It occurs to me that, if I start trying to toss out manifestos on a daily basis, I’m going to burn myself out pretty quickly. So I thought I’d reflect today on some of the changes brewing that led me to resuscitate my weblog.
I really have no idea if the term is mine, but a long while back, I started using the word “mecology” for a couple of different purposes. It crams together the phrase “media ecology,” but also “me” and “ecology,” which put me in the mind of Ulmer’s mystory (among other puns). I’ll have you know that mycology is taken–insert “fun guy” pun here. 🙂
Anyhow, for about 7 or 8 years, I’ve been occasionally asking students in my (technology-oriented) courses to do what I call either mecology or T+1 assignments. I ask them to take stock of the various platforms, media, tools, software, et al., that they use to process information. It’s something like a literacy autobiography, I suppose, but one that is more focused on their present-day habits and usually their engagement with contemporary ICTs. It’s a nice opening assignment, one that gets them thinking about how they structure their activity, and it’s a great way for me to get a sense of what they’re ready to do in my courses and where we might focus our attention. The T+1 assignment (where T is their current distribution/structure of activities) asks them to choose one application, add it to their mecology for the semester, make a good faith attempt to really integrate it, and then write up a brief reflection at the end of the term. It’s a nice low-stakes way to have them try something new, and it’s an assignment that’s worked well for students along the full spectrum of tech expertise.
When I designed the assignment(s), my own mecology was pretty well established and consistent–this was back in the early days of the first iteration of my blog, and options were far more limited than they are now. My homepage was my base of operations, although it split time with my blog for that purpose. Everything else fed back to one of those two static locations: Flickr, Delicious (back when we had to remember where the dots went!), Bloglines, et al., with a healthy dose of email for keeping track of my activity, participating on discussion lists, and so on. It’s probably less simplistic than I’m making it sound, but I really had the sense of a stable location, from which everything else flowed or attached. And it lasted for a solid four or five years like that.
Cut to today, and things got a lot more fluid and messy. I sat down yesterday to try and actually visualize my mecology a bit, and quickly gave up. Right now, I work from 4 primary devices: phone, ipad, and home & office desktops, with a fifth (my laptop) that’s pretty much used for speciality work (conferences, meeting with specific software needs). My ipad’s become a lot more central, a shift that happened because of my convalescence in no small part. It’s now my primarily email device–and the difficulty of typing on it without a separate keyboard has made me less responsive (and less inclined to hoard). Some applications are cross-device for me, while others that could be tend to be associated in my mind with one or the other (I generally prefer FB on my desktop and Twitter on my ipad, for example). My “home” feels distributed to me among this site, FB, and Twitter, and so I’ve been trying out different arrangements to see how they fit. Right now, I have the sense that they’re working at different scales for me. I’m not as worried about the audiences for each, although that may change. The next circle out would probably include a lot of plug-in style apps: Instapaper, Google Reader, Scribd, Slideshare, Academia.edu, LinkedIn, GoodReads, etc. Some of them are more central than others, but they’re all defined for me in terms of specific tasks, and they generally feed back into the center. There’s another circle outward, where I’m still thinking about what to do regarding social bookmarks–a habit I fell out of (and regret doing so)–and a few other apps that I’m trying out somewhat haphazardly.
I don’t really have any grand conclusion here, except to note that it’s about damn time I took my own advice/assignment, and rethought how everything is fitting together. Also, it’s nice to question that fit every once in a while. The past couple of weeks for me have been about rediscovering a sustainable structure and flow that can help me write regularly and be more present to myself.