Dissertation- Progress towards a question

Dissertation- Progress towards a question

meme

I never thought it would be so difficult to come up with a question. Usually I leave these things on the back-burner of my brain to mull over until something clicks, however the subject of my ideas is an area I just don’t know enough about and it doesn’t help that there doesn’t seem to be much I can access on the topic.

I’m thinking about hashtags in relation to memes at the moment. Read more

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Dissertation Panic Begins

Dissertation Panic Begins

Here is the issue- I may or may not have 2 weeks left to write a dissertation proposal before I am forcibly removed* from my course again.

Previous ideas have included 1) Hashtags in the context of “why are we so fixated on forcing users to use them to classify our own collection when let’s-face-it most users are using them to maximise discovery of their own material and for descriptive purposes?” as well as 2) Let’s just describe how people use hashtags IRL for phatic communication (this was a more guided version of the above).

This has now turned into “Let’s do memes”. There is no telling how much of this has developed from my dependency on Tumblr for entertainment in the tiny seconds before bed and the minuscule blinks before I get up.

However, I truly believe that there is a proliferation of communication and culture that is occuring through meme-culture, something that might be a backlash of current risk-societies, economic depression and dissatisfaction with real-world society that is causing people to bond with each other through visual and aural motifs, allowing themselves to be understood in a virtual community, like an in-joke shared with close friends. This deserves to be examined, documented and classified by recognised authorities as a piece of our heritage that documents a zeitgeist shared exclusively on virtual platforms.

Also- I discovered that MEME LIBRARIANS EXIST. This is so important that it had to be capitalised.

Questions I have so far: what is this communication? How does it occur? How do memes evolve into other memes? Does this sort of evolving, mash-up of communication happen anywhere else in our history i.e. is there a precedent? Can we prove it’s cultural importance? Does this signify a change in the way we communicate? What significance might this have for the information profession? DOES it have any extended significance beyond the archival of these memes? Is there a specific demographic who are creating and or sharing memes? Is this a sub-culture? Where on earth do I find literature on this cultural phenomenon?

I have decided to use this blog to document my dissertation process, as it would be silly of me to recommend this sort of reflection to my EPQ students yet not practice it myself. Hopefully through writing out my ideas and development I can keep track of my thought process and document it for my own benefit later on in the process.

  • by ‘forcibly removed’ I mean applying for an extension and then getting stuck with months of no access to resources which last time meant I had to learn a module’s content TWICE. And it was research methods, which was the icing on the cake, really.  I just like those memes that says ‘forcibly removed’ :).

 

 

Social Capital- The Game of Life

Social Capital- The Game of Life

While being fully aware that I’ve not updated this blog in a long time, I’ve been focusing on studying for my Msc. Econ ILS, which I am well overdue to finish. As long as I don’t fall into another depression, the deadline is currently September and I am racing to finish the options module before embarking on dissertation.

The option I chose was Publishing and Web Technologies, which suits me fine a) because of my interest in the Internet, Web technologies and Social Media and b) my prior knowledge as a result means I should finish the assignments quicker, so that I can meet the looming deadlines. Now, while researching for the assignment, I ending up reading a lot about Social Capital and the concept of value given to social interactions. It occurred to me like this:

socialcapital

 

Most people use Social Capital is without realising it. By interacting with other people and acknowledging them, helping them and adding value to other people’s lives, they accrue a hypothetical store of value or kudos that makes other people want to help them out too. Online, this translates into retweets, joining in conversations, offering advice or help, following and recommending follows.

Personally, I have a huge problem with this because so far I have tended to view this transaction as the gamification of friendship in real life. What I mean is that, I never GOT this type of social interaction even as a child, to the point where I viewed these transactions from a distance and thought it dishonest to have a friendship based on them. It is akin to the “follow for follow” mindset that some people run their Instagram accounts with. “I shall continue to scratch your back as long as you scratch mine”.

The reality is that most social interactions are like this. If you do not go out with your friends to the pub weekly, even if you’re not avoiding them and have valid reasons, you will soon be ostracised from the group because you have not shared that experience and you have not been a team player. Similarly, in some games you must do certain things for characters in order to increase your relationship with them and achieve goals. Although I said that I view these transactions as gamification, it could be more accurate to state that games base these transactions on real life.

Image result for ff7 date
In Final Fantasy 7, hidden game mechanics meant that interactions throughout the game affected who you went on a date with mid-game.

 

Yet, Social Media practically RUNS on Social Capital, because that is the point of Social Media- to be social. If you want Social Media to work for you, you need to create and take advantage of those transactions to store capital that is then used when you in turn, ask for feedback or help or would like some acknowledgement. People are more likely to talk to people they know or feel comfortable with, so gaining their trust in this way is vital if you would like them to interact with you online.

How does an introvert or a person with social anxiety achieve this? A stereotypical view of people online is the portrait of the recluse in their room who connects with people in virtual environments. However, it may also be difficult for people with little experience of social interactions in the real world to then create these experiences online and it is likely that those who are popular online are also popular in real life because they can apply their real world social skills to the virtual world.

This is a problem when looking for the correct person to manage a library social media account if you have small staff numbers and they are all technologically capable but socially ill-at-ease. This is not to say that librarians are all like this, most of us enjoy helping customers and are good at interacting with them in a work environment, but in small pools of staff it may be difficult to find those for whom building Social Capital, which is a longer game than the fleeting interactions at the counter, comes as second nature. For me, I’m great at this at the counter, but in social environments it’s just difficult, unnerving and draining!

I wonder what other people think about this skill, would you say that you are good at this in your circle of friends? Have you managed to apply this online too? Or are you like me and despite being a helpful, loving and loyal friend you are just incapable of actively creating these transactions?

If you are like me, I suppose the ‘like’, ‘follow’  and ‘retweet’ buttons will have to remain our most powerful weapons online!

 

 

SubjectsPlus- Online content solution?

SubjectsPlus- Online content solution?

subjectpluswill
I wish all technology were as obedient as SubjectsPlus

When I attended the Lilac conference 2015, there was a session about libguides, a solution used by many university libraries to manage content for their subjects. It looked particularly useful for subjects such as careers, where a lot of the resources were useful for multiple pages. I took notes and left it at that.

This year I came to the realisation that I have a lot of useful knowledge about websites and other resources that I can’t currently promote effectively. Students are generally too lazy to use the VLE and the Online Library and want faster and easier ways to access the information they need. Our online subscription databases are used very little and nobody uses the library catalogue. Those students whom I catch studying in the library and interrogate about what they’re doing, benefit from my expertise but only because they were here and I started the conversation. Promoting resources to teachers doesn’t help much because I a) can’t catch them in the first place and b) they forget the resources exist and don’t use/promote them either. Offering to promote them in lessons is met with no reply- the library is forgotten despite my best efforts. Yet, when I help students they are often surprised and pleased that resources exist.

I decided to try to change the way I provide information to our 6th form students.

Our VLE is SharePoint and I find it very clunky to add certain resources- some items are blocked by filters, which is a shame as I find that social media such as Twitter can be very useful to discover new reports and information. Even dropbox is blocked! There was a need for me to able to upload documents, link to database pages and include links to resources. I also realised that I would need multiple pages to display information, which might not be suitable for the VLE and might clash with subject pages that already exist for class work. Lastly, I know from talking to students that they are TOO LAZY to sign in to the VLE. I know, I can’t believe it either, but there you go…

subjectsplus.jpg
A free option for schools?

While searching for libguides again, and realising that I would probably need some real money to pay for it (we have no money in the budget left) I stumbled across SubjectsPlus. SubjectsPlus is an open source content management system like libguides, allowing you to add resources in a flexible way. You can create guides and collections, add FAQs and basically build a database of electronic resources and uploaded documents. I realised that this might solve some of my problems, so I asked our techies to install it for me to play with.

My first thoughts- this will require some technical knowledge. My optimistic self decided that I would learn a lot from just attempting to make a database on this, so I wasn’t phased. Also, there are good wikis and Google+ groups to help the less knowledgeable user. However, finding out what it is exactly I need to learn is proving tricky. Simple tasks like linking my Delicious account to SubjectsPlus haven’t worked and I don’t know why not. I’m VERY good at finding and following instructions and it’s hard to tell how much of the issue is caused by the school’s firewalls without spending quality time at home. Does this also mean that students won’t be able to see these links in school?

Planning is also key. You can collate guides under collections and sort items by department. Deciding how you’re going to structure this resource will take some time and investigation into how the elements work together. Unfortunately, I don’t have time right now and again, I suspect I’ll need to play with this at home or wait until later in the year when I’m less busy. The one part I don’t understand so far is adding resources- this appears to be where you can add databases. I need to research how this works some more, and see how others have used it.My earlier investigations made sense, but other library activities have distracted me and I’ve forgotten what its purpose was.

subjectsplusscreen.jpg
I’m starting slowly, adding in basic information first!

Finally, I realised that most of the information I have isn’t recorded at all and is just tacit knowledge. Therefore, deciding to try SubjectsPlus has been useful as a knowledge management exercise, as I’m now making books lists and extended reading lists to add to the database. I’ve reorganised my links and created a taxonomy to tag them with, so that they can be sorted by subject, key stage and some purpose, such as “Research” or “Information Literacy”. The knock on effect though, is that I’m now looking at my physical collection with the same eyes and finding that it’s lacking organisation and consistency!

In summary, SubjectsPlus could provide solutions for school libraries and librarians looking to organise their resources and knowledge for curriculum, extra curricular and careers/HE topics. However, it does require a resilient and determined approach and/or technical knowledge and planning to build and implement. There is a wealth of guidance online to help use SubjectsPlus and some example websites, but not many examples that fully implement its potential resources. My aim is to start small- add a few guides, upload pre-existing documents and start creating book lists to upload and add as I go along. Have you had any experience of building a similar database?  Let me know!

Images from SubjectsPlus.

 

Thing 6: Reflective Practice

Thing 6: Reflective Practice

I’ve found it a little hard keeping up with Rudai23, but feel like it’s connecting me to many more people that before through the blogs and the small interactions I’ve had with other librarians on there. As Sarah Kennedy says in one of her posts, it’s nice to see that I fit in with the library world, having tried hard on my own to develop my skills and myself in order to take on new challenges. Sometimes I suffer from social anxiety, which I am trying very hard at the moment to overcome, as I feel that it’s the biggest barrier to my career development. I’ve been going to more conferences and trying to participate more and meet new people. It’s been great to be reminded that a lot of this can be done online, and that it’s not as scary as I may have thought.

It’s also been interesting hearing from librarians in different positions and locations and finding similarities between us. As a school librarian, it can be quite lonely tackling everything by yourself so, following blogs from other school librarians and learning that they don’t have secret knowledge that I don’t, is very reassuring! I’ve been following more librarians on WordPress as we go on so, it will be lovely to see how many new people I’m interacting with by the end of the course.

How I fell into librarianship

How I fell into librarianship

It’s one of the best parts of librarianship that so many of use come from other industries- we’re such a diverse bunch!

amys23things

Bkwm

I stumbled into librarianship, but in hindsight I think it was always meant to be, I just hadn’t realised. As a child I was a typical bookworm, brought up in a house with wall to wall books, spending every Saturday morning in the library with my well-worn library ticket. I followed my passion for reading into an English Literature degree, but left uni without any idea of what to do next.

I worked for years as a marketing consultant in an insurance company, in what felt like a “proper job”, with a proper salary. But I hated it. Marketing was interesting, but the ultimate purpose of the company wasn’t to help our customers, it was to make money for the shareholders, and this wasn’t something I felt comfortable with. There had to be something more, so I plucked up my courage and left, with nothing to go to. Bold or reckless I’m…

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Storytelling for Presentations

Storytelling for Presentations

The TED Commandments- see number 4,
The TED Commandments- see number 4, “Thou Shalt Tell a Story”.
Found on Duncan Hull’s Flickr- https://flic.kr/p/6q3DsE

Before the end of term I was approached by a Psychology teacher who asked if I could help with presenting and show her Sixth Form students how to present better. She told me that the main problems were:

Not enough talking- presentations took only a third of required time.

Not enough content in the speech.

Slides were just for decoration.

In a grammar school you might assume that students had been drilled in public speaking but after asking the students, I found out that they could not remember one lesson where they had been told how to present their work. I don’t think that this is an uncommon situation. Like ICT skills, I think it is often assumed that students pick up this ability but although they are given lots of practise, they are not provided with guidance. This leads to multiple experiences of horrible presentations, which don’t improve much because students aren’t taught how to make them better.

Presenting can be divided simply into 2 aspects- the talking and the slides. This is just like a book, isn’t it? The use of text and image together can make or break a story. Both must be working together to tell a story visually, aurally, and somewhere in between there is a greater understanding than within the parts. Of course illustrators and graphic designers are experts at this, but our students reckoned they spent 90% of their prep time working on the slides in PowerPoint and weren’t paying enough attention to the presentation itself. They are avoiding speaking in front of their peers and so, neglecting planning the dreaded words that will have to be spoken. Excessively self conscious, they don’t want to look like they tried in case they fail. There wasn’t enough time to work on all of this in the lesson without overloading them, so I decided to pick on the part I knew they hated the most- the speaking.

Storytelling is highly regarded as a key skill, for leaders, visionaries and of course, to sell products. When you are presenting, you are being given your chance to tell a story. This includes choice of content, use of words and expression and body language- all important for presenting. I wanted a video to exemplify the essence of presenting and storytelling to the students, in order to make the concept click. Although there aren’t many YouTube videos that fitted the bill (I only wanted a short snippet) I found this one from the Harvard Business Review, “The Art of Purposeful Storytelling”. From this video I took 4 key points which were:

  1. Presenting is unique because you can create an emotional and interactive connection with the audience, which is absent from submitted papers.
  2. You need to know your information inside and out and prepare FEROCIOUSLY for your presentation…
  3. … but on the day, you drop the script and talk authentically. Excellent preparation will allow you to do this.
  4. You know you’ve accomplished your goal when your audience takes ownership of your presentation, e.g. discussing it, sharing it with others.

For the next part of the lesson, I wanted to play a game to relax the students and tackle the issue of timing. Suspecting that most students were taking it for granted that they knew how long their allocated time was, I decided to recycle that old Girl Guides / Scouts game where everyone stands up and you time a minute. The students were timed for 3 minutes in this case and had to sit down when they thought that the time was up. Many of them got it right ( I suspect the clock ticking was audible) but they were surprised at how long it felt.

Finally, we had 30 minutes to work on a practical exercise WITHOUT slides. For this I used Chris Riddell’s “Illustrations in Search of a Story” series, which I’ve used now for a few different activities. I gave students 15 minutes to write a 1 minute story, rehearse it and then recite it in front of the class without the script. They were allowed 3 prompts which were to be written on an index card I gave them and handed in before their story. The pictures are fun and imaginative, which I hoped would help them get over their fear. Although they baulked at the prospect of not having a script to read from, they cheered up once I pointed out that their stories could be about anything, as silly as they liked and didn’t even have to be good at all.

Found on the Booktrust Website. I usually plug his work while using these.
Found on the Booktrust Website. I usually plug his work while using these.

The resulting stories were actually, rather good. As each student got up, I could see that they were nervous but having a few prompts helped and many of them presented far better than I thought they would. As with anything, there were a couple who tried to coast and this annoyed the other students who learned from their friends’ mistakes that a badly prepared presentation is usually rubbish to watch. Their teacher was really pleased with the session, the students were grateful and they were set a task for homework to present for 5 minutes on their recently submitted independent reports, without slides or a script.

After a fortnight I returned to the scene of the crime, to view the results of my intervention. The students seemed visibly more relaxed than in the previous session. In fact, the one who’d been the most nervous was much more relaxed than some of the others. Timing was much better than previously, according to the teacher, and everybody was able to talk without their reports or a script. The teacher was super pleased and is now asking me to come back and do regular sessions on different skills with her class next year.

Please feel free to borrow this idea for any sessions you may be running. If the same teacher agrees, I’m hoping to prepare a session on PowerPoint Slides, focussing on text and image working together and picking how to convey information in slides.