Monday, October 10, 2011

Great discussions on Google+

Great discussions on Google+ over the weekend. Twitter, not so much (although I remained a resolute spectator during HallyMk1's retweeting of the Communist manifesto on Saturday night).
I asked the same question of students and colleagues:

Colleagues: Having an interesting conversation with my colleagues about whether using smiley faces ("emoticons") in social media makes communications academically less authoritative. What do you think?
- Probably yes, but sometimes you don't want to be 'academically authoritative' ;)
- I'm sure many of my colleagues would deplore the practice.
- Different strokes to different folks. Some academics are less interested in having a veneer of "authority" than others. Reminds me of the old debate about whether "popularizers" lose their academic cred.
- Fair point, but isn't using emoticons to replace the loss of face to face contact in online media a fundamental communication skill? At the least it is part of "emotional intelligence".
- Doesn't it also need to account for the difference in medium? If publishing formally one would expect to dispense with emoticons. If attempting to communicate, in a real time fashion, adding an emoticon provides a widely recognised means to disambiguate communication, thus avoiding the problems of tone inherent in email and other text-based media.
I tend to use emoticons once a social media conversation is underway, rarely in a starting post.
- I agree xxx. I don't think many of my colleagues do...
- Well, I suppose it's for each and every teacher to define their identity, in either a face-to-face or online context, but I don't have a problem with it and don't see it as unprofessional so long as the term LOL is avoided in all but ironic usage.
- LOL (you left me no choice ;-)
- This is the sort of post for which I can use the "report abuse" option, right?
- LOL.
- Nonsense - nothing wrong with using emoticons as students are already familiar with these. If one does not demonstrate how to use them then the only authority being maintained is historical academic stuffiness.
- Who cares about authoritative anyway? Seriously, are we back with trust here? As others commented, it depends on the context if the use of smileys improves or degrades the effectiveness of the communication. But authority in academics should really have to do with content, not form... Alan, please confront your colleagues with their false starting point... I am curious to learn how they will defend that...
- Very hard question. As a researcher, I would say there is no place for them in academic communication. As someone using social media massively, I would say this is only a form of communication,
therefore, it's ok.
- As a teacher, having "authority" is important in conveying information to students. Whether emoticons interfere with that process is the question.
- Understood. So, let's identify first then, when such a smiley would interfere. If a teacher's authority is based on coolness, relaxedness, or whatever, then a smiley can make or break that. If the authority is based on how much cool stuff you learn as a student, then it matter much less, whether a smiley is part of the package deal; an image of single molecule would still be impressive.

Students: Having an interesting conversation with my colleagues about whether using smile media makes communications academically less authoritative. What do you think?
- Unless you strive to keep a face of stone as a professional in re much different. Unless it were in the extreme!
- I thought its a bit like writing a letter and I would never put a letter but I guess it depends on the context.
- I think it depends a lot on the context - if you'd normally tell someone the information in that post in quite a casual way (e.g. I found this really cool article, what do you think?) it's probably OK. But if it's a more formal message (e.g. This video shows one side of the argument that HIV doesn't cause AIDS - an interesting and important controversy) then you should keep that tone by not using emoticons. Oh, and just in case, I do know HIV causes AIDS!

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