notes on collecting with Brightkite

I’m down for the count today – something upper respiratory – so I’m working from home. But in keeping with my project while staying within the bounds of dry mouth and fatigue caused by the [unnamed maker of cetirizine HCI here], I’m doing something simple, and even simpleminded: reviewing my use of Brightkite as a way into using it for composing and teaching composing.

So: Some Observational Notes

Bemidji State UniversityBrightkite
A few weeks ago I made a mental observation: Keeping up in Brightkite is work. It isn’t really as simple as checking in – and even that takes a few moments. Using Brightkite – and so Twitter or any of the microblogging stuff – means stopping what I’m doing for a few moments to do something else. I can talk and walk, but I can’t easily walk and post to Brightkite.

Stopping to post is probably less an issue when at a desktop or laptop than it is when mobile. What it means is that asking someone to post means giving them time and space to make the post. A tweet or Brightkite post may be short but that doesn’t mean it’s quickly composed, or composed while multitasking.

[I’d guess that a lot of mobile posts are made on the train or bus, or while waiting for a train or bus or something else to happen. To fill time. In public.] That’s often how I use it: as a waiting game. It’s as much a habit as anything because I could simply snap a pic to my phone and work with it later. Instead, I use Brightkite. Perhaps there’s something in the communicative possibility. But this use of Brightkite isn’t really extensive. Others are.

Occasions of use: purpose driven

  • to capture a low-res pic of something interesting and fleeting
  • to capture ditto something I’m figuring others might find curious
  • to signal to others where I’m located
  • to take a visual note I’ll want to use later

Much of this use is also driven by collateral posting of the images to flickr. I don’t simply send to Brightkite for others to see; I also send the image to my own collections to use later. Again, I don’t have to use Brightkite for image collection; I have other apps that upload to flickr. Again, it’s habit more than intentional selection of the right app. Brightkite – and the communicative drive it includes – has been my pencil of choice lately.

I don’t seem to use Brightkite to take or send textual notes. I lean towards the image with Brightkite, but I don’t have to restrict myself to this.

Target Stores: Store InformationCollecting
Part of working with mobile apps is sending local data to the cloud so the sender and others can use it. Images taken with a phone are far more useful, and easier to work with, when they are moved off the phone. On the phone, they can be viewed by the owner and others physically near the owner. Off the phone, they can be manipulated, edited, reused, distributed.

Collecting doesn’t need to be purpose-driven. It can be loosely driven from behind: Just gathering up stuff that might come in handy later. But it helps if collecting is spurred on, driven extrinsically. Grades or fulfilling assignments are the usual way, but not very good for really getting interesting stuff. So, try another way.

Purposes, and Leveraging the Communicative for Collecting
Posting images and notes to a common space (flickr, a wiki, Evernote) serves (as least) two immediate purposes. The post signals that something has happened: it’s a check in, a communicative gesture of bird here or task done. The post also places the image or text in play for other uses. (This is what I’m doing when I post to Brightkite.) The communicative gesture can be a pretty strong motivator; it’s immediate, anyway – especially if the context is set up to allow others in a group (nearby or following) to respond. That is, seeing what others are up to may spur more collection.

What’s next
Try collecting stuff using alternatives to Brightkite. One of the tasks I’m skirting around is the nature of the collecting: immediate or mediated. I’ve been going straight to immediate:

  • immediate: posting directly to flickr, Brightkite
  • mediated: saving to the phone, then vetting and uploading later

Debategraph homeGathering
After that, look gathering the stuff collected. Examples:

  • gathering stuff in a notebook with annotations, decorations, commentary. Get out the moleskines, the PoGo and the ink pens. Individual. A variation this would be creating a place note book or using Diffusion Generator to frame the gathering.
  • gathering stuff in a set (flickr) or group (flickr), on a map (flickr), and by tagging (flickr). Collective. As a set of favorites.
  • how to handle notebook-like gathering on computer or online (Curio is my current fave. Can be posted to web.)
  • and draw distinctions between varieties of gathering: like a scrapbook, like a map, like a categorized list, by tagging or key content word, by time, like a mashup, like a wiki or concept map.

And then, after that, start looking at other apps and materials for mashup gathering in multiple media: concept maps, Wordle, and delicious tag clouds.

Categories
General

yancey and writing in the 21st century

studio photoKathleen Black Yancey in her recent NCTE report Writing in the 21st Century (pdf) touched a chord for mobile teaching of writing.

Yancey sketches a 19th and 20th century history of writing in America, and mentions the changing spaces of composing, from pen and ink, to pencil, to ballpoint, to typewriter, to stand-alone PC, to networked PC/camera.

Here, she centers on a few observations that take me into mobile learning and mobile learning software.

  • Our current model(s) of composing are located largely in print, and it’s a model that culminates in publication. When composers blog as a form of invention or prewriting, rather than as a form of publication (which I did in composing this text: see kbyancey@wordpress.org ), what does that do to our print-based model(s) of composing that universally culminate in publication?
  • […]
  • How do we define a composing practice that is interlaced and interwoven with email, text-messaging, and web-browsing? As Mark Poster observes, composing at the screen today isn’t composing alone: it’s composing in the company of others. How does that change our model(s) of composing?
  • How does access to the vast amount and kinds of resources on the web alter our model(s)?

Composing is ubiquitous, Yancey claims in a statement designed to redefine the teaching of composing from K – 12 on. And so sites of composing are open for teaching and learning on the fly. But on the fly doesn’t mean without pedagogy. It means that because we can’t control the environment for composing or teaching composing, we need a strong, well-grounded pedagogy

I’m all for saying goodbye to the print-based aims and means of composing, but people are still heavily invested in it. It’s safe, known, bounded, academic. I watch students draft and edit in Word then paste a finished version into the wiki for presentation. They love that grammar checker, spelling checker, and word count; they love that double spacing; they love that paper. They love it because they have developed writing practices suited to paper from working with paper – like interlinear editing – and have yet to become deft at online and networked versions of those practices.

Anyway, a few points for mobile teaching and learning, starting from Yancey:

  • Where in a composing process based on paper (the model students bring with them) would a second or third person enter – and how? By IM, txt, email, comment? a look over the shoulder? Where in the process is the trial balloon of posting ideas and chunks to a blog or wiki for feedback from others? What does the text look like at that point? It might be ThreadMode on a wiki, or something less structured, or (yikes) something more structured. (Going to articulated sentences too early in the process make it difficult to rip them down to restructure.)
  • What has to be unlearned or challenged as the site of composing changes?
  • Look to how txt poetry has been composed for a start, and look to how people compose txts. The other morning, I watched a woman compose and send a 3 line txt msg on her qwerty phone between ordering, paying for, waiting for a coffee. On other mornings, when the coffee line was long, I composed and snapped a pic, annotated it with a note – about waiting in line – and posted it to Brightkite for whoever was looking in. What’s the process engaged there? What’s the exigence?
  • Composing goes on between other activites in the same composing space. Even as I compose this blog post, I’m doing some directory maintenance on a server, flipping between composing in ecto and deleting files in Transmit – and still having time on my hands while wait. Not two writing tasks, but two tasks. Walking and chewing gum.
  • To teach composing open to mobile learning, we may have to start with writing that stays online, that is not meant for print. Change the ends – the delivery – and the means might have to change.
  • Look at the physical, social, and cognitive activities that people engage and draw on when composing in the interlaced social space – composing in the company of others – to develop a model of composing. Start with the environs.

And then consider what a mobile course in 21st century composing might look like.