Blog Post

old paradigms for a new mode


alternate title: we've always been doing it, just the tools have changed, yo.

[note: these are just fractured thoughts as I had them... forgive if they do not provide enough context or depth. I am happy to discuss further in the comments =)]

I read parts of Ann Blair's book - Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information Before the Modern Age - for a class, and I found a few interesting metaphors for Twitter and tweets. I intend to read further and will hopefully continue to post notes here.

in her book, Blair lays out a historical view of how and when information management began in the middle ages and describes the different methods by which people recorded and shared information. this includes descriptions of how texts and information were copied by hand and recorded, shared, or preserved in libraries. we still do exactly this with our information, only, the tools we use are different. Twitter fits into this paradigm as an information management tool because of the volumes of information that are tweeted and how these tweets are composed, shared, and as of April 14th, 2010, stored at the Library of Congress.

Blair talks about an interesting concept: florilegium.

“… which, rather than summarizing, selected the best passages or “flowers” from authoritative sources.”

Tweets can be thought of as forced florilegium – the constraint of 140 characters forces us to distill the important or best information (our own or from others) and share it. the idea that each tweet is a specially picked flower puts the onus on the author of the tweet to be trusted to have picked the 'best flower' to share. this also points to the role of curator that individuals often play – we choose what to tweet based on how we would like ourselves and the communities we are affiliated with to be represented.

in a great section on note-taking (in the book as well as this article (.pdf file)), Blair traces a practice that is centuries old having been used across genres; like by merchants for book-keeping and students for learning together. She also discusses note-taking as a memory aid and a writing aid and talks about the different ways in which note-takers figured out ways to manage their notes; like using a 'literary closet' in which one could store slips of paper in alphabetical order based on topics.

Blair describes Harrison and Placcius’ vision of the closet as a collaborative note-taking tool... Twitter feels like an updated version of this closet:

"… both Harrison and Placcius emphasized the virtues if the closet for what they called "public use," that is, for sharing with others the burdens and the rewards of note-taking."

"Harrison further envisioned group use of the closet: a group of students in a college or a literary society, say, six or more, could distribute among themselves books to read or arguments to read for and keep the excerpted passages in common in the closet. At a moment's notice they could all and all at once examine and compare opinions and authorities on any topic, gathered from a great mass of books."

there are several more examples of note-takers, note-takings, and types of notes in the book and article - those of you interested in this sort of thing will enjoy the detail and history of this activity.

Twitter allows for varied forms of note-taking, some covered by Blair, but also beyond those examples partly because of the affordances of the new tools. a type of collaborative note-taking manifests in the 'chat' communities on Twitter during their scheduled meetings. notes from these meetings are often archived and made available to the broader community via a wiki. people also use Twitter to record notes for class, connect with and share resources with their classnotes on books they are readingproceedings of a conferences, and even just short interactions that can be Storified. While it might be hard to organize these notes alphabetically (if one wanted to, that is), it is possible to categorize tweets or notes using hashtags, and then searching and sorting using those hashtags.

do you use Twitter for note-taking? how do you save your notes? how do you share?
how do you use hashtags?
as teachers or learners, do you use Twitter or hashtags in your classroom? what has your experience with this been?
do you use Twitter to connect with your community?

share your stories and questions and thoughts in the comments... I'd love to hear from you.
also, ask me stuff... I have more examples and resources - just don't want to add clutter here!

[cf: Maria Popova's great post on Networked Knowledge & Combinatorial Creativity from her Creative Mornings talk, and her post on 5 Vintage Versions of Modern Social Media from Centuries Ago.]

[from my original post. many thanks to Noel Kirkpatrick for invaluable inputs and reviewing, among other things.]



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