Another take on attention

Attention is one of the main themes of this blog, something I like to think and teach about – and what I see as the scarcest, and therefore most precious resource in our connected lifestyle.

I came across a view of attention in a book about Ayurveda, a system of traditional medicine from India:

“Ayurveda says that attention happens when prana goes out and carries the vibration of awareness toward the object. Thus, attention is awareness plus prana, movement.”

Prana is the essential life energy, also known as qi/chi or ki in Chinese and Japanese traditions, respectively.

It’s interesting to think of attention as more than focusing the mind on something, but also directing, or giving of your own energy to the object of attention. If you think about it that way, attention becomes even more precious – it’s almost a giving of the self.

The view that includes energy in attention might also explain why people “feel” someone’s gaze and all of a sudden turn around to meet it. Do they feel the energy, the prana? Could it be that even us Westerners who have not developed our potential to feel and work with energy (like Yoga, Tai Chi, and other traditions do) – feel it anyway, even though we don’t quite have a name for it?

Does it change anything for you, to think of attention as giving of yourself, directing your energy towards someone/something else?


New Research Project – Help, Please!

Update 2/26/2010: Thank you to all who have participated in this research. The survey is now closed.

I’m working on a new research project about how people manage identities across social networks, and I need your help!

If you are over 18, live & work in the U.S. and use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter on a weekly basis, could you please take my survey? It should take you about 10-25 minutes to fill it out.

Participation is voluntary, but if you complete the survey, you have a 1 in 50 chance of winning a $15 gift certificate.

I’d much appreciate it if you pass on the link to this post to your contacts!

Please read the information sheet before you proceed to the survey:



Managing Identities Online

Mihaela Vorvoreanu, Ph.D.

Purdue University

Computer Graphics Technology

Purpose of Research

This research project aims to understand how people manage their identities and relationships with various groups across social networks.

Specific Procedures

To participate in this research, please fill out this online survey.

Duration of Participation

Participation should take between 10-25 minutes.


All research carries risk. The risks associated with completing this research are minimal risks which are found in everyday life.


There are no direct benefits to you from participating in this research. The questionnaire may help you reflect on your participation in online social networks. The research results may benefit society at large, because we need to understand cultural trends and practices.


You may opt to participate in a random drawing for a $15 gift certificate. To be eligible for the drawing, you must answer all the questions on the survey. One in 50 participants will win a $15 gift certificate.


The survey does not ask for any personally identifiable information. All research reports will present aggregate data, or quotations without any context that makes it possible to identify the source. The survey results will be stored in a locked cabinet within a locked office at Purdue University for 5 years, after which, they will be destroyed. The project results will be disseminated at research conferences and in specialty research journals. The project’s research records may be reviewed by departments at Purdue University responsible for regulatory and research oversight.

Voluntary Nature of Participation

You do not have to participate in this research project.  If you agree to participate you can withdraw your participation at any time.

Contact Information:

If you have any questions about this research project, you can contact Dr. Mihaela Vorvoreanu, 765-496-7709, mihaela at purdue dot edu. If you have concerns about the treatment of research participants, you can contact the Institutional Review Board at Purdue University, Ernest C. Young Hall, Room 1032, 155 S. Grant St., West Lafayette, IN 47907-2114. The phone number for the Board is (765) 494-5942.  The email address is

Documentation of Informed Consent

By clicking the link to proceed to the survey, I certify that I have had the opportunity to read this consent form and have the research study explained.  I have had the opportunity to ask questions about the research project and my questions have been answered.  I am prepared to participate in the research project described above.  I can print out a copy of this information sheet for my records.


The survey is now closed. Thank you for your interest!

Thank you!!!

Mihaela / Dr. V

Research Focus: The Social Internet

This is the course I’ll be teaching at Purdue this Fall. I’m so excited, I can’t wait for the semester to start already! It is a Ph.D. level seminar, open to Master’s students too, open to all departments.

If you’re a Purdue graduate student interested in taking the course and have any questions, feel free to contact me (my Purdue username is my first name, Mihaela. You can figure out the rest).

Thank you, dear friend Rashee of Pulchitrude Graphic Design for the flier!


Things I’ll miss

As we get ready to move out of S.C., I’m making mental lists of things I’ll miss, and hey, why not share the good stuff with you?

First, foremost and most badly I’ll miss practicing yoga at North Main Yoga, and specifically, my teacher, Liz. I am hopelessly addicted to her teaching style, kind energy, and the complete bliss I experience after practicing under her guidance.

Second, I’ll miss working with Clemson students. They’re bright, honest, nice people; excellent writers; and once you figure them out, it’s SO easy to help them succeed. I’ve never worked with students who have made me so proud in such a short time!


The Village Baker, Pendleton S.C.

Then, there’s eating. The Village Baker in Pendleton is a little European piece of heaven: pastries, cookies, sandwiches, more pastries. I’ll miss our late Saturday lunches there, and in Greenville: the pecan pie at High Cotton, the chef’s creativity at Lazy Goat, the Thai food at Sweet Basil on Pelham, and of course, the gelato at Luna Rosa.

I’ll miss my hair stylist, kind and attentive Maggy – now at Tangles in Clemson.

I’ll miss the colorful flowers, and the scent of gardenias on warm summer nights.


To all the things and people I won’t miss (y’all know who you are): I wish you’ll find confidence and peace, so you can open your minds and hearts, and maybe experience kindness now and again. Namaste!

Leaving Clemson

I broke the news on Twitter last week, but here is a more detailed account of the events in my life. In the past 10 days, I:

– accepted a job offer at Purdue University
– resigned from my position at Clemson University
– looked for a house in West Lafayette, Indiana
– found a house in West Lafayette, Indiana
– put an offer, negotiated, etc., etc. – and now my husband and I are this close to being home owners.

It’s been a whirlwind: Things are happening much faster than my bewildered mind can process. So maybe writing will help.

As I write this, I think of my Clemson PR students, who I will miss dearly. They’ve been the best students I’ve ever worked with, and my heart is breaking knowing I’m leaving them. They’re bright, quick learners, amazing writers. If you haven’t hired them already, there might be a couple left. 🙂

So, why am I leaving? (actually, both my husband and I are leaving).

Many of you know that during the past 3 years it has become clear to both Krishna and me that Clemson (and Seneca), South Carolina cannot ever feel like home for us. We both come from large, crowded cities, and the quiet, rural lifestyle is … killing us (softly).

We’ll both be tenure-track faculty at Purdue, Krishna in Engineering Education, and I have a joint appointment in the College of Technology, shared between two departments: Computer Graphics Technology and Organizational Leadership & Supervision.

There will be some changes in my research and teaching focus: less PR (possibly no PR), a lot more technology – and its impact on culture, society, and communication. I will be teaching mostly graduate courses, at the Master’s and Ph.D. level.

This move is a bit sideways and up, and although I am very sad to step away from teaching PR (it will still be part of my research agenda), I am excited to tackle some research projects I’ve had in mind for a while now, that didn’t quite fit in with my PR-oriented research agenda.

I’ve done my best to make sure my PR students at Clemson are well taken care of. Dr. Denham has agreed to take over as PRSSA adviser, and I am so grateful and relieved that he’s stepping in!

Next semester, two wonderful instructors will be teaching a section each of the PR Principles class – and one of them might already be your twitter friend!

Dr. Hawkins, the CU Communication Studies Department Chair, has expressed a strong commitment in maintaining the momentum we have built here in PR @ CU, and I will do whatever I can to help her – and you.

If you were my student, I want you to know that I will always think of you as my student – and possibly friend. I will always be happy to hear from you and to be in touch. Follow me on twitter (@prprof_mv – should I change my user name?), friend me on LinkedIn – stay in touch.

To all of my wonderful PR friends from Greenville (you know who you are) – with twitter, facebook, linkedin, and whatever comes up next, we have no excuse for not keeping in touch! So, let’s.

To all my blog readers (both of you 🙂 – I don’t know which way this blog will go, but it’ll keep going, with some break while my life settles down into a routine after the move.

Like all big life changes, this one is bitter-sweet, exciting, exhausting, exhilarating… send me good thoughts, and you know you’ll get them back 🙂

Mantras for Strategic Public Relations

Stimulated by Shel Holtz’ post about the 4-step strategic planning process, I want to share with you some “mantras” (PR principles) about strategic public relations that I (try to) drill into my students:

– Strategic PR begins and ends with research (from Dr. Carl Botan, George Mason University)

– Strategic PR is goal-oriented

– Strategic PR has data or theory-based reasons for all decisions (decisions are never random)

– Good research takes the guesswork out of PR

Do you practice these? What do they mean to you? Do you have your own mantras to add?

PR students on learning Twitter

I place a lot of emphasis on Twitter in my PR courses, but were not sure whether that was such a good idea – from their perspective. So I asked my PR students from the Spring 09 Stakeholder Communication class to respond anonymously to a survey about learning twitter. Their answers are below:

Do you believe it was beneficial for you to learn how to use Twitter? Please explain why or why not.

  • – Yes. Twitter is a good example of a social media tool and the only way to truly know about these tools is to use them. It was good for us to use because it was not too demanding, yet still allowed us to get a feel for how these different tools work.
  • – Yes I do. There are many social norms and things about twitter that I learned from this class and I think its great to show a potential employer that I understand those things. I also think it was great to teach us to be active when you get on twitter because its annoying if you just get on and don’t do anything with it!
  • – Yes. I think that we kind of “jumped onto something” much earlier than a lot of other people. I think it was beneficial because it helped us learn how news can spread really quickly and network with others.
  • – I do believe it was beneficial to learn twitter, especially since it has become so prevalent in today’s society. People ask me what Twitter is and it eels good to know that I can explain it to them because I learned it through class. It’s becoming more and more mainstream everyday and I’ve enjoyed learning how to use it.
  • – Yes. I liked that I already knew what Twitter was all about and how to use it before it became such a hot topic. Since I had already learned about the professional value of Twitter, it prevented me from getting caught up in the hype. I think this is allowing me to be a more constructive Twitter user.
  • – Yes. Not only is Twitter a necessary tool for PR practitioners, but it is becoming mainstream for all people involved in social media. Within a year or so Twitter may be the equivilent of Facebook, and it is important that PR students stay ahead of the trend.

Has Twitter helped you learn in any way? How has it helped (or not)?

  • – Yes it has helped me learn about social media. Basically the general rules of using o twitter are applicable to most social media tools. For example, you have to be consistent with using it- you can’t just create an account and then forget about it. You have to interact with people – not just broadcast random things. Twitter has a culture about it, just like other social media tools – and it is important to be able to tap into the culture of the various tools.
  • – It has helped me learn more about social interaction with PR people. I think urging us to get on to communicate and teaching us to tweet during class helped us learn it. Especially when you told us how to interact with professionals.
  • – yes. When we used it in 301, I thought it was kind of pointless, but I completely see how useful it has been in a PR class. You always have said that social media is becoming more and more important and it really is. You have showed us how jobs are hiring people to just do social media so I think that it has helped us learn to get to know other people and be less shy when it comes to networking and see how a problem can occur very quickly over Twitter, etc.
  • – Yes it has helped. It’s helped me become more comfortable with contacting people I don’t know, expressing myself, learning more about others, and become more connected.
  • – I like being able to connect with people from all over.
  • – Following the conversations of PR professionals has helped me get insight into what their world is like on a day to day basis. It also helped me to make a few connections for myself.

Do you feel you “get” Twitter? What about it do you (not) understand?

  • – I do feel that I get Twitter, but I feel that I am not using to my full capacity. I understand what is valued in the community, but I feel that I don’t always bring that value because I feel I don’t have the time to go out and find the interesting thought provoking news – I feel that I am on more of the receiving end of what’s going on – and that’s fine with me…
  • – I think I “semi” get twitter. I still don’t completely understand retweets and stuff like that. but I understand how to search for things from what you taught us.
  • – Yes very much so.
  • – I do “get” Twitter. I still have a lot to learn, and I need to become better about posting original thoughts and putting more depth into what I saw, but overall I do eel that I “get” it.
  • – It took a while, but I think I get it now. Sometime I think I get it too much because I get so frustrated with the whole fad aspect of it.
  • – I understand Twitter, but I feel like you have to almost become addicted to it to become a full-fledged user. You have to be constantly engaged with someone else in conversation and understand all of the lingo and special tools (i.e. RT, #) to use Twitter to its full potential. Sometimes its unnerving to try to start/join a conversation rather than just give updates on what you’re doing, which most people won’t reply to.

Aything else you’d like to tell me about Twitter in PR classes?

  • – Twitter is good for PR classes. Regardless of what people say. 🙂
  • – This was great for communication with you as well. I think it helped us be able to interact and I think its great to keep the lines of communication open with you!
  • – I like being able to Twitter about class…during class. It’s nice to be able to bounce ideas off of other classmates.
  • – I would recommend giving students a few contacts outside of the classroom to follow when starting. For instance, offer students the names of PRSSA mentors to follow first who can springboard them into conversations with other professionals.

What has your experience been learning or teaching Twitter?