Sunday, October 25, 2009

Building Social Capital on Twitter

I am mid MA program and exploring social media, learning, technolgy and leadership. These will be the focus of my thesis, I hope. Currently I'm taking a course on Program Planning, part of the Learning and Technology program at Royal Roads University. I'm not doing my MA in Learning and Technology rather I'm doing an Interdisciplinary MA that includes learning and technology. That's the back story cos appearently context counts.

For the past few months my current cohort has been working primarily in teams, exploring various aspects of the program planning process through the lenses of program planning experts like Cafferella, Sork, Bates & Poole, etc. I of course am always looking for the exceptions. I have a slightly opposable mindset and tend to want to look at the "other" angles. Makes me a bit annoying to be around but it affords me a better, fuller view of whatever subject is being explored.

In search of other viewpoints, hoping they might support my own of course, I have been using Twitter to build arguements against the views of the planning experts. During this exploration I have noticed there is a process that I have engaged in. I have noticed this process after the fact perhaps in part due to my infatuation with Donald Schon's Refection in and on action models.

The process I have noticed is that I wait for an opportunity to ask key people questions in Twitter. It's kind of like bumping into someone in a hallway or having a moment of relatively free time with someone in an elevator. These are people I don't actually know but that I have been following on Twitter for some time. So aquaintances, not friends.

I have also noticed that before I ask them a question I generally do something to increase my level of social capital with them. For example I provided some information that Alec Couros was looking for regarding trust. He responded to my offering indicating that it had some value to him thus opening the door for me to ask him to return the favour. Social capital is built upon trust and reciprocity.

I did the same when asking Howard Rheingold some questions about his process of program planning. Although I didn't provide him with anything useful. I thanked him for posting a link to his tags about Twitter and Education. I hadn't intended to manipulate or use the compliment as a way to build social capital. I meant it earestly but when he responded to my genuine thank you tweet I went through that open door and proceeded to ask him for some information about his program planning process.

So, reflecting on these actions, it seems that I conform to social rules around building and using social capital in Twitterin the same way I would if interacting face to face. The difference of course is that I live many hundreds of miles for these folks and would likely not bump into them in a hallway lol


Alec Couros said...

As a consideration, I wonder about the concept of 'paying forward', the idea that when I assist you, I do not specifically do so because you have helped me directly. Rather, I do so because peripherally I view your contribution to the health and growth of my network as a whole. Direct reciprocation is more of the 'hallway' model that you speak of, but I think we can do better. And, I believe this is more a mindset than an explicit set of practices.

Related: I gave away a guitar a few weeks ago to a student I know only via Twitter. It was my first guitar, but I no longer find it useful (as I have others). However, it may help her achieve her own goals for learning. All I asked of her was to give it to someone else when it has fulfilled its purpose ('pay it forward'). And of course, it's not about the guitar ... it's about fostering this mindset in others.

Jamie Billingham said...

Absolutely, that may be next blog post.

This was more of an exploratation of and reflection on those specific examples. I'm socially awkward at the best of times so was trying to make explicit what many others understand implicitly. I am also in the midst of reading Tribal Leadership (Logan, King, Fischer-Wright) which examines values through a behavioural lense. That may be influencing my approach.

I am also personally invested in the concept of "pay it forward" and the belief that we can do better that reciprocity. On a related note I "gave" most of my Google Wave invites to folks on Twitter, some I don't know really well. I was kind of surprised by their level of appreciation, it was more than I expected. Will have to explore that a bit more also.