by J J Cohen
So I'm on Google+.
It's been about a week, during which time most of the conversations have centered upon how to distinguish the site from other social media. At first, I must admit, I thought G+ would simply mirror my activities on Facebook and Twitter. I posted that I wished some program existed that would cross-post to all three at once so that I would not have to do so manually. Then Sarah Werner shared Tim Maly's Unlink Your Feeds: A Manifesto. Maly's plea not duplicate information across these spaces but to craft ways of distinguishing each forum resonates with me: I do get tired of seeing the same information about the people I follow presented as a tweet, a FB link, a blog entry that appears in my RSS reader, and now as a Google+ post. Why not specialize what is presented in each location and thereby create something uniquely suited to each?
Google+ is in its mewling infancy, so it is difficult to predict what it will in time become. Right now it seems a concentrated and tech savvy space which has attracted those with an abiding interest in social media and scholarly -- as well as other forms of -- communication. (At least among those who are posting actively; there is also a large population of people who signed up and are wondering what to do next). The ability G+ offers to classify those to whom you are connected into various circles, though, means that inevitably much of what it accomplishes will replicate Facebook, though in a more controlled, private and specialized way: you can post the vacation pics to your family and the Latin blegs to your medievalist friends. Here is how -- tentatively, and for the time being -- I am using the service.
Facebook is good for all purpose social updates, comic interactions, and quick catching up on various friends' and family members' lives. It's a dive in and skim kind of space, an enjoyable break from (say) composing a public lecture about affect and stone. Twitter is great for sharing links, for some quick and spontaneous interaction, and sometimes even swift feedback on questions and ideas. It's where I learn the most about digital humanities and the scholarly uses of social media, as well as a locale where I interact with many non-GW graduate students, especially (but not only) those who for various reasons wouldn't think of friending me on FB. As a blog, In the Middle offers a forum for more sustained rumination on medieval studies, critical theory and humanities topics, since there is no character limit to posts. If it has become less interactive over the years (we don't attract nearly as many comments as we used to), that's not because it is less read -- our audience is at an all time high -- but because such conversations seem to have relocated to Twitter and FB. And many of us are experiencing social media fatigue: it's enough to keep up with email.
At present I am thinking of Google+ as a hybrid space, a cross between FB and a blog, where there is social interaction around posts that tend to be much more substantial than anything I'd put up in the House of Zuckerberg. Another description: G+ is a workshop, where current research and essays and talks in progress come together, and topics of interest (especially, so far, meta discussions of social media) receive more sustained conversation. Facebook is the most personal venue, Twitter more professional, Google+ (so far) even more academia-oriented, and this blog a professional space with the occasional personal excursus.
We'll see if I feel the same way in a month. Meanwhile, are you on Google+? How are you using it? And even if you are not, do use different social media differently?