#engageMOOC – The Twitter Chats

So. #engageMOOC is officially underway, officially lively, and very much still officially open to people joining in, even if just to listen for a part of the conversation or dip a toe in the waters.

Or write a whole opus or three. Whatever works.

There’s a lot going on so far.  We had a first live hangout (that lead Designer Sundi Richard saved from confusion and delay) and that a whole crew of participants waited through 20 minutes of dead air to start. Huge thanks, patient people.

We migrated #engageMOOC over to Future Trends Forum with Bryan Alexander today, for a rollicking conversation that included an admission that I do not like to count, in research. ;0

But the best parts of the course are emerging where the conversations are beginning to take hold.

In our discussion forums, there are conversations about whether John Perry Barlow was wrong, and questions about online engagement and community and anonymity, and musings about social consequences of bad online behaviour and what we should do when the shouting starts.

These conversations are what the course is FOR. People have been responding to each other, connecting, being generous.

But. The container of EdX in which #engageMOOC mostly lives is a constrained space for a lively open conversation. All platforms have limitations. A platform designed primarily to deliver content rather to foster discussion has significant limitations for a course that aims to convene a conversation.

Enter Twitter.

TWITTER for conversation, you say? 


Okay well not entirely. But Twitter, for all its *very* real issues – the pile-ons, the tactical decontextualization of people’s statements, the sea lions and the “well actually” folks – is designed for open, public conversation AND is still viewable even for participants who don’t have accounts.

The #engageMOOC hashtag is chock full of comments, requests, connections, distributed blog posts expanding on ideas…it’s happening.

We’re going for more.

One of the things we want to do in this course – even within its tiny pop up time frame and the limitations of our course space and our Google hangout provocations – is open up the questions and ideas people have brought to the table.

So tomorrow and the Friday after – the 16th and 23rd of February, starting at noon EST – we’ll have a Twitter chat, using the #engageMOOC hashtag. It’ll start at noon, and we’ll ask a question – based on participants’ intro questions for the course – every ten minutes or so for an hour. Participants can reply…or start whole new conversations and questions of their own, all on the hashtag.

If you want to just read the chat, click the hashtag. If you want to contribute, simply post or reply…and use the hashtag. If you can’t show up in the hour but have ideas to share to the conversation, the hashtag is *always* open.

Twitter chats are usually fast and furious. Do NOT feel you have to take it all in. You can’t. I can’t. Nobody will. It’s okay.

This in itself – this letting go and just focusing on the parts of the stream that you’re engaged with for the moment and letting the rest float on past – is a key web literacy, and (I think) key to getting any actual enjoyment from the web in an era of constant information abundance. THERE IS NO TEST AT THE END. Be wherever you are.

Join us, if you can. #engageMOOC. Try to remember the hashtag, if you’re tweeting. Answer the hell outta whatever question or branch or rabbit hole in the conversation interests you. Try to talk to some new people on the hashtag. Twitter, for all its faults, still has broad networks of engaged thinkers and learners and professionals of all stripes interested in sharing ideas…and a lot of them are in our course! The chats may be an easy way to build recognition and fledgling relationships – via follows – that you can take with you when our two weeks are over.

Thread your ideas (ie reply to yourself) if it takes more than one tweet to say what you want. That way people can read the whole train of thought.

And maybe try – if you think someone’s wrong – to offer an alternate perspective in a non-polarizing way. We’re aiming to practice what we preach, here: stumbling together towards a less polarized information ecosystem.

See you Friday at noon EST. Bring questions. 🙂

#engageMOOC – The Schedule

Hear ye, hear ye…

Our pop up MOOC – Engagement in a Time of Polarization (#engageMOOC) – starts…MONDAY.

It’s only two weeks long, so sign up right here STAT and feel free to dip in & out however much works for you. There will be four topics over the two week run, some video interviews with people waaay cooler than us, one core provocation or reading for each topic, and one live hangout per topic. Plus some background readings for the keen amongst us…and some Twitter chats.

Here’s the schedule. Mark your calendars. Sign up: it all goes live Monday.

We’ve been thrilled with the uptake so far and encourage anybody half-thinking about it to just…join in! You can participate via the discussion boards, OR in the open – every topic will have a challenge we post publicly. You can engage through blog or video responses and post using the hashtag #engageMOOC. Contributions to the hashtag will be gathered and shared back to participants: we’re hoping for some distributed discussion, and welcome participants to open up new channels, too, as you wish.

The Monday Feb 12th intro hangout is a provocation in and of itself…we’ll be debating “Does engagement even matter today…and why?” Sign up or watch the hashtag to view live & throw in questions. See you there. 🙂



Engagement in a Time of Polarization: An #Antigonish2-style Open Course

“The serious threat to our democracy is not the existence of foreign totalitarian states. It is the existence within our own personal attitudes and within our own institutions of conditions which have given a victory to external authority, discipline, uniformity and dependence upon The Leader in foreign countries. The battlefield is also accordingly here – within ourselves and our institutions.”
(John Dewey, 1939)

Thursday, the FCC voted to end #NetNeutrality.

Okay, I’m in Canada. But most of the platforms and providers I use – for my teaching, my professional presence, my research, my entertainment, and all the blurry spaces in between – are not. They’re primarily US platforms.

So the repeal and what it means for education concerns me – even up here in the Maritimes – as a scholar, a higher ed professional, and a member of society.

(Sure, the open internet is a TERRIBLE platform for speech and justice. Point. But as Tressie McMillan-Cottom states very clearly, “the end of net neutrality also means the regulation-by-capital of online spaces where minority groups shut out of traditional media, politics, and economies have thrived.” So things are only set to get more stratified from here on out. That’s a problem.)

It’s not a problem any of us has a tidy solution for. But. Maybe it’s time to announce that some of us are convening an open conversation to try to grapple with some of what’s at stake: politics and polarization and participatory models for engagement and change.

From February 12-26, 2018, Dr. Natalie Delia Deckard and myself will facilitate a two week “pop-up MOOC” on EdX, with Davidson Now.

We want to invite you to join us.

Engagement in a Time of Polarization will be a discussion as much as a course, with provocations and live hangouts with leaders of this cultural conversation of the moment. Mike Caulfield, Chris Gilliard, Kris Shaffer, and (hopefully) Zeynep Tufekci will all join us, supported by Davidson’s Sundi Richard and staff, faculty, students and alumni. And all of you. 🙂

It’s the next step for #Antigonish2, as a concept and a network. We’ll explore some of the history and legacy of adult ed participatory engagement, then dive into what this means today, across education, government, and media.

Registration on EdX will open soon. If you want to be notified, sign up for the #Antigonish2 mailing list using the form on the sidebar to your right, and I’ll be happy to let you know when we’re open for engagement.

All welcome. Please share.

Songs of…Experience?

November.  Rolling on an Amtrak train across North Carolina, on my way to Triangle SCI. Our team – one of six chosen for the Institute, woot! – will spend four days in Chapel Hill working on scholarly storytelling and digital storytelling. I’m here because of #Antigonish2 and its emphasis on participatory engagement models…I’m excited to see where the conversation leads.

But the journey is a story already, really.

This is the first Amtrak train I’ve ever been on. I heard Tom T Hall songs on a jukebox in Charlotte last night that I hadn’t heard in years. This is a part of the world I only know from books and songs. Just being here feels like some kind of peak Americana.

We just whistled past a little brick house by the side of the tracks with a big hand-painted sign in front of it that reads “THANK YOU JESUS.”

It leaves me wondering about the versions of North Carolina I am prepped to recognize and absorb, and all I’m missing. Whose stories I’m missing because they were not the stories I grew up on as my own/not my own, north of the border but somehow part of a shared dominant cultural narrative. I think about Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story.”

I joke on FB that I flew from Charlottetown to Charlotte – both named after the same 18th century British Consort – and the airport promised me Billy Graham but I ended up with Burt Reynolds & I’d call it a win. All true. Still odd to visually revisit the white patriarchs of my 70s-80s childhood.

Anyway, I am here. Trying to tell it is never the same as the experience.

I am thinking about about storytelling as experience.

Academic and scholarly forms of storytelling – or knowledge dissemination, if you prefer the formal term – don’t tend to privilege the experiential. They tend to be abstracted, content-focused. Yet I keep seeing a FB link about how we can’t change people’s minds just with facts and content…I can’t find this FB link thanks to spotty train wifi, of course, and maybe it’s fake news (edit: it’s here, thanks Bob Gray!)….but with a grain of salt or two, I think we might want to begin to consider – from the big picture of academe – what we lose when we tell our stories the way we do. For the often-intentionally limited audiences we frame ’em for.

On the plane yesterday I read a blog post by Keith Hamon in which he explores the #MeToo hashtag as hyper-object and experiential…that there is no unity or single artifact to emerge from the hashtag, but rather the noise is the point. I also read an article in which major alt-right Twitter personas were just outed as Russian trolls. So much of what has shaped public narrative in the last 16-18 mos is still something we don’t fully have literacies to process, because tactical uses of Twitter make possible the unleashing of any narrative into an experiential environment that can convert biases and prejudices and positionality into perceived reality, into things people can’t unsee or unknow.

The combination of the two pieces got me thinking that being literate in a hashtag world involves recognizing that media are now experiential, full stop.

We are part of the circulation of this entity we cannot grasp as a whole. We need a new focus on literacies to make sense of it all…that was always the point of #Antigonish2…but the idea that they may be experiential literacies is one I’ve been bumbling towards. I hope to dig into more deeply this week.

And I want to find ways to put those diggings out there, where others can join.

When academic stories – academic knowledge – are mostly tied down in restricted and expensive journals and specialist language and reliant on journalists and audiences busy with nuclear threats and Nazis in the streets and catastrophic natural disasters and shootings, what gets lost?

This is what I’m thinking about, rolling across North Carolina with Amtrak spotty wifi.


Community: a 4-word story

In March, a woman I didn’t know sent me an email, with an idea.

I knew her name, her Twitter handle, and that she lived in the UK. And I knew she’d signed on early to Antigonish 2.0, as a member of Layer One – our network layer (you can sign on too on the sidebar to the right, AHEM).

Her email suggested we try a 4-word story Twitter chat, along the lines of an initiative some mutual friends of ours had done with #DigPed awhile ago.

I remembered that another volunteer had mentioned we should do something on Twitter with the burgeoning community…to give people the opportunity to chime in, share ideas, see each other. I figured…well then. There it is. Our next step.

When you’re trying to start a project off the side of your desk, other people’s ideas – especially ideas those people are willing to lend actual support and amplification to – are a gift.

So I asked the network for 4-word stories of community. All day long, Friday March 31st.

Our network is currently has 135 official sign ups,  and is probably about twice that size in terms of ambient interest expressed via social channels. We live all over, on four continents thus far, and in about ten time zones. Conventional one-hour Twitter chats don’t always work well for a group that dispersed, and I’ve founded extended chats to be gentler, less overwhelming ways of bringing new tweeters and new community members into a conversation.

Why community as the topic?

Of the three pillars of the Antigonish 2.0 theme – Media Literacy | Community | Citizenship – it’s community that’s core to anything this project eventually becomes, or builds. Antigonish 2.0 is about community capacity-building across networks, institutions, and localized community circles, to address our current polarized information ecosystem…and society. Media literacy is simply a lens, a critical tool for beginning to look at the division and spectacle that are the hallmarks of that ecosystem…and society. Citizenship – both in digital and nation-state terms – is a fraught and complex concept in any globalized conversation…and one that needs to be foregrounded in an era of closing borders and fear. But it is community – in all its tensions and possibility – that will be the engine that either makes or breaks our efforts here.

Layer One of Antigonish 2.0 – the network – needs to be as much about community as Layer Three – the “actual” community layer.  Particularly in the absence of, y’know, pay and hierachy and prestige structures. What community can offer is belonging, and support, and a sense of capacity to contribute. A sense that something’s happening that’s bigger than any individual, and an opportunity to tap into energy that’s bigger than any of us, either.

That energy came out in full force Friday.

I’d initially planned to Storify the archive, but when we passed 700 tweets & retweets (and Twitter’s new visual notifications looked AWFUL in Storify format)  I decided just to direct folks to the actual hashtag in all its richness. Seriously. Check it out.

Overall, more than 200 people contributed – many completely unknown to me until Friday – and while there was more amplification than extended or in-depth conversation, there were healthy critiques of idealized versions of community and a genuine enthusiasm that made me confident the time is right for what we’re doing here.

A few highlights to share:
First, a dataviz glimpse of some of what the chat looked like by Friday evening (thanks to Autumm Caines & Daniel Lynds who both did great visualizations of the chat) – you’ll notice I’m still a far-too-big node in the centre. But that’s normal for a first conversation in an emergent community with one identifiable core member. As we do more of these – and we will – I expect new hubs and threads will decentralize and distribute the conversation. But for the moment, this kind of coming together is powerful and kinda beautiful.

And in lieu of Storify,  a few contributions – too few – among the MANY worth sharing here. One of the strengths of the #4wordstory constraint – and Twitter in general – is that it forces an a poetic rather than prosaic approach; a form of thinking that demands engagement on more than a single level.


Thank you. To everyone who shared, or hearted, or re-tweeted. Or just followed along. Thank you for getting us started, helping us get a sense of who we are, together.  And if you missed it, it’s never too late. 😉

My own final #4wordstory contribution, which never got tweeted as it came to me as I fell asleep Friday night, full of appreciation for an extraordinary day and the woman I didn’t know (but do now, thanks to her idea):
the colleagues we need
for work that calls

(Yeh, that’s kinda eight words. Call it poetic license). 😉