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
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.
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.
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
- 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.