Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 36 seconds

When Public Out Loud is Really Quietly in Private

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 36 seconds

This post is inspired mainly by the way Bonnie Stewart wrote her bio for this Inside Higher Ed article about Twitter and scholarship. She said something about doing her best thinking aloud on Twitter. It made me stop and think about a few things.

Is it really “aloud”? Is it really public?
I say I am loud because i tweet and blog a lot and publish in other places too. But is it really public if my close family and day2day colleagues don’t know I am saying it? Is it really out loud, when I do it really quietly so no one at home wakes up and no one at work knows I am tweeting thru a meeting?

Soooo many things happened recently to make me realize that:

I write publicly but there are some things I am sure certain ppl in my life would be appalled to know I write. When discussing #rhizo15 in my department’s mailing list, I made a disclaimer “in the highly unlikely event you would like to meet more crazy educators like me…” and my boss (one of the most wonderful people I know and will ever know probably) was really uncomfortable with the ideas of rhizomatic learning (always was). She conceded after some discussion that most adults actually learn by setting their own path anyway, that it might be useful for some of us to learn this way (as I am known in general to be v good at supporting my own learning and networking online) – but cautioned that we should not advise faculty (in our roles as faculty developers) to create rhizomatic courses. I told her Dave doesn’t advocate for doing this kind of thing in undergrad for-credit courses; however, I do use elements of it in my classes because it fits my philosophy of teaching and it seems to produce good learning! No, really! But no, you can’t prove it with standards. Wonder if my boss will be unhappy if she read this article I just published in Al-Fanar critiquing standards and accreditation (a very opinionated piece). I wonder how she would have felt about my closed-door discussion with some alternative educators about assessment without grades. Or about my Twitter conversation that followed.

I am known for my radical views. When i tone them down into little pieces they sound creative and are for the most part welcome and impressive. Like my Liquefy the Syllabus and Twitter Scavenger Hunt class activities. I encourage faculty use of social media and usually good stuff comes out of it.

Is it public when i know that my twitter audience is more private and limited than my facebook audience? When i don’t post stuff on facebook at certain times coz i don’t want ppl in Cairo to know i am awake but everyone on Twitter knows? Oops did i just say this on my blog that auto-posts to my Facebook wall?

Would i write as “openly ” on Twitter if certain people were on it?

And the answer is no

Oh no

For some odd reason it seems ok to publish radical views in trade journals or peer-reviewed ones; that seems to imply a limited specialized audience of sorts and then it kind of seems ok. To others i mean

In a weird way, my active presence on Twitter is what allows me to stay quiet(er) in other contexts. They all know f2f that i think differently but it’s not in their face 24/7 like if they were on Twitter. Then i’d seem tame compared to some of the more radical ppl out there who inspire me.

More than once someone has said “I will not be contained” and I realized that my way of existing in different spaces is my way of managing my loudness, diversifying it and diluting it so that no one space gets it all and I overwhelm or silence others or just plain drive everyone crazy.

So this public open loud thing? It’s really my way of being quiet in different private spaces. The sum total is loud. But I am really doing it quietly 🙂

Just before writing this i was DMing Dave Cormier not knowing he was in the middle of a session f2f (i think) and he laughed (out loud, if i understand correctly). Sometimes our quietness gets loud 🙂

8 thoughts on “When Public Out Loud is Really Quietly in Private

  1. lol. thanks for making me think.

    i think for me “out loud” and public do not equate to “heard by everyone in all publics.” like you, i have circles and compartments of my life where my thinking is differentially welcome than it is among the circles i’ve cultivated on Twitter. those publics are not equally interested in what i have to say. sometimes i’m pretty sure Twitter isn’t all that interested either, but there is still a compulsion to say it – whatever it is – “out loud,” from the quiet of my head to the performative space of 140 characters. even if no one responds – or even sees it – i am different for having said it. i make myself and come to understand myself in these acts. and also in the ones where Twitter gets all choral and speedy and ideas are coming at me faster than i can process and contribute and spit them out. i love and value both. except when it all drives me crazy and i wonder what i’m doing with my life. 😉

    you make a really good point about Twitter allowing me to stay quiet in other contexts. i was in a meeting just today where at one point i had a moment of nearly opening my big mouth in a frustrated and unproductive way. but instead, i comforted the urge with “if this continues i will tweet it” and just the acknowledgement of the outlet valve made me remember i do not need to say everything i think at all times. and so i shut up, online and off.

  2. Great post, so many ‘aha’ moments, Maha. Twitter is the valve that lets out the steam which might be destructive when we are in a not so likeminded cohort. The small but powerful audience is life saving. I love your thinking about quiet/loud and different audiences – something I’m aware of but haven’t written down. A couple of times I was caught out thinking that I could let off some steam in my blog and only a select readership would read it, ie not my colleagues at work but I was wrong. Then I had to apologize and think twice before expressing strong feelings in my blog – I was kidding myself that it was a safe space.
    I am also quiet at work because I do my expressing online but is that a good thing? Should I speak up more at work? Not sure. What do others think? So far I’ve been selective about who to open up to. I know what response I’ll get generally. I leave those people alone.

  3. Really interesting and thought-provoking post – and already enjoying the discussion that it is seeding! I see a whole new discussion on digital and media literacy stemming from this!

  4. Ah, Maha. We’re going to have to write something together at some point. It seems like you keep taking ideas right out of my head. Much to agree with here. Just last week I quietly created a site for publishing my creative writing without my identity attached. I just wanted a space, an outlet to quietly share out loud without being known.

    1. Ha, did u see i just wrote a comment on ur blog about sthg similar! Yes, let’s publish together! Soon!

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