A Reflection on Authenticity

By Kathryn Magura

I talk a lot about authenticity. To me, a core tenant of a person’s integrity is reflected in their authenticity. Authenticity in who they are at home, at work, with friends, and most importantly when no one else is watching.

I am also a big fan of most social media platforms. I am frequently an early adopter for new social media options, and love being able to connect with people all over the world around common topics. That said, I think people quickly forget their authenticity when provided the opportunity to hide behind social media and the internet.

A few months ago I wrote about why I think Student Affairs professionals should care about Gamer Gate. There is sadly a lot of evidence on how women are treated deplorably online in ways men are not. Heck, the actress Ashley Judd made news recently about how her Twitter bullies had gotten so bad, she was seeking legal options.

Back in the world of Student Affairs, there was a lot of discussion last week, lead in part by this post by my co-editor Niki, about the dark side of Student Affairs professionals who hid behind the anonymity of the social media platform Yik Yak at the recent NASPA conference.

What is it about social media and the internet that allows people to think they can say what they want without consequences online? Where is intent vs. impact in the thought process? Would you say the things you say online (anonymous or not) to someone’s face?

Those who know me well have heard me say that I try to always be my authentic self online. If you look at my Twitter feed, or see what I post on Facebook or Instagram, you see the real me. If I ever feel that I am misrepresenting who I am as a person, I will part ways with that social media platform.

We talk a lot about digital identity and how your online presence follows you everywhere. How help people see that authenticity matters in the digital world too?

If you aren’t sure if you should post about that event, or make that comment about someone’s photo, try this tip I learned from my colleague in student conduct: Think about whether you would say those things if your grandmother was watching. If the answer is yes, proceed. If the answer is no… well, turn off the damn computer.

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A Reflection on Authenticity

ACPA Digital Task Force Report

by Kristen Abell

Last year around this time, ACPA announced that they would be convening a Digital Task Force to look at digital technology in higher education and explore what we needed to do in order to move the field forward. A group of people from the field was pulled together to conduct research on and provide recommendations to the association specifically in the area of digital technology. A year later, this group has released their report on their findings and recommendations from four core subcommittees: Proven Practices, Knowledge and Skills, Research and Scholarship, and Informed and Responsible Engagement with Social Technologies.

Rather than rehashing the report here for you, I’m providing the link to it below. I served as the co-chair for the Knowledge and Skills subcommittee, so I’m going to refrain from analyzing this report at this time. However, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this – whether in the comments below or in an email to me directly at kabell96@gmail.com if you’re comfortable. I believe that both ACPA and NASPA have started to make great strides when it comes to recognizing the impact of technology on our field, and I’m excited to see the advances we make over the next year in this area.

ACPA Digital Task Force Draft Report and Recommendations

ACPA Digital Task Force Report

Yik YUCK: Anonymous Social Media at a Student Affairs Conference

by Niki Messmore

Social media platforms that provide anonymity are rarely used for the force of good. The opportunity to step outside of social norms is tempting when provided an opportunity to be anonymous on the internet. So what happens when a small number of individuals at the 2015 NASPA Conference (#naspa15) begin using the app Yik Yak?

The following: Yaks complaining of sessions, trying to hook up, sexist and sexually suggestive remarks about women, body shaming, entitlement of a ‘vacation’, etc. However, on the positive side there are Yaks with thoughtful ideas and social justice education. A full list of screenshots has been compiled on Storify, along with some Twitter commentary.

Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with Yik Yak. This social media platform is like “The Force” from Star Wars – it exists and can be utilized by either the Light or the Dark Side, depending on the character and the choices of the people using it.

So why do a small number of individuals out of a conference of 8,000 people opt to embrace the Dark Side? Dr. John Suler of Rider University argues in the article “The Online Disinhibition Effect” (2004) that there are six factors why people engage in nasty antics on the internet – dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, solipsistic introjection, dissociative imagination, and minimization of authority.

That’s deeper than my word count will allow. However, Suler had a nice summary: “Rather than thinking of disinhibition as the revealing of an underlying “true self,” we can conceptualize it as a shift to a constellation within self-structure, involving clusters of affect and cognition that differ from the in-person constellation.”

So it’s not necessarily that we are seeing the “true selves” of these likely Student Affairs professionals and graduate students when they make awful anonymous statements, but rather we are seeing an aspect of these folks under a certain set of circumstances.

That still doesn’t make the issue any less awful.

I am absolutely disgusted and appalled by the sexually suggestive remarks about women that were made [link]. Some appear benign, perhaps even categorized as compliments rather than harassment, but the individual who wanted to “call dibs” on the “Jennifer Lawrence look-alike” is a total creep. And the body shaming comment [link]? Please have several seats.

Besides exposing some sexism and sizism, the Yaks have also shown something that we already know – some folks believe that conferences are vacations. Now, sometimes people have to fully fund their conference attendance so I say they can vacation their little heart out. But the entitlement of some people, such as this Yak, is eye-wincing. Comments like this also go back to the issue of “work-life balance”. To be honest, we probably don’t have any balance because we waste so much time discussing this subject, but there is something seriously wrong when student affairs professionals feel their conference trip is the only time they get to be away from students…

The responses to these Yaks has been interesting. Many have harshly condemned the yaks, a few have joked about it and don’t take them seriously, and some see the Yaks as part of a larger professional crisis.

Regarding the latter, I have to say this: Student Affairs does exist in external formulas when it comes to the profession’s credibility. I’ve seen quite a few tweets worrying how these Yaks could ruin ‘everything we’ve worked for’ to make ourselves credible to faculty, administration, and other key populations (something I think we need to stop worrying about altogether). But let’s stop that hand-wringing right here: Student Affairs has problems, yes, but so does every other profession. Academic Affairs is always in the news for scandals, whether it is the behavior of professors smoking on airplanes or the many accounts of racism, and sexual harassment/assault. We’re gonna be alright, #SAfam.

So, how should we respond?

The statement by NASPA was a great addition to the chorus of folks calling out the behavior on Twitter. I hope we continue to have this conversation within professional development for staff and graduate students. Additionally, I hope that we can be professional in these conversations online and offline – already I’ve seen comments that I perceive as unprofessional in the method of how they are critiquing the #naspa15 Yik Yak people.

PLEASE watch this TedTalk by Monica Lewinisky (“The Price of Shame“) that has been receiving acclaim lately. Recognize that cyber-bullying hurts – this is for both the people that have been mentioned on YikYak as well as how we treat the people who made the mistake of posting harmful and sometimes disturbing comments.

In addition, please read this series of tweets by @BlackGirlDanger on how we shouldn’t publicly shame people who mess up and instead provide space for them to do better. Remember – even Darth Vader was able to redeem himself from the Dark Side.

Thanks,

@NikiMessmore

 

Yik YUCK: Anonymous Social Media at a Student Affairs Conference

Perspectives on March Madness Bracketology

By Rachel Luna

NCAA basketball March Madness is upon us.  And that means even the casual fan becomes a bracketologist.  Whether you are a serious student of statistics like our friends at FiveThirtyEight, a prognosticator based on your psychic abilities, or you ascribe to my personal strategy of mascot prowess, there are many ways of approaching the tournament.

Check out a new perspective on the NCAA March Madness this year, like with this visual representation of the teams in a radial bracket.
Check out a new perspective on the NCAA March Madness this year, like with this visual representation of the teams in a radial bracket.

Atypical Basketball Brackets

A quick internet search will get you the NCAA men’s and women’s teams displayed in a traditional (read: boring) bracket.  Here are some more unique perspectives:

  • Radial bracket by @MykCrawford
    • I’m really digging this visual representation of a tournament bracket.  The artist has updated this site with odds from FiveThirtyEight, which you can see as you scroll over each team.
  • Accessible bracket via @terrillthompson
    • A great example of accessibility in practice, this site presents the standard NCAA bracket information in a clean and functional way using web tools and coding standards that make it more accessible for people “using non-visual interfaces such as screen readers and those who are physically unable to use a mouse.”
  • Emoji bracket via @WashingtonPost
    • This site features the emoji version of each school’s mascot, which you can also download and save to your device.
  • Academic performance bracket (women’s and men’s) via @InsideHigherEd
    • There’s a little more emphasis on the “student” part of “student-athlete” with this bracket, which picks winners in the men’s tournament based on academic performance indicators, such as the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) and the Graduation Success Rate.
  • Tuition bracket (2014 version) via @Awl
    • This bracket breaks it down by dollars, looking at the cost of annual tuition at each competing institution.  The 2015 version of this hasn’t been published yet, but fingers crossed it will come soon.

Non-Basketball Brackets

Sports isn’t your thing?  No worries, here are some non-athletic brackets that might strike your fancy:

  • Female authors via @KristenAbell
    • Double high five to our friend Kristen for creating this bracket which supports both reading and women.  I for one can’t wait to see how it plays out.  Voting is live now!
  • March Magic bracket via @Disney
    • Disney fans on both US coasts face off in this second annual contest by voting for their favorite attractions in each park.

What’s your bracketology perspective?  Share your strategies and tips in the comments below or tweet me @RachelHLuna.

Perspectives on March Madness Bracketology

Celebrating International Women’s Day: Inspiration for #WomenTechmakers

by Jess Samuels

March is Women’s History Month and March 8th is International Women’s Day.  These serve as yearly reminders to honor women’s achievements and to continue to press forward in advocating for women’s rights.  A number of online campaigns have launched this year, including the #NotThere hashtag and video, raising awareness about gender inequality.  #NotThere is just one of many hashtags promoted for this important day.  Visit InternationalWomensDay.com to learn about the various campaigns and the 2015 theme “Make It Happen.”

Google promoted International Women’s Day through it’s search engine Doodle.  Doodles are a fun way for Google to raise awareness about topics, inventions or people deserving of recognition.  Unfortunately, SPARK recently documented that between 2010-2013, of the 445 people Google honored, only 17 percent were women.

Google is aware of the issue and promises to do better. Google Doodle team lead Ryan Germick reported to The Huffington Post,  “This year we’re hoping to have women and men equally represented. So far this year we’ve done Doodles for as many women as men, a big shift from figures below 20 percent in past years.”

womensday15-hr

Google is working on other ways to promote gender equality in technology, with it’s Women Techmakers global summits and meet ups throughout the month of March.  These events provide resources and visibility to women in technology. While unfortunately there is no meet up in my area this year (check their map to see if there is one in yours), I am marking my calendar to apply to attend the summit next year.  What a great opportunity to meet inspirational women in tech!

Another campaign Google/YouTube are promoting is the #DearMe videos.  They are asking women to tape themselves answering the question: “What advice would you give your younger self?”  These videos give inspiration to young women who may feel discouraged or filled with uncertainty.

What would I say to my younger self?

It’s okay to be a nerd and geek.  Embrace that identity because it will lead you to the places where you are most fulfilled.  Take it a step further and explore your creativity in technology.  Take classes in design, think about the communications field and explore your interests instead of feeling pressure to pick a major right away.  Find ways to practice what you love and you’ll get even better at it.  Find other people, other women, who have some of the same passions as you do and nurture that excitement.  Oh, and make sure to buy a Mac instead of a PC sophomore year of college 😉

Celebrating International Women’s Day: Inspiration for #WomenTechmakers

The New MacBook

by Kristen Abell

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be ooh-ing and ah-ing over the Applie iWatch, but I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of wearable tech. I have a Pebble, and after being buzzed every time I got a text or a Facebook message or a Twitter mention, I turned off all the notifications so I could just have a watch again. I now only use the Misfit app on it to count my steps. That’s the limit of my desire in wearable tech.

What I’m really drooling over is the new MacBook – and not because it’s gold (maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never been a fan of the whole gold thing. Give me silver over gold any day). But dang, that is one sleek-looking new computer. Thinner than the MacBook Air, it weighs in at a mere half a pound more than the original iPad. It features a 12-inch screen and new keyboard technology to fit into that smaller space. It also, of course, features Retina display with a resolution of 2304×1440. For those not versed in tech, that means “purty.”

In addition, it features a new type of trackpad – the Force Touch. Instead of a hinge trackpad, as is traditionally featured on laptops, the Force Touch uses sensors to “detect how much pressure you’re applying and give you new ways to interact with your Mac. You can now use a Force click to enable new capabilities, like quickly looking up the definition of a word or previewing a file just by clicking and continuing to press on the trackpad” (from the Apple website).

Because of the unique new design of the processor, no fan is required for the new MacBook. This means that your computer will also be silent. What does that even sound like? I can’t remember.

 

The battery life on wifi is 9 hours. Compared to the battery life of my current MacBook Air (a 5-year-old model, to be sure), this is just phenomenal. Although my partner is doing his best to convince me that that is not a justification for buying a new laptop, I’m having a hard time seeing it (or maybe it’s all the other features that have me swayed).

The only drawback I see to the new laptop is the single port – you will now have to carry a cord with you wherever you go just to plug in a USB device.

Yeah, I’m totally fanwomaning (no, not fangirling – do I really need to explain why I hate that term?) over this laptop, but show me one that is this sleek and powerful.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to front me the $1299 starting price, just let me know.

The New MacBook

The Scope of Technology

by Kristen Abell

I am often a bit befuddled by talk of technology in student affairs, as it so commonly focuses on social media – which uses technology, but isn’t necessarily technology in and of itself. I also find it interesting now that I work on website development the number of people that assume I work in IT because obviously, websites = technology (note: I don’t work in IT). Also true, and yet not.

The other day I was talking with one of our IT staff in the hallway. She commented how she could set up new computers for people all day, but she had no idea how to train them to develop or maintain websites. I countered with the fact that I could train them, but when it comes to the hardware, please leave me out of it. It’s a commonly accepted fact outside of technology that if you work in computers, you know everything about them. When the reality is quite the opposite. The more I learn about technology, the more I recognize that I don’t know about the broader field of tech.

I believe that one of our biggest challenges in student affairs is recognizing the scope of technology when we’re discussing it. It is hard to say, for example, that technology should be a competency area without defining what we mean when we’re talking about technology. Do we mean coding? Do we mean learning management systems? Do we mean social media? Or do we mean some combination of all of these things?

More importantly, how do we get away from defining just one of these things – i.e., social media – as technology in student affairs?

At some point, I think we need to define just what are the important areas of technology in which student affairs professionals need to have some competency. I don’t believe we necessarily need to have a cross-sampling of all of them, and I don’t even believe we need a deep understanding of some of them. But as a field, we need to develop standards for what we do need to know and how we might use it. I think there has been some headway in this between NASPA and ACPA, but I’d be curious to know what you believe is important for student affairs professionals to know when it comes to technology.

What should we include in a base level for technology knowledge for student affairs professionals? In a more advanced level? I hope you’ll share some thoughts in the comments below.

The Scope of Technology