Category Archives: reflections & rants

travel schedule from hell, bright white light at the end

I’m about to embark on what can politely be called the travel month from hell: 12 cities, 3 countries, 13 different talks (with far too little overlap). I can bitch and moan, but there is a beautiful white light at the end of this horrid tunnel: hibernation. That’s right, the moment we’ve all been waiting for… (or at least the one that I have): Starting November 1, I will go into hibernation to write my dissertation. From thenceforth, only personal travel (weddings, burfdays, Xmas), no conferences, only 1 paid gig per month. I’ve been practicing the word “No” lately and am getting kinda good at it. And I need to be because I think that I will be in hibernation for a good 6-9 months. Crazy, eh?

Thus, this upcoming month of conferencing is bound to be a nice little social hurrah before I disappear into the world of dissertation. As usual, I don’t schedule anything during conferences but I’m always hanging around the conference or in the hallways and love adhoc socialization and food outtings. So, if it’s your thing, hopefully we can play at any of these public events:

(Oh, and to pre-empt the question that I’m getting frequently these days and am bound to get at all the academic conferences, the answer is: no, I’m not going on the academic job market this year. I’ll explain why a little later.)

my favorite books

Lately, quite a few folks have written me asking for booklists for this that or the other – course syllabi, lit reviews, summer vacation reading, etc. I decided that I should probably put together a list of my favorite books. I’m sure that there are things that I’ve forgotten, but this probably paints a decent picture of where I’m coming from. So if this is of any use to you, enjoy!

my favorite books

Full disclosure: I get a small kick-back for the links to Amazon. What I make from Amazon does not even cover the costs of server space for this blog, but it does help, especially since I’ve chosen to keep this blog ads-free.

Australian Education.AU seminar talks

Earlier this month, I had the great fortune to go to Australia as a seminar speaker for Education.AU. Everyone warned me that it was winter and would be frigid, but to my delight, the weather in Melbourne and Brisbane was not any colder than a San Francisco summer day. I didn’t get to see much of Australia (saving the ‘roos for next time), but I did have a fantastic time. The people were wonderful, the food was delicious (go Melbourne), and it was just so great to be around so many folks invested in education who were not afraid of technology.

To my delight, there are recordings of my talks available for those of you who couldn’t make it. There are lots of recordings cuz there was a LOT of me. In fact, I think I talked continuously for four days… many hours of which are on tape for your viewing/listening pleasure. The general topic was “Generation MySpace” and I was talking about social network sites, education, and learning. I did two keynotes, two sets of questions and answers, two panels, and a fireside chat (on top of lots of press and more 1-1 and small group conversations). Here are links of some of those pieces:

Keynote, Day 2, Melbourne

Keynote, Day 1, Brisbane, Part 1
Keynote, Day 1, Brisbane, Part 2
Keynote, Day 1, Brisbane, Part 3
Q&A, Day 1, Brisbane, Part 1
Q&A, Day 1, Brisbane, Part 2
Q&A, Day 1, Brisbane, Part 3
Panel, Day 1, Brisbane, Part 1
Panel, Day 1, Brisbane, Part 2
Panel, Day 1, Brisbane, Part 3
Keynote, Day 2, Melbourne, Part 1
Keynote, Day 2, Melbourne, Part 2
Panel, Day 2, Melbourne
Fireside Chat with Mark Pesce, Day 2, Melbourne

Personally, I liked my Day 2 keynote better (cuz I thought I was funnier) but your mileage may vary.

[More will come when I find all of the links.]

memorial for Peter Lyman

In July, my beloved advisor passed away after a long battle with brain cancer. When I posted about his death, I was moved to learn that many of you knew him and loved him so I thought you might want to know about the memorial service that will be held next month in his honor. Please pass this along to anyone else you know who knew and loved Peter. If you are inclined, a fellowship has been set up in his name.


A UC Berkeley campus memorial to honor Peter Lyman, former University Librarian and Professor in the Information School, will take place between 5 and 7 pm on Tuesday, September 11, at the Morrison Room in Doe Library.

Peter Lyman died of brain cancer, peacefully and at home, on July 2. Those wanting to honor his memory are invited to contribute to the newly established Peter Lyman Graduate Fellowship in New Media; checks addressed to the UC Berkeley Foundation can be sent to the UC Center for New Media, 390 Wurster Hall, # 1066, Berkeley CA 94720.

loss of context for me on Facebook

Le sigh. I lost control over my Facebook tonight. Or rather, the context got destroyed. For months, I’ve been ignoring most friend requests. Tonight, I gave up and accepted most of them. I have been facing the precise dilemma that I write about in my articles: what constitutes a “friend”? Where’s the line? For Facebook, I had been only accepting friend requests from people that I went to school with and folks who have socialized at my house. But what about people that I enjoy talking with at conferences? What about people who so kindly read and comment on this blog? What about people I respect? What about people who appreciate my research but whom I have not yet met? I started feeling guilty as people poked me and emailed me to ask why I hadn’t accepted their friend request. My personal boundaries didn’t matter – my act of ignorance was deemed rude by those that didn’t share my social expectations.

I lost control over my MySpace ages ago. I have long since given up responding to private messages on most SNSes. I had to quit LinkedIn after I got lambasted for refusing to forward requests from people that I didn’t know to people who are so stretched thin that I am more interested in hugging them than requesting something of them. I don’t know how to be “me” on Twitter because I can’t figure out how to manage so many different contexts. I find it funny when journalists ask me what SNS I use. I’m on most of the English ones, but they always grow to push me away. Each had an initial context for me, but each one grew and lost that context.

I realize that I’m in an odd position. In some sense, I’m a “public figure”… at least in the world of social network sites. People see my name in the press and they friend request me and it’s rude of me to say no. I should be grateful that so many people are so kind to me, offering feedback and ideas, allowing me to get my work out far and wide. And I am truly grateful, but I’m also depressed that I’ve lost the ability to participate in social network sites as a semi-private person. I do miss the days when I could goof around digitally and not be taken out of context by people who only know me as this strong-headed, confident public voice. Some days, I’m just not that together. Some days, I just want to bitch without being called a bitch. Some days, I just want to talk to people who couldn’t give a hoot about social media.

When Facebook became the IT girl for the tech industry, I knew that I’d one day lose it as a space where I talked to my friends from college. I’m going to try out the Limited Profile thing, just to see if I can have at least a partial channel for my college world. If we didn’t go to college together, please don’t take it personally if you can only see the Limited Profile. That said, I can’t even tell what’s visible and what’s not (lists aren’t good for me) so I probably will just refrain from doing much on Facebook, just like I refrain from doing much on MySpace.

They say that social scientists study aspects of human behavior that elude them. I used to giggle at this, but I think I’ve backed myself into a corner. I’m not so good at managing multiple contexts and, here I am, studying precisely that.

Anyhow, I know folks are still going wheeeeee about Facebook. And I know people generally believe that growth is nothing but candy-coated goodness. And while I hate using myself as an example (cuz I ain’t representative), I do feel the need to point out that context management is still unfun, especially for early adopters, just as it has been on every other social network site. It sucks for teens trying to balance mom and friends. It sucks for college students trying to have a social life and not piss off their profs. It sucks for 20-somethings trying to date and balance their boss’s presence. And it sucks for me.

I can’t help but wonder if Facebook will have the same passionate college user base next school year now that it’s the hip adult thing. I don’t honestly know. But so far, American social network sites haven’t supported multiple social contexts tremendously well. Maybe the limited profile and privacy settings help, but I’m not so sure. Especially when profs are there to hang out with their friends, not just spy on their students. I’m wondering how prepared students are to see their profs’ Walls filled with notes from their friends. Hmmm…

Education.AU = me + Australia

For the Aussies out there, I will be making my first trip to Australia in August. I will be offering two seminars as part of’s series. On August 6, I will be in Brisbane and on August 8, I will be in Melbourne. At each seminar, I will be lecturing for at least an hour, answering questions for a while after that, and participating in a panel with youth. There will also be workshops and other activities where I will help those present think through how to leverage what’s going on in relation to education, policy, technology, parenting, and social work. They should be pretty in-depth days and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to dive deep on issues related to youth and technology with a group of interested folks.

My understanding is that there is still space available if any of y’all are interested. You just need to register here. I should note that this is not a free event (getting me to Australia isn’t exactly cheap), but I think that it will be worth it. Deep dives on these issues usually are. So come! Bring questions! Let’s explore these topics together!

(My advance apologies to those in Australia who aren’t attending these events. My time is pretty heavily scheduled and so I won’t be able to meet up. Press is being handled by the folks at – feel free to contact them.)

processing Harry Potter

I just finished reading Book 7 and am now back online.

Like many other Harry Potter fans, I’ve avoided the Internet like the plague since the book leaked two days before the release. I added mail filters to prevent anything related to Harry Potter from reaching my inbox temporarily. I restrained myself from visiting websites that allowed open content and resisted from doing searches. I simply did not want to know the ending.

For the final book launch, I decided to stay in Boston since I knew so many fans that lived there. Besides, I absolutely love the independent Harvard Book Store and figured that the excuse to support them would be just wonderful. It was a good decision because there was so much enthusiasm in Harvard Square. “Harry and the Potters” played Harvard’s lawn and thousands of costumed children wandered about. They shut down the streets and there was HP music everywhere. The excitement was just overwhelming. And I couldn’t help but repeat over and over again, “all of this is for a book???” The little geeky fangirl in me was having a field day. As we stood smooshed in the crowd to pick up our copies, my friend was astonished by the number of college-aged boys willingly dressed like adolescents. He kept chuckling and repeating things that were being said further back in the line. My favorite? “How many people do you think have hard-ons here?”

Some of my friends were too afraid of spoilers and chose not to go out and celebrate on the eve of the book launch. The mere existence of people who find such joy in ruining others’ pleasure irritates me and so I was trying not to explode as friends were texting me with the antics of mean-spirited folks. One friend kept promising me that there was a most insidious place in hell for such folks. The spoiler who took the cake in the reports I got? The asswipe who had the gall to rent a plane and fly it over San Francisco/Berkeley with spoilers.

When I got to the airport on Saturday morning, I was giddy with joy over seeing hundreds of people waiting for planes, their heads all stuck inside the same book. The flight attendant kept asking me, “are you done yet?” and I kept glaring at him. It was clear that the dozens who were enjoying the book on the plane wanted to be left alone to read.

Personally, I had a hard time reading the book. I promised myself that I would read it immediately so that it wouldn’t get spoiled. But I wasn’t prepared for how much of it would center around Harry’s relationship to his mentor. I guess if I thought about it for a second, I would’ve known that. But I had to put the book down on a number of occasions as Harry worked through different emotional responses. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun by going into more detail than that, but for my friends out there, I feel the need to share that the book was a surprisingly cathartic experience for me. Grief is an odd thing, but thinking about Peter as Dumbledore brought a smile to my mouth alongside tears to my eyes.

RIP Peter Lyman

I had dropped out of grad school and was determined not to go back when my undergrad advisor encouraged me to meet Peter Lyman. I went to Berkeley to meet him only to find out that he had been called away to do jury duty. There was a message for me, telling me to come over for dinner with other grad students. So I arrived at his house, completely uncertain about what I was supposed to do or say. His casual, open, and supportive demeanor made me love him instantaneously and we chatted about all sorts of things. I felt an immediate connection and he encouraged me to apply, even if the deadline had already passed.

After I was accepted, we began plotting. We were always quite good at playing good cop/bad cop and working together to bend whatever rules faced us. We spent long hours talking about everything under the sun, going out for lunch or just sitting in his office grabbing books to debate about. I loved listening to Peter’s stories about starting the Free Speech Movement Cafe at Berkeley or talking to telcos in Mexico. Both of us had an activist streak and we loved plotting about how we would change academia or mediated society or whatever.

When Peter was first diagnosed with brain cancer, it was a complete shock. He went into surgery and I took over his class. We were all convinced that everything would get completely better and that optimistic outlook allowed us to plow through the worst of the pain. The surgery was successful, but chemo was a bitch. Even though he got better, the drugs ate at him and we had many painful conversations about how much life had changed because of the cancer. Still, we imagined a world when everything would get better and worked towards that.

Over time, new patterns emerged and we got back to plotting even though the pain never really went away. We talked about youth culture and academic publishing and regulation to suppress youth, albeit in calmer chunks than before. The MacArthur Foundation gave us plenty of room to plot and imagine a different future and we relished the opportunities to cause trouble together.

Four months ago, Peter called with dreadful news: the cancer was back, with a vengeance. Our conversations lost their plotting luster but Peter and I still got together and phone regularly to talk about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. As things grew worse, our conversations became more stilted, but his first student (Michael Carter) was always there to help Peter share stories. In the midst of all of this, Peter’s son Andrew and his wife gave birth to twin boys. Just the mere mention of the babies would put a smile to Peter’s face and a great deal of life revolved around those kids. But the cancer continued to do its damage and slowly, Peter faded away in the comfort of his home and with the loving support of his family. This morning, he left this earth.

Few students that I know have close relationships with their advisor. I was very fortunate in that way. Peter and I were always friends first, mentor/mentee second. Yet, he was always there to guide me through the perils of academic life. I wish that I could capture all of our conversations in a bottle. What I remember most is how much they always energized and motivated me to continue trying to change the world. I couldn’t have asked for more out of an advisor. He always knew who I should talk to or what I should read or how to make me think about a problem from a new direction. And no matter how crotchety I got in the field, he always gave me hope that change could happen.

I am going to miss him dreadfully. Peter was an amazing friend and an amazing advisor. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. May he rest in peace.

on (pseudo) holiday July 1-14

I will be on (pseudo) holiday in Israel from July 1-14. I will occasionally check email, but do not expect a response. I will be handling issues related to the JCMC special issue and I will be working on that while in Israel (which is the pseudo part of the pseudo holiday), but everything else will wait. Ciao!