Walkin’ the Talk

In the spirit of putting my money where my mouth is, part of my summer’s intention is to immerse myself into the social media culture that’s all the rage with the young folk. Nothing’s worse than a “we have to have better social media for the university” pronouncement from someone with a Blackberry who relies on Outlook for most of her online conversations. Not that I am describing myself, but due to a focus on the conventional meaning of what a web communications professional does, I’ve been only a hair’s breath away from that. I’ve dipped my toes into social media, but never dove in.

Email is where I have to live for the mechanics of my job. It’s not, however, an entirely habitable space when it comes to conveying larger ideas and for connecting beyond my comfort zone. I have found that traditional web conferences, which are rich in information about technology and trends, tend to not push creative boundaries beyond the immediate group of self-selected web developers, all talented and capable for sure, but not largely discussing what I’d like to be discussing, which is the notion of connecting people and ideas as the goal, with technology as a way to do that. When ideas about effective higher education web communications arise, they are frequently in service to marketing, which implies that the web is nothing more than a marketing space. I believe that this is deadly on the web, particularly the increasingly mobile web, and that universities who think they can formulate an effective social media strategy from a marketing perspective have essentially lost the battle before it is even fought.

Nothing smells more phony than marketing in social media, and the prospective student knows it. IMO. FWIW.

So what to do? Well, to me, Twitter is now feeling like a game of jump rope where the rope is turning, turning, turning and it’s up to ME to hop into the conversation. This past week, I’ve made a point of jumping in, getting back to blogging, creating an alter-ego presence on the web, and participating in conversations about stuff I’m wholly unqualified to converse about! I’m doing this in service to the joy that comes from the connected mind.

This is an entirely different mindset than my familar one which sits in the office and pours over information architecture and page layouts while answering email. Those are mechanical tasks that must be done, for sure, but done in the consciousness that what we create when we create a web presence for a university is not to pander, but to invite, not to preach, but to inspire, not to tell someone to “click here,” but be vulnerable enough to put out authentic experience and deeply held, half-baked ideas, trusting that someone new and interesting will want to jump in and play, simply out of the joy of discovery.

Gotta go check my email now.

11 comments ↓

#1 Reverend on 05.25.12 at 10:33 am

Cathy,

Your metaphors are beautiful, Twitter as jump rope is brilliant, and I have stolen your Blazing Saddles metaphor for describing the web and access is just grogeous. You really have a way of understanding this stuff, and your jumping into ds106 is mint because I think the work you are doing with umw.edu right now is at the center of the university’s coming transformation. Kudos!

#2 Cathy Finn-Derecki on 05.25.12 at 10:37 am

Jim, you are too kind. Thank you for kicking me upside the head even though you may not realize you and DTLT do it every day. I’m opening up in a way I never thought possible, and it feels beautiful!

#3 Shannon on 05.25.12 at 10:40 am

You said, “Nothing smells more phony than marketing in social media, and the prospective student knows it. IMO. FWIW.”

You are completely right about that. I always hate when I can tell something was packaged by some higher-ups to market to me what their school was about when clearly those people were working in a vacuum.

It is not about “leveraging” the latest tools to advance some agenda. It is about real learning, messy experience and like you said, “the joy of discovery”. Rock on Cathy!

#4 martha on 05.25.12 at 10:47 am

Yay! Couldn’t be more delighted to have you jumping rope with us!

“When ideas about effective higher education web communications arise, they are frequently in service to marketing, which implies that the web is nothing more than a marketing space. I believe that this is deadly on the web, …”

YES!!

#5 Lisa M Lane on 05.25.12 at 10:53 am

Insightful comments here about the web as just a marketing space. I can see both that use and that perspective increasing, undermining our efforts to use it as an educational space. Social media is for sharing more than products, but if people use email and then only go to the web to shop and get news from big media, that encourages the misconception.

I consider Twitter as a river, but I like the jump rope analogy better!

#6 sgreenla on 05.25.12 at 11:08 am

Great post, though I’d say it’s a “both/and”.

#7 Noel Derecki on 05.25.12 at 12:49 pm

This here is some smarty pants shizz.

#8 rowan_peter on 05.26.12 at 7:37 am

I just want to know why it took Jim so long to invite you/introduce you to DS106! Welcome, glad you could make it!
:)

#9 How can an online course be superior to a traditional face-to-face course? | Pedablogy: Musings on the Art & Craft of Teaching on 05.26.12 at 11:27 am

[...] would be a plus to have our students experience diverse views, both among experts and students.  In a recent post, Cathy Derecki described this more generally as “the notion of connecting people and ideas as the [...]

#10 Cathy Finn-Derecki on 05.26.12 at 7:51 pm

Thank Martha and Alan for the invite to DS106. Jim and I have been working side by side in parallel for years, with increasing frequency of intersection, but I’m on the dark side of the house, so must be stealthy…

#11 Reverend on 05.30.12 at 2:52 pm

Why are you blaming me Rowan Peter Peter Rowan?

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