This week’s assignment to explore “personal learning networks” through social media came at an auspicious time. Unlike Jason and Dave, last week’s snow days freed up some time for me, because of the particular moment I was in for each of my courses. (I’m screwed this week, but that’s another story.) That meant I had a fair amount of time on Thursday and Friday to play with Twitter and RSS.
Like Jason, I embarked on the process of building a more robust PLN with a bit of trepidation. On the one hand, I’m fairly aware of a lot of the digital communities out there in my field (H-Net, which I mentioned last week, Common-Place, an online early Americanist journal, and The Junto, a group blog of junior early Americanists that I know and respect, among others), although I generally do a poor job of keeping up with them. But nevertheless, they are a valuable source of ideas, announcements, and connections in my scholarly life. But on the other hand, I am incredibly defensive of the time I can devote to my own scholarly work, especially as an overworked-and-underpaid UMW faculty member. Especially during the semester I rarely have extended periods for my own writing, so I’m suspicious of anything that can serve as a further distraction in those precious moment. Since the reading this week really focused on social media as the source and medium for PLNs, I have to admit I was skeptical that it would be of value.
After a few days of playing around, on Twitter and with TinyTinyRss, I have come to the guardedly optimistic conclusion that technology can potentially make my social media consumption more efficient, which can allow me to either expand my PLN or to digest its insights more quickly so that I can spend more time writing. As I was promised, Twitter really does seem to fit in pretty well in between bigger tasks, much more so than Facebook. And TTRSS has allowed me to begin to rationalize the blogs and news sites that I consume, which allows me to move through them more quickly and more efficiently sort the wheat from the chaff. And both have associated iPhone apps, which I find incredibly useful for filling in otherwise dead moments when I’m out and about. The last piece of the puzzle is figuring out a way to store links and articles for future reference, a technological problem that I learned more about from an interesting Twitter conversation on Thursday evening. When I have a spare moment this week, I am going to explore implementing Jim Groom’s solution.
After all my snow day digital mediating, I spent Friday afternoon and all day Saturday on my first (decidedly analog) historical love: rooting around in the guts of old buildings, understanding how they work, how they were put together, and how they can get made new again. In this case, I was working on the plaster and wiring of the William Cox’s 1839 residence and clockmaker/silversmith’s shop, on Caroline Street in Fredericksburg, soon be the home of the new Skin+Touch Therapy.