; there are multiple voices and multiple truths. People construct their worlds through communication.

Possible worldview #2: The world can be reduced down to a few simple laws, rules, and patterns. There is one truth out there waiting to be discovered.

If #2 is your worldview, then you will keep looking for the “right” way to use twitter, and for the right way to define and measure authority.

However, if you see the world as in #1, you will agree that different groups and subgroups will create different cultures around twitter, and will use it in different way. You may also agree that a person who has authority in one group doesn’t have it in another group, because each group has different criteria for authority, and in some group the concept doesn’t even exist or matter.

To me, the beauty of social media is that it is fluid, pluralistic, multivocal, fragmented, and chaotic. Yes, it’s very postmodern, and that’s the way I like it. I see no need to impose strict authoritative definitions. Once these definitions are imposed and accepted, twitter becomes them – because that’s how we construct our world through communication.

And the problem is, that once something is constructed and accepted, it becomes reified – it becomes a hard, immutable, taken for granted truth. We forget there was a time when it was open to negotiation and discussion and we continue to live with it, to obey its definitional authority, even when it doesn’t serve our purposes any longer.

To avoid this, I’d rather we keep the world of twitter fluid, complex, and pluralistic, and that we don’t agree on any one definition or right way. Rather, let us enjoy the multiple worlds and villages we’ve built around twitter, and celebrate the fact that my twitter might not be your twitter, and that’s the beauty of it.

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On Time

You are invited to theĀ  …. Holiday party …

Wednesday, December xx, 7-9 pm

In Romanian culture, mentioning the end time of a party on an invitation is appalling. I mean, if you’re not ready to go all night long, don’t even bother. Mentioning the end time is like kicking people out of your house. Inconceivable. Rude.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about people’s relationship to time, cultural differences, and the impact they have on relationship building.

I recently reconnected with an Indian friend I hadn’t seen in 10 years. We met for dinner. It lasted 6 hours. We parted ways when we were too tired to keep our eyes open and the restaurant, then the coffee shop, closed, and we had to leave.

I met a Romanian friend I hadn’t seen in a couple of years for dinner the following evening. We hung out for another 6 hours or so. Lots of catching up to do. Lots of on-the-spot decisions: walk in the park? dinner? walk me to my hotel? glass of wine in hotel lobby?

Whenever I meet American friends for dinner, after about 90 minutes they get fidgety, don’t pick up on conversation topics, glance at their watches and then out around the room, their eyes projecting their urge to get going.

When we met for lunch or coffee, the same nonverbal behaviors occur like clockwork, after about 50 minutes.

It seems to me Americans have an internal clock that times their lunch, coffee, and dinner interactions, and when a situation occurs that might mess with that clock, they spell the time limits on the invitation. It’s part of this culture, nothing to blame on anyone. But it doesn’t work for me.

I guess I don’t know how to build relationships under these severe time limits. When I relate to someone, when we have fun talking, I don’t see the reason to stop, I don’t have the same internal timer. I can’t help but be slightly hurt by others’ internal timers, though I know they don’t mean to offend me.

When my husband and I first met, we spent the entire night talking.

It takes time and talk to build relationships.

So how do you build relationships?

How do you build relationships under strict time limits?

Does your relationship with time affect your relationships with people?

And what happens when you interact with other cultures, either in interpersonal or public relations settings?

Cause honestly, my feeling is, if this culture’s relationship with time were a bit more relaxed, I’d have more friends.

The teacher’s (emotional) life

[This post is also inspired by this amazing memoir/reflection on academia, A Life in School.]

Academics’ emotional lives are not often topics of discussion, though depression is rampant among academics – I remember seeing an Art Bochner column in Spectra on the topic.

Academics, especially those in the humanities, live very isolated lives. We’re trained to be independent thinkers, we’re not required to work together, and we are evaluated individually – sometimes we’re in competition with each other. So unlike other professions, in our workplace there’s no community to belong to. No team spirit. You’d be amazed to see how little conversation there is in the hallways of Communication departments.

But we’re human, and we find the community we crave in students. For one semester, 1-2 times a week, we’re part of a group, leaders of a pack.

And it’s more than that: Teaching, to me, is an act of care and love. I don’t understand how you can teach someone, how the minds can come into communion, in the absence of care and love.

Every semester, I get emotionally invested in my students’ success. I wake up at night worried about their assignments and email them ideas; I worry about them finding jobs and internships; I cry because I’m so proud of them when they succeed. I don’t always do the best thing (I’m still learning and growing as an educator), but everything I do comes out of a place of love.

And then the semester ends.

I hate being left behind in the empty classroom.

I usually cry.

I can’t handle the thought that this wonderful little community (with its quirks, inside jokes, and little traditions) we have created in class is gone.

Dr. V 3: Friends

I don’t think this is healthy. But no one ever talks about it and how to deal with it. I think teachers need emotional support and training – how do you deal with the many emotions associated with teaching, with working with people?

I don’t know, how do you deal with them?

NCA story

I promised a friend I’d post this story from NCA – the annual convention of the National Communication Association, aka where all the communication profs get together to share research and network.

My friend was riding the elevator, along with other people wearing the NCA name tag, and one who wasn’t. The tagless person asked:

“So, what do you communicate here, at the National Communication Association?”

A young man in the elevator answered:

“Fear and anxiety.”

I’ll write about this more some other time, but for now, I want the story to speak for itself. If you’ve ever been to NCA, you probably know what I’m talking about. Maybe you want to share in the comments, if you can overcome the fear and anxiety?

Dr. V breaks out of the ivory tower

It strikes me that I can write conference papers and journal articles – but they have no impact, because no one reads them. Even if people want to read them, they don’t have access, because most academic journals are protected behind walls, and the password costs hundreds, if not thousands, of $$$ a year.

But I wrote one white paper (the first one, because I’ve been trained not to believe in self-publishing: “If it’s not double-blind reviewed, it doesn’t matter!”) and I’m amazed to see that all of a sudden I get media attention – and most surprisingly, that PR and marketing practitioners out there are actually interested in theory and research!!! (what rock have I been hiding under?!).

Here are a couple of media pieces based on interviews I’ve given:

The ROI of online news releases study got more media coverage, you can find a list on Jiyan Wei’s blog, but I’m not sure if he updates it…

Oh, and while I’m at it, I wrote a book, too, I guess that should count here, though the price and academic writing style might keep it in the ivory tower… MV_book2.jpg

I’m thrilled to at least open a window of the ivory tower, which I find so suffocating!