This morning I received a coded message. J O #he08091. Like M’s best secret agent I casually slipped the phone back in my pocket and mulled this over. Being a modern type I knew that all hashtags lead to Twitter so off I went to ‘join the conversation’.
The #tag was for an online poll being run in Laura Smith’s Home Economics Department lecture at Dundee Uni (how specific) to track student participation i.e. if you are paying attention at the back. J O being Jamie Oliver and the point was to give feedback on JO’s influence on the national waistline (I think). No classic hands up voting for Dundee, why was this even happening? An effort to engage with its students who, like most of us, have tendencies towards ADHD perhaps. (I for one currently have 17 open items on my startbar, which will require me making a To Do list for when I might get around to finishing any one of them). Our inability to concentrate is hardly surprising when you consider how many streams of information we are expected to digest; 10 x more news and 10 x more quickly than at any other time in history. Sounding the mantra of ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’, channelling educational debate through Twitter in the classroom is surely the new age equivalent of watching a BBC Schools video at the end of term.
Perhaps we should apply this approach to more things. I could tweet my customers shortlinks to manuscripts, and receive their comments and offers in 140 characters. I could do deals without the lengthy exchange of banal ‘how are you’ babble. Without lengthy emails, I could start a new wave of cool, modern sales exec: I could triple my productivity (read bonus)! Perhaps you could some day tweet your landlord who would in turn tweet his handyman and we’d never have to speak face to face ever again. Tweet your bank for a new card, your boss that you’re off sick. Sure, some things would be lost, the art of punctuation, conversation and real spelling but think of the time you’d save!
The difficulty with mass engagement like this is it assumes you and all the world are at the same level of technosavvy so when you are, for example, Laura Smith, and you didn’t catch the hashtag because you were trying to set up your twitter, the coming fall is not long after the pride you felt when you first got that iPhone. I’ve had a similar generation fail recently in attempting to get onto Google+. Much like my mum’s story of being asked for the web address of her company in the early ninties and only being able to give the person an email address, because only the developers really knew about webpages back then, technology has raced ahead of me too. Where actually IS it, this G+? Google and Apple seem to be involved in some conspiracy to go so minimalist as to be (more) unhelpful. I’m at a genuine loss. Perhaps if I tweet an apple genius…?!
So think when you next aim to join the conversation, by retweeting support for a cause, or #tagging about current events and informing an opinion, or commenting on trending topics, you might actually be joining a lecture and going back to school.