Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Ambient awareness" ... a fleetiing, Twittering thought

I woke up this morning and checked my Twitter feed ... saw something interesting ... "Ambient awareness" ... hmm I thought. Need to look at that.

Turned out to be a link to a Time Magazine article about Twitter; the relevant quote:

The technology writer Clive Thompson calls this "ambient awareness": by following these quick, abbreviated status reports from members of your extended social network, you get a strangely satisfying glimpse of their daily routines.
Yes! I thought, that's just it. Ambient awareness. I like it. Of course, some might also define it as "shallowness" but ... well ... uh ... I won't. I like the halo, the auro, the buzz, the Kirlian haze, that Twitter lets me have around the people in my world.

But I find Twitter gives me much more. To wit, or would that be "to Twit", conversation communication. In the article there's a discussion of a conference "covered" by Twitter:
Earlier this year I attended a daylong conference in Manhattan devoted to education reform. Called Hacking Education, it was a small, private affair: 40-odd educators, entrepreneurs, scholars, philanthropists and venture capitalists, all engaged in a sprawling six-hour conversation about the future of schools. Twenty years ago, the ideas exchanged in that conversation would have been confined to the minds of the participants. Ten years ago, a transcript might have been published weeks or months later on the Web. Five years ago, a handful of participants might have blogged about their experiences after the fact.

But this event was happening in 2009, so trailing behind the real-time, real-world conversation was an equally real-time conversation on Twitter. At the outset of the conference, our hosts announced that anyone who wanted to post live commentary about the event via Twitter should include the word #hackedu in his 140 characters. In the room, a large display screen showed a running feed of tweets. Then we all started talking, and as we did, a shadow conversation unfolded on the screen: summaries of someone's argument, the occasional joke, suggested links for further reading. At one point, a brief argument flared up between two participants in the room — a tense back-and-forth that transpired silently on the screen as the rest of us conversed in friendly tones.

At first, all these tweets came from inside the room and were created exclusively by conference participants tapping away on their laptops or BlackBerrys. But within half an hour or so, word began to seep out into the Twittersphere that an interesting conversation about the future of schools was happening at #hackedu. A few tweets appeared on the screen from strangers announcing that they were following the #hackedu thread. Then others joined the conversation, adding their observations or proposing topics for further exploration. A few experts grumbled publicly about how they hadn't been invited to the conference. Back in the room, we pulled interesting ideas and questions from the screen and integrated them into our face-to-face conversation.

Yes, that hits it. Earlier this month, I flowed with the Twitter-feed (#ebio09)around e-Biosphere. Would I rather have been in London with the participants? Of course! But by following friends - and new found friends - via Twitter, there was a sense of being there.

At work, I've added Yammer to my communication tools. I've watched the Google Wave rollout video. I like it.

So, again, how did I find the Time article? Thanks to this Tweet:
brewinlibrarianRT @yestoknow: reading & thinking about "ambient awareness" http://bit.ly/FITYW
(or actually reTweet). Thanks to @brewinlibrarian (part of my extended network of news finders!) for an inspiring repost!



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