Tag Archives: social media

Blogging and my Twitter vacation


I wanted to write about my Twitter vacation because I wanted to think about the interaction between Twitter and my blogging activity (and I’m someone who needs to write in order to think). In an earlier post, I described how, after a few years of blogging, I’d come to think of my posts as falling into two categories. One I called hey-look-at-this posts — short, quick references to interesting things I’d recently read. The other type was longer and, ideally, was more reflective and — dare I say — substantive.

I felt that writing quick posts was distracting me from writing longer ones. It occurred to me (this was in 2011) that I could simply tweet the items that interested me rather than blog them. What I hadn’t anticipated was that, once I started tweeting frequently, I practically stopped blogging. After a few months, I felt a need to explain my absence and wrote a post called On sabbatical. I assume my decline in blogging was due to both the time I spent on Twitter and Twitter’s ability to satisfy my desire to communicate. Read more


My Twitter vacation


On December 22 I pinned a tweet to the top of my tweet list saying I was taking a vacation from Twitter. I didn’t speculate, publicly or privately, on how long this would last. It was an experiment. I linked to a nice post by Adam Brault (@adambrault) called I quit Twitter for a month and it completely changed my thinking about mostly everything. My own vacation was less earth-shaking, but it did get me thinking about my digital habits.

On January 8 I came across a review of a book whose author I follow on Twitter (A History of Lung Cancer: The Recalcitrant Disease by Carsten Timmermann). Since I wanted to share this with my Twitter history of medicine colleagues, I broke my Twitter fast and unpinned my vacation tweet.

So it turns out I went seventeen days without Twitter. Subsequently I’ve found myself only gradually resuming my typical Twitter behavior. It’s too soon to say whether this vacation permanently altered either how active I am on Twitter or the nature of my tweets. That’s a definite possibility. The main reason I haven’t resumed my prior behavior is that seventeen days seems to have been enough time to acquire a new set of habits. Read more


Technology and New Challenges for Privacy: Journal of Social Philosophy Special Issue


The good news: The new issue of the Journal of Social Philosophy is a special issue on “Technology and New Challenges for Privacy.” The less good news is that it’s entirely behind a paywall.

There are no abstracts per se, but the first page of each of the seven articles (including the introduction by editor Leslie P. Francis) is available. I used my snipping tool to place the text below. (Note that the emphasis has been added by me.)

What looks especially interesting here:

  • The use of large-scale sets of health data raises questions of social justice that are often obscured by the way they are framed. (Privacy, Confidentiality, and Justice)
  • Continuous surveillance can place individuals at risk of physical, economic, political, or other damage. Just being aware of how susceptible we are to objectification by anonymous watchers can feel belittling. (Continuous Surveillance of Persons with Disabilities: Conflicts and Compatibilities of Personal and Public Goods)
  • The interests aligned against privacy are often defined in terms of their larger social value, and the protection of privacy often has lower political priority than other social interests. (Privacy and the Integrity of Liberal Politics: The Case of Governmental Internet Searches)
  • Weighing the value and the harm of anonymity (The Ties That Blind: Conceptualizing Anonymity)

Read more


A self-indulgent account of my journey from ‘Vanity’ to the nature of the contemporary self

identity-self-vanity-nikolas-roseI started this blog because I was interested in understanding the history of the self. Based on the reading I’ve done so far, I can see that various academic disciplines (philosophy, sociology, critical and cultural psychology, cultural and intellectual history) have substantially different “explanations” for how and why the self has changed. I can identify explanations that seem compatible with my intuitive preconceptions (not the most objective approach, I know), but it’s clear that the underlying assumptions of any one explanation are open to legitimate criticisms — most of which I’m not even aware of.

As a result, I hesitate. I am a complete novice with respect to this particular subject matter, and my background in these disciplines is the result of an incomplete and haphazard self-education.

Nevertheless, I seem to have arrived at a strong preference for the explanations offered by Nikolas Rose. Many (though certainly not all) of Rose’s fundamental ideas are indebted to Foucault. I am not a student of Foucault, but — thanks to Rose — I have come to appreciate such concepts as problematization, governmentality, responsibilization (an extension by Rose of governmentality), normalization, techniques of the self, and the conduct of conduct.

I would much prefer to avoid using terms such as these in what I write. I appreciate the efficiency of communication that academic terminology provides, but unfortunately it limits one’s audience. The nature of the self is potentially of interest to anyone, not just to those who engage in academic investigation and debate. Fortunately, Rose writes with the intention of being understood by a broad audience. Read more


Harvesting your intentions: Tumblr’s David Karp meets Zygmunt Bauman

david-karpShortly after Yahoo confirmed its plans to purchase Tumblr for $1.1 billion, Charlie Rose interviewed 26-year-old Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp. Karp was wearing his signature gray hoodie. Rose sported a purple tie. I was struck by what Karp had to say about advertising.

Here’s the set-up:

Rose: What excites you the most? The building of the business or creating the product?

Karp: So, we have this … ah … look. The product is why I got into this. I have to tell you that the business end of this has become such an interesting, exciting, fun challenge for us, because we’ve got this thesis that we can build a business that not only does not compromise everything that is special about Tumblr – makes it such an incredible home for these incredibly talented people – but actually makes Tumblr a better place. In the same way that, you know, if you ripped all the ads out of Vogue, one, it would be half the magazine, but two, it would actually lose a lot of the great content. The way we’ve approached advertising doesn’t look anything like advertising across the rest of the Internet today. So much of …. There’s a lot of nuance here, but, you know, so much of …

Rose: But explain it to me,

Karp: Sure, sure, sure.

Rose: … because it’s the essence of what you’re trying to do.

But here’s where it gets really interesting (my emphasis added) – where Karp expands on what will make Tumblr a “better place.” Read more


Learning in public

As mentioned in the last post, what follows is something I wrote over a year ago. I decided not to publish it then because … I don’t know, I guess because the subject made me uncomfortable. It asks the question: Is it OK for me to be a complete amateur in public? The answer when I originally wrote this was no, but I might want to do it anyway. The answer now is yes, let’s get on with it.

Sitting in lecture

How students learn best

Back in 1990, a physics professor at Harvard (Eric Mazur) noticed that his students were learning “next to nothing.” After studying physics for an entire semester, their erroneous conceptions of how the physical world actually worked were firmly intact. So one day Mazur tried an experiment. After several unsuccessful attempts to clarify a concept, he suggested to the class (of 150 students) that they discuss the matter among themselves. It worked. He reports: “within three minutes, they had figured it out.” Read more


The self-conscious blogger

I blog therefore I amBlogging makes me uncomfortable, but it’s a discomfort that interests me. It’s not the discomfort itself I find interesting (especially my own), but the experience of being a self in a public space, the self-consciousness that engenders, and the reflection that provokes on what it’s like to be a conscious self.

When I first started blogging, I didn’t feel self-conscious. I was probably too preoccupied with identifying and pursuing my subject matter. Within the first year, however, the idea of “the self-conscious blogger” started to appear regularly in my private journal. Why am I doing this? Should I be accomplishing something? How much should I care about not accomplishing what I only vaguely perceive as my intention?

Self-consciousness is usually associated with self-presentation: How am I perceived by others? How does that make me feel? I had no interest in blogging about my personal self, i.e., my private life. By the time I’d accumulated a year’s worth of posts, however, I could see that 1) my choice of subject matter revealed my interests and 2) what my interests conveyed was an incomplete picture of how I understood myself. Read more