Memes & Memos
Crain's Chicago Business recently posted an article about a local business owner who put his everything into social media to successfully market his bar. In the end, he decided to back off and delegate the management of social media activity to another staff member. As he put it, "I was looking down more than I was looking forward." Social media was helping him build his customer relationships online, but it wasn't helping foster his offline relationships.

Engaging in social media takes time, and it's easy to let the scales tip. At times, social media can feel like a hungry beast that constantly needs to be fed.

Internet pioneer and writer Jaron Lanier felt the same way. So he quit social media. Now he reports that he feels more innovative. In addition to eating up our time, does engaging in social media stifle creativity? This article on Neon Tommy sums up his sentiment: "If everyone collaborates on everything, then nothing is original."

How can we find balance with social media before we all throw in the towel? Lots of folks have suggestions for how to maximize social media tools for efficiency and tips for how to manage time online. Here are some of the reoccurring themes that can be helpful:

  1. Determine what you want to accomplish online using social media tools.
  2. Evaluate which tools will help get the job done and exactly how you will use them.
  3. Set limits on the amount of time that you spend on social media sites.
  4. Recognize when you are being distracted.
  5. Get outside and get some fresh air (and don't bring your iPhone).

Finally, I think this quote from a 2009 BusinessWeek article still applies:

"If the productivity best practice is to target your social media very precisely to attain your goals, then the productivity worst practice would be to indiscriminately hook into multiple sources of poorly defined static. To use social media effectively, just be sure that you aren't putting more effort in than the result you're getting. "
Here are two mind maps I began for two different class projects. One is around the topic of "Emerging Media" and the other is around a local health care organization. Both are works in progress.
In the past month, I've encountered several people using an old technique that has become a new trend: mind mapping.

What I couldn't figure out is why. Hello, welcome to fourth grade brainstorming. Write a word in a bubble in the middle of your page and draw branches coming off of it with other concepts, words and phrases. Nothing new to see here, folks. This visual way of taking notes has been around for a long time.

So I tried it today using an online tool called MindMeister. Other popular online mind mapping tools include Mindomo and, but MindMeister seems to be able to create most visually appealing map of these three options. As it turns out, there are dozens of other mapping tools available, either free or for sale.

Was I blown away? No, not really. It's exactly what I thought it would be. In fact, I found it annoying that you could only see portions, not the whole map, at any given time. But here are some pluses about online mind mapping tools that I did identify:
  • You can drag and drop words and phrases to reorganize your map, which you can't do the old-fashioned way.
  • You can add images and icons to your map, making things more visually interesting.
  • If you have an iPad or iPhone you can make maps with the MindMeister application. I'm thinking this is one of the main reasons why this technique is trending.
  • Perhaps the coolest feature and what makes mind mapping relevant again: You can work on collaborative mind maps with other people and track the changes. You can also check out other people's public mind maps and see what people are working on.
Do I foresee a need to ever collaborate on an online group mind map? Not really. But you never know. That's what's great about being aware of new emerging media tools and trying them out. They could come in handy for a project down the road.

There are also some really beautiful mind maps out there that make lovely infographics, such as those I came across by Paul Foreman on Mind Map Inspiration. Paul's site says that he offers mind maps for inspiration, mindmapping and drawing tips, as well as techniques for enhancing creativity and idea generation. These mind maps are little works of art!

Tomorrow, the graduate students in our emerging media class will be watching the Frontline documentary titled "Digital Nation" which first aired in February 2010. One point which struck me while watching the trailer was this statement:

"Every hour of a life on the screen is an hour not spent in the rest of life. If we're there, where aren't we?"

I've often pondered the same sentiment. What could we be missing while we are spending more and more time online? How does our time online affect our relationships and how we interact with one another? What is the proportion of our time online and offline is necessary to achieve balance personally, professionally, and socially?

The other concept in the back of my head is the reality of digital divide between those that have the means to access technology and those that do not. Does technology bring people closer together or pull them further apart? Whose point of view is not being represented online? Do we have a responsibility to represent these viewpoints online?

I'm looking forward to thinking about these topics and more throughout the semester. You can see the trailer for the Digital Nation documentary here.
Having used WordPress previously for other blogs, it was difficult to decide whether to use Weebly or WordPress for this site. After only 10 minutes, I think I made the best choice for this project by using Weebly. The drag and drop function alone is fun and easy to use, and the designs are just as good as WordPress.

I also spent some time checking out these videos comparing WordPress, Weebly and Tumblr on this Ames Creative blog found here.