Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 45 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Hanging Out – Affection and Socializing Online


Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 45 seconds

The lines between professional and social are pretty blurred for me everywhere. When I go to a meeting on campus there’s a social element that influences the professional. I honestly don’t understand how people make choices of whom to invite to which committee but I totally see it as personal – like whom you know (then which of those you know would be good at this thing – but what if someone you don’t know is BETTER? Was thinking of this while listening to one of Bonni Stachowiak’s podcasts where she pointed someone to another person better/more suitable than herself for a certain committee/project).

Anyway. I was thinking again about Sherry Turkle’s views on social media causing disconnection or lack of conversation and getting annoyed again. I wish she would hear Ken Bauer talking to Bonni Stachowiak on her podcast and how he teaches computer science and challenges the notions of tech as cold and unemotional. 

It only takes watching my child hang out and love people like my friends Rebecca and Autumm. First of all, she sees them on Google hangouts more often than she sees any of my in-person friends. She responds to them and misses them that way. When she met Rebecca in person she went smoothly until in-person mode sitting on her lap and giving her Eskimo kisses. She’s a friendly child when she wants to be but it was superfast with Rebecca coz she already knew her.

I also watched her yday playing jump up and down via video call w her cousin. As if they were in the same room. It lasted, oh, maybe an hour? It was nuts. Who said phones were for talking? Thanks to some friends like Autumm, Rebecca and Alan for playing peakaboo and stuff with her…she’s a pro.

Speaking of…because of all the informal hanging out, it’s pretty hard for her to recognize when I am online for something more formal/professional… So she’ll often pop up and I have stopped resisting that too much unless it’s really disruptive. I am thinking 

  1. People online need to recognize that if I am meeting them when they are on a North America timezone, I am at home and taking time away from my family 
  2. I am a whole person. And the primary caregiver for my chid. I can’t regularly ask others to care for her while I hang out. If Ican’t hang out after her bedtime (my preference so I can focus) then she is likely to show up at some point. Often with demands
  3. I can’t physically go out and give talks and such in Cairo past a certain time because I have a young child and a husband w erratic work hours. At least if it’s online I can do both. Difficult balance but possible.
  4. I am maybe one of a handful of voices in our niche of a field who resides in a non-English speaking country and is non-Anglo myself. Let me know if I missed someone. I don’t necessarily provide a very different perspective but I offer something different. So it matters when I can be there, I think. 

So when Ken Bauer put out a call for folks to participate in his #iTecGDA one-week course on digital identity…  I agreed to do a hangout with his students. All of the hangouts are great with an awesome group of people in each one. His student blogs are great. Even though I knew the timing would suck for me (just before my kid’s bedtime) I agreed to do it. There’s no reason to assume this was more complicated for me than others (e.g. see Laura Gogia’s post). And some people like Ken are worth making the effort for. Seriously. 

Also part of me was thinking this. I am the only person outside North America on that list of people he invited. This kind of thing matters. It matters for his students to get this opportunity and to see that someone like Ken and myself have connected deeply across all that distance, not just in miles but in culture also. And to have this opportunity to connect with people in Mexico beyond Ken and my experience with Mexicans in Houston. I looked at the students’ blogs beforehand and made an extra effort to respond to those in Spanish and German. Because I knew a little of these languages and Google translate could do the rest for me.

Anyway as expected, my child interrupted me a few times during the hangout. Even though her dad was right there. It happens. Part curiosity from her side, part missing me coz it’s “her time” (but I truly do avoid “formal” hangouts during her awake time as much as I can). I was thinking that for Ken’s students, it’s important for them to know me as a whole person. If digital identity is the topic, then my digital identity as a mom is prominent in mine. I hope when my child is old enough she won’t resent all of the snippets of her on YouTube. I tried to avoid it and failed. I don’t post photos of her on Facebook much…but she’s on YouTube. Sorry, baby.

But again. It was worth it. I really enjoyed chatting with Ken’s students. They asked tough questions… Much deeper than I expected. They were probably primed from having met several other people over the week…It was an enriching experience for me and I am grateful for the opportunity – thanks Ken. You hosted a wonderful party and those videos all on one page will remain a good resource for others. 


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