This week I reflected on different networked affinity spaces I use to connect with people, learn new skills and ideas, and inform my thinking. As Gee (2013) asserts in The Anti-Education Era, people might actually be better suited to thinking with others and through the assistance of varied tools instead of thinking alone.
Using social networks and different online communities, I strive to participate in a range of networks to broaden my perspectives, participate in and contribute to communities, and build relationships with others (Jenkins, 2011). In fact, some of my networks, like Twitter, have gotten so large (i.e., following 3,500+ accounts) that I often only catch snippets from certain people or groups. To ensure that I stay up-to-date with my closest affinity groups, I create lists and specific hashtag streams in Hootsuite (e.g., #dtk12chat and #makered) but this means I see more of those discussions and less of other ones.
This is part of a larger concern that Pariser (2011) and Gee (2013) warn about in their work. Due to the flexible, personalized nature of technology and networks today, it is easy to consciously and unconsciously create an information bubble that echos the same ideas and perspectives back at you. Byrne (2016) wrote a great post recently discussing the dangers of these “echo chambers” and the power of social media, in particular, to “reinforce your existing point of view in order to give you more of what you like” creating filtered information bubbles.
With the concerns of an echo chamber on my mind, I tried finding new sources of information to add to my “information diet” this week to broaden the bubble I have created on Twitter. At first, I searched for accounts that might push my thinking around issues of testing and standards, school choice, and innovation. It was hard finding accounts that focused on one selective area and I realized a hashtag search might be a better way to broaden my perspectives. I chose three hashtags, #edpolitics, #educolor, and #unschooling and created a new tab with individual streams for them in Hootsuite. My hope was that these streams would bring to the forefront ideas and discussions that I might often miss in my Twitter network because while I follow people who discuss each of them, it is easy for them to get lost in my filtered bubble.
Following these streams for the past week helped push discussions and resources related to racism, testing, education funding, and unschooling to the forefront of my Twitter feeds. For example, I read tweets from accounts like Alanis Morissette supporting unschooling and Education Week discussing ESSA. I was excited to see a breakdown comparing unschooling and schooling, find a new resource on game design, and read about new education bills and the new Secretary of Education nomination. I was also concerned to read articles such as this one discussing teaching practices at Success Academy Charter schools, which came up in different ways on both my #edpolitics and #educolor streams (see image). There are clearly difficult discussions that need to be happening around these topics and I can only participate if I actively ensure they are not filtered from my feed.
I appreciated the opportunity to examine the information I take in each day more closely and take some control over the algorithms (which are about to increase on Twitter) that might be limiting which articles I am exposed to through my networks (Pariser, 2011). I hope to continue this practice of singling out specific hashtags, which are not part of my daily stream, to continue broadening my bubble on a more regular basis.
Byrne, D. (2016). The echo chamber. [Blog post]. Retrieved on February 11, 2016 from http://davidbyrne.com/the-echo-chamber
Gee, J. P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan
Jenkins, H. (2011, August 4). Media Scholar Henry Jenkins on Participatory Culture and Civic Engagement. Retrieved on February 8, 2016 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgZ4ph3dSmY&feature=youtu.be
Pariser, E. (2011, March). Beware online “filter bubbles”. Retrieved on February 8, 2016 from https://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles?language=en
I wish I had read this blog on Tuesday when I was struggling to find new Twitter accounts to follow. I will definitely go hunting through your Twitter account this week. The hashtag idea is brilliant.
I have been a Twitter user for eight years now (my Facebook post about joining Twitter popped up on Timehopper this week), but I follow a relatively small number of people because I feel I can’t keep up with what’s happening when the feed just scrolls past me at great speed. I tend to follow people when I see an interesting retweet, but then I unfollow when they post too much, or just retweet large numbers of posts one right after the other. I have never used a secondary tool such as Hootsuite to follow discussions, but your post makes a really good case. I need to adopt a tool to help me sift through the mindless retweets, the cheerleaders (people who are fans of a product and tweet about how great it is over and over again), and the people who tweet a few amazing things on weekdays and twenty thousand play-by-play tweets about football on Sunday. It looks like you have been very successful at managing this. Thank you for sharing your success story with Twitter.