Thursday, January 24, 2013

Social Media: Work, Play, Share

By most accounts, and for better or for worse, social media is shaping the manner in which humans interact and affiliate. Humans have always engaged in social networking. But new digital media (web-based and mobile platforms, applications and sites) take social networking into an entirely new realm as tech savvy, media hungry content creators, conversationalists, curators, and consumers upload, download, post, and blog to their heart's desire. Popular social media sites allow our uploads to automatically cross-pollentate (feed into) other sites. That's a nice feature, making it possible to post an image, comment, and tags to multiple sites at the same time. Many sites allow uploading of content through both old technologies (computers) and new technologies (mobile applications, aka apps).

I've been messing around trying to integrate Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram so that I can upload content from my iPhone to multiple sites at the same time, without repeated posts of the same material going on any single site. My DIY strategy is trial and error, checking out the Help tools and FAQs in each site, Googling a question, and consulting a contact (viewing the online content of or direct messaging members of my Personal Learning Network (PLN) via my favorite just-in-time go-to places - Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, and/or Flickr).

Not all of these sites "play nice" together, and some of their sharing features are just confusing or don't work well. And there are interesting recent demographic trends occurring amongst users of various social media...worthy of further consideration.

Things that stood out today as I experimented on my compact-handheld-electronic-multimedia-communication-device (aka cellphone) with multi-site sharing features.

  1. Instagram. Instagram is a mobile app that has become increasingly popular amongst both tweens and artists. Instagram is a contraction of the words Instant+telegram. On my iPhone Instagram offers the option to simultaneously post content to Tumblr, Flickr, and Facebook. I only had to sign in to my other sites once to allow Instagram permission to post to them. Statigram is a web-based platform for viewing Instagram images from a computer rather than from a smart phone. (See my Statigram). Webstagram performs similarly, and I'm sure there are other  sites that similarly display Instagram collections by account holder. In Instagram (mobile) and Statigram or Webstagram (laptop) you can follow people, see who your followers are, and "like" images (like, in Instagram means clicking on the heart symbol). You cannot upload images from your laptop to Statigram. I noticed that Instagram crops pics to a square format (a tribute to the olden days of photography). That's not good when you don't want your images cropped. I posted this issue as problem on my Facebook page, and one of my FB contacts shared a fix (InstaSize) that retains the rectangular format of my iphone pics posted to Instagram. I tried InstaSize and went back to the regular Instagram square format. 
  2. Tumblr. Tumblr is an increasingly popular micro-blogging host. You can micro-blog in Timblr from a laptop or a cellphone (cellphone requires the Tumblr app).  Uploading an image from my iPhone to my Tumblr works well, and I had already set up Tumblr (on my laptop) to automatically post my Tumblr content to Twitter. In my web-based version of Twitter the "view photo" feature works for my shared Tumblr content. The Tweet also inserted a link back to my Tumblr where the image was originally posted. But in Tweetdeck (an app that works on both computers and smart phones), there is only a link back to Tumblr to see the content, no nifty "view photo" option.  For those who want to see content immediately, and not have to follow links to see a pic, this isn't cool.
  3. Flickr. Flickr is a web-based photo sharing site. I described Flickr in my previous post, so I won't dwell on it here other than to say that I can share content from my Flickr web site to both Facebook and Twitter, and the Flickr app for my iPhone also allows multi-site uploading of images and accompanying texts.
  4. Don't double share same content. This part gets tricky for newbies like me. Many social media sites allow cross posting to multiple sites at the same time. Instagram, Flickr, and Tumblr each will cross post to one another and to Twitter and Facebook if you tell them to. Sometimes I've cross posted a picture from my Tumblr account to Twitter without knowing, other times I've accidentally double posted a picture to a site. I've played around with my settings, specifically in my permissions for access in Flickr and Tumblr (to other sites), to see how my cross posts appear on my other sites. 
  5. Tag everything. Tags both make your content searchable, and they allow you or someone else to aggregate content within a social media site identified with a word or phrase. Twitter users have developed a sophisticated and robust hash-tagging system. Tumblr also has tags that work similarly (but without the hash mark). Without the tags or hashtags your posts are unsearchable. 
  6. Adult thumbs, adult standards. From an iPhone, it's almost impossible to correct typos in the comment box or subject area accompanying an upload. From my laptop, scrolling back and forth across the text is a breeze. That makes my mobile uploads subject to text errors, which I'm then compelled to fix, which means removing or deleting the content and starting over. Mobile is supposed to be fast and easy, but maybe built for 13 year olds who text all day, have small thumbs and don't care about spelling.
In closing, I should add that it has not gone unnoticed that 14 year old kids are already doing much of this, and K-12 teachers are, well, kindof behind. If there is a take-away from all of this, I would hope that the real message of this post is that everyone is creative; mobile media can be fun, exploratory, and educational; and that art educators have an important role to play in teaching, working with, playing with, and even learning from their already tech-savvy students.

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