Category Archives: Research

Postgraduate symposium abstract

I’ve just submitted a finalised abstract for a paper I’ll be giving at the UNSW postgraduate symposium in September.  I thought I’d post it here =)

It was difficult choosing between this and my other, similar topic that focused more on temporality.  (I think this one was easier to find useful examples for.)  I figure these topics will both end up as chapters in my eventual thesis so I don’t feel too bad about it yet.

Time to have lunch, and begin making plans to refamiliarise myself with Deleuze!

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* Required fields: human rights issues in the digital influence of identity

As the number of people taking advantage of the convenience and social aspects of digital communications technology grows, the public discourse on privacy has become louder and more urgent. While privacy policies and regulatory organisations guide data holders toward responsible practices and aim to reassure users about their online safety, engagement with digital technologies may have unexpected, negative consequences for the nature of identity.

When signing up to digital services, we provide personal information for practical purposes and in order to personalise our experience. But what if you don’t identify with any of the options allowed in a required field? What if you feel certain mandatory details are irrelevant to the context? What if you wish to omit information due to concerns over personal safety? When digital services decide what identifiable information is relevant about us, and make the declaration of these a requirement of legitimate participation both within our existing social circles and the wider public sphere, our identities are altered and our potential for expression becomes diminished.

It has been said that access to the internet, as it facilitates our freedom of expression, has become a human rights issue. In this presentation I will argue that, when technology imposes features of identification some users are uncomfortable with, when it erases minority voices from the conversation and when such experience leads us to tread more carefully with our digital footprints, external rules that manage identities in our digital environment also introduce issues of human rights. This presentation will then outline some of the ways we, as a society, may begin to address this issue and reclaim some of this lost control over our personal identity.

What’s making me happy

Things are going well this week.  I’m productive and feeling happy about my work.  I thought it’d be nice to make a list of nice things that are making me happy right now.

First of all, the weather is great!  It’s been cold and miserable for ages (its winter, so I’d be worried if it was otherwise) and we’re currently experiencing a warm patch.  This week I’ve been able to walk around outside when it’s dark without gloves, and sleep without a hot water bottle, and jump out of bed when my alarm goes off and not feel the cold stabbing sensation on my exposed skin.

I’m really looking forward to spring when this will be normal practice.  And we’ll have more daylight hours so outside won’t feel so miserable.  I’m much more productive when my surroundings motivate me to do something other than huddle over a heater and drink too much coffee.

Second, I saw Geert Lovink’s talk last night on social media.  Not only was it great to see someone talking about things related to my own research; I actually asked a question!  (I’m usually terrible at asking questions because I get self-conscious and nervous, so I just avoid the idea altogether.)  The talk mostly covered issues I was already well aware of, but it was a good opportunity to find out about other groups looking into solutions to the problems I’m noticing.  The Institute of Networked Cultures has recently created a group, Unlike Us, that looks to be promising!

And third, I saw an overly large chalk advertisement for a talk at my campus.  It was on a busy thoroughfare that I use on the way to my bus.  In huge, thick letters (that break the university rules – not that anyone cares), it asks us, ‘HAS GOD FAILED?’  Just in case we can’t read it upside-down, it’s written twice, and so are the time and location details.  This doesn’t really bother me and, in fact, I think it’s quite a successful piece of attention-grabbing advertising.

What’s making me happy is that, this morning, I saw that someone else has written next to it, emulating the style perfectly, ‘HAS BETA-MAX FAILED?’

Thinking about this made me chuckle all the way to my office.

Lowering Standards

I love Diaspora. I think it’s a brilliant idea and I hope it catches on. However, I’m concerned that their chosen method of implementing their vision of decentralised social engagement may actually be too limited. My understanding is that, while users are free to create an account that can be hosted anywhere throughout the world, including on their own computers, to participate in this system they specifically need to use Diaspora. That’s all well and good if Diaspora catches on and becomes a global standard of communication, but if it doesn’t, and yet another social media platform comes along later this year that is even better in whatever respect, then we will need to join yet another social media service and again try desperately to migrate our existing friends to a strange and unfamiliar territory.

The ‘Federated Social Web‘ is a brilliant concept. However, it appears that many individual projects are attempting to create their own standards for others to adopt in order to bring such a thing into existence. The Diaspora team have been fairly quiet and I haven’t been able to determine how much they are working with larger organisations to implement an international standard and how much they are simply working to improve their own system that is just currently better than the alternatives, hoping that it will catch on.

(Obligatory link to an xkcd comic that superbly illustrates the problem: http://xkcd.com/927/)

This is a critical point we are at right now. If we mess up, we risk the groans of the general public as we try and persuade them to use yet another system a year or so down the track. If painfully migrating social media profiles and friend groups appears to be a regular, necessary part of catching up with the latest in user control and privacy solutions, it begins to seem easier to just go back to the commercial systems that have a financial interest in staying consistent and reliable. Once users begin to make the calculation of risk – “How likely is it that there will be negative consequences from me allowing a major corporate entity access to my data?” – we have already lost them.

The example I keep returning to is email. Joseph Smarr, a social Web engineer at Google has said,

“If I couldn’t e-mail people who don’t share the same domain as me, that would be pretty stupid […] But that’s exactly the way social networks work today, and that’s broken and should be fixed.” (Ariel Bleicher, The Making of Diaspora)

Why has email been so successful? I need to do some research on the history of its implementation, but it seems to me that introducing this standard may have worked early on in the early days of computing due to a combination of the following: (one) it was a simple, practical solution to the problem of communication that didn’t have major commercial interests forcing it to become a ‘walled garden’ and (two) there were less people working on the problem.

How can we ever aim to introduce something of comparable success now if there are so many competing standards? There needs to be consensus and agreement of adoption from early on, from both users and developers. Some are working hard on this. But I wonder if there’s not another approach we can take, one that increases the chances of general adoption.

A few years ago I got a text message. I couldn’t read it because it was a multimedia message and I had an old phone. I was thinking about this recently in relation to the problem of the Federated Social Web. What if, rather than introducing something new, from scratch, we instead added extra functionality to our email system?

Some have predicted that email will soon be dead (I disagree, but it entirely depends on the individual’s usage), but what if email was just . . . different? What if we added a few additional tags to the messages we send to help our email systems work out what to do with the content? Like my old mobile phone, email readers that are not ready will say, “I don’t know what to do with this”, while others will properly recognise what is to be done.

We can add app-like add-ons to our mailing system that will give us more functionality. I can add invitations to your integrated calendar, regardless of platform, just by using an improved email signal. If you don’t have calendar functionality, you will be prompted to install it. I can comment on a recent message you have made public, and decide who will have access to viewing my own words. This could all be a separate system (think Thunderbird or Outlook with much more functionality), or it could be a browser plug-in that checks for these updates so your whole social system is integrated right into, say, Firefox, based around a single email++ address rather than the myriad services you are independently logged into at any one time. This can all be stored locally, or hosted anywhere throughout the world of your choosing. You will have control over your own data and you will be able to communicate with others in a space not bombarded with advertising.

Of course, existing services like gmail will survive because people may want the security of storing their data in the cloud, or because they can’t afford or don’t have the technical expertise to manage their own email++ service. The point is, we will have a choice and, regardless of that choice, we will be able to connect with others.

Am I onto something here? Or is this simply just another proposal for a new standard that will be lost in the sea of ideas, looking so chaotic that nobody will be willing to commit to trying something new?

I guess I have a lot of work to do if I want to test the feasibility of such a proposal.

Search terms and search times

I started doing some research on search engine results and online identities this morning for a presentation I’m preparing for later in the year.  Like anyone, I was interested to see what comes up when I type in my own name.

Searching ‘Andrew McNicol’ in Duck Duck Go gives many results, but as it’s a common enough name there’s nothing about me until entry 12, which points to a small article about dried papaya that I helped edit once for my local food co-op.  I have no idea why this is deemed of higher relevance than all the other instances of me, using my full name, on the Internet.  The next entry relevant to me is 26 which mentions my participation in my faculty’s three minute thesis competition earlier this year.

I use the Duck duck Go search engine because I appreciate its focus on user privacy.  An effect of this is that results aren’t reordered for an assumed relevance to me.  This helps me to see here what an average person would if they searched the same terms.

More related to me than my full name is the username ‘mcnicolandrew’ which I’ve used for various services.  The first five results in Duck Duck Go relate to me.

Just over two months ago, I wrote about this new blog and how I chose ‘exhipigeonist’ as my new username for various services.  At the time, searching the name in Google returned zero results!  Since then I’ve blogged here a little, and changed account names on Twitter and various software forums.  Right now, google.com returns 218 results for the query; Duck Duck Go returns 5.  I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to see what happens to a username after its recent introduction to the Internet.

Google, obviously, has more thorough and/or intrusive webcrawlers.  For everyday searches this makes little difference to me, but here it it valuable in giving me a picture of what my username has been doing, quietly in the background while I’m not looking.  Twitter is the first result in both search engines.  I’m not certain why, but it’s perhaps safe to say it’s because I had been fairly active there soon after changing my account name.  My blog comes up shortly after, followed by a few forum discussions on OpenOffice.org and Linux Mint.  My new website (not active yet, I’ll keep you updated) appears eventually.  Twitter accounts for even more results because posts are public and are easily cached by services wanting to record conversations (I’ve occasionally participated in the weekly #privchat discussion, which apparently qualifies me to be on ‘legal professionals’ lists) or map user connections.  Then I get a few more unexpected hits.

Perhaps the strangest is a post on us.hotmai.org that has copied the content of one of my entries and posted it.  I don’t know if I’m comfortable with that, even if they did credit me at the top.  I guess it’s alright, but notice would have been nice.  (Do I have trackbacks enabled?  I’ll have to check.)  There does not appear to be a way to easily contact the blog owner about it if I wanted to.

I also see many results from sites which appear to cache blogs which talk about Dell computers, linking to my post about my home computer setup.

Lastly, there appears to be a very specific WordPress category entitled ‘Community Paranoia Surveillance Socialengagement Unsw Computers’ which highlights a recent entry of mine as a ‘featured blog’.  I have no idea how these categories are decided on and this appears more than a little odd.

Most of these hits and the order they appear are unsurprising.  It’s a recently created pseudonym and it fairly accurately describes my Internet activity and relevance using this name over the past two months.  What will be more interesting to watch is how these results change over time, and how easily older activity gets lost in the results pages to prioritise current activity.  How relevant does Google consider temporality to be when calculating search term result order?  This is what is going to be integral to my research.

Reviwgle+

I begged for an invite and have thus sacrificed part of my dignity to become one of the (temporarily) exclusive group of people with Google+ accounts!

I had read a bit about the service already so much of it wasn’t new to me. I was more interested in the privacy side of things so once I had access I dove straight into reading the privacy policy and playing around with user settings. What follows are a few initial reactions.

Circles

People have written a lot about how this feature is either confusing or a breakthrough in social networking. I actually think it’s neither. I’ve been using a similar feature in livejournal for years (functionality to define and choose groups who can read individual posts has been around for almost a decade now – or more than that, as I’m not sure when livejournal first implemented it) and perhaps because of this experience I view such features to be a minimum standard of user empowerment and privacy. If I can’t define my audience on a post-by-post basis, I may fall into the habit of either censoring myself or not being as careful with my message content as I should.

In short, Circles are great and everyone should get in the habit of using them. I feel it’s important for this kind of thing to become a standard feature of social networking sites.

The ‘Gender’ field

Gender identity in a social media context is a strong interest of mine. I’ve written on this previously, but to put it simply, I don’t feel comfortable with the focus technological systems tend to put on gender (or sex) and hate it even more when they are restrictive and prescriptive.

Google+ earns a few points with me because, unlike Facebook, users have the option of choosing ‘Other’ rather than being limited to ‘Male’ or ‘Female’. However, Google+ loses a lot of points because users only have the option of choosing ‘Other’ if they don’t wish to pick ‘Male’ or ‘Female’.

Both services make this choice a mandatory one. All users must define themselves in relation to an out-of-date – and in many cases offensive – gender binary. Yes, I am aware that gender is viewed as a highly important field for marketing purposes, and that companies such as Google and Facebook find this information valuable, but for many users on social networking sites gender is either irrelevant or, at least, of no more importance than other, optional fields.

Of course, it can also be argued that gender status is important from a technical perspective, making it possible to use gendered pronouns throughout the system. However, Google+ appears to handle the ‘Other’ option’s syntax quite well. If this is a major reason, it should be clear to users so they can make an informed choice about their user experience. If they prefer gendered pronouns to be associated with their alerts, their profiles can be altered.

It’s about this point in conversations surrounding gender status in social media that I usually link to two great discussions from last year, on this topic in relation to Diaspora.

Sarah Dopp “‘Gender is a Text Field’ (Diaspora, backstory, and context)

Sarah Mei “Disalienation: Why Gender is a Text Field on Diaspora

Gender and privacy

Perhaps helped by my interest in both gender and privacy, I immediately recognised an issue with the Google+ profiles that conflicted with the Google+ Privacy Policy (28 June 2011 version) which states,

In order to use Google+, you need to have a public Google Profile visible to the world, which at a minimum includes the name you chose for the profile.

As I was playing around with the privacy settings in my profile, I noticed that I could not change the visibility of my Gender status. This meant that my Google Profile, at minimum, includes my stated gender as well as the name I chose for my profile. Not only does this conflict with the statement that “You can control the privacy of the content that appears in your profile tabs”; it also directly conflicts with Google+’s Privacy Policy.

One great feature of Google+ is that it has a ‘Send feedback’ button in the bottom right-hand corner of the interface. I was sure to send off some feedback about this conflict – but not before I had a chance to post about it on Google+ and Twitter. To my surprise, on Friday Morning (~8am, +10 GMT), less than 48 hours since I sent my feedback, I noticed that it was now possible to hide Gender from public profiles! I received no reply (hey, they’re probably quite busy this week!) so I can’t be certain this is a result of my work, but I like to think it could have been.

(EDIT: Apparently this change may more likely be a result of a previous campaign, helped by a widely discussed post from Randall Monroe.  Though there is no mention of the Privacy Policy conflict.)

Another issue here is that, because Gender is mandatory – there is no ‘opt-out’ – and, by default, profiles are optimised for search engine results, all users give permission for their stated Gender to be associated with their chosen profile name – at least at the initial stage – and for this to be accessed and archived by searched engines. I can’t test for certain without creating a new account, but I suspect Gender is likely set to public by default. If so, despite them making its visibility alterable, I still feel this is a potential privacy issue.

(It should probably be noted that Facebook is worse in dealing with new user data. Names, gender, birthday and email addresses are public by default, and thus allowable to be used by third-party entities. All the information you provide Facebook during registration is ‘post-opt-out’, a term I plan to write about soon.)

I feel systems such as this should be privacy by default. I feel all publication of personal details should be opt-in. I don’t know if this would be considered a good business model, though, so I’m not holding my breath for corporate players to adopt better practices in this regard. Privacy is still not a large enough issue for that to happen.

Google+ good – Privacy Policy

Google certainly wins points when it comes to simply explaining what it does with user data, and in making it simple to understand how to customise privacy settings. (Though I’m an experienced ‘power user’, so not everyone would feel this is as clear as I do.) However, as Google+ is in very early days, it’s unfair to compare this to Facebook and the regular changes made to its privacy settings. Still, the Google+ package doesn’t have to deal with third-party applications and advertisers (at least ones not already part of Google) so it has a much easier job in this regard.

For now, at least. There is already speculation that Google+ may incorporate other features such as third-party games and applications.

Google – the bad and the ugly

I trust Google to use my data in a way I have consented to. I trust them not to change privacy settings in a way that leaves my personal information temporarily vulnerable. But at the same time, I’m very conscious that the system is there to collect information about me that will be used for marketing purposes. Though I recognise that I’ve registered for a ‘free’ service from a company that needs to make money, reminders about the business relationship we have make me feel uncomfortable.

I was surprised to see recently that pseudonyms are not allowed on Google+ profiles. Facebook does something similar and Mark Zuckerberg has publicly stated it is because accountability guides people to act nicer on the Internet. When people hide behind an anonymous identity they are more likely to act like arseholes to each other. While this may be a correct (though simplistic) observation, there is a strong privacy case for using pseudonyms.

Again, livejournal is a great example here. The system allows users to create an identity that links back to their meatspace identity as much or as little as they like – technical experience permitting. Users may also create multiple identities to better hide interests and, say, membership to support communities from other online friends. When a user loses interest in the content discussed in particular communities, they may leave at any time without their actions being easily attributable back to them in meatspace. My five years as a Sailor Moon fan*, taking part in public discussion with a secret identity can be safely ignored, believed never to come back and haunt me when I run for president.

Google and Facebook, on the other hand, rely on ‘real’ names. This has obvious marketing potential. But it also has not-quite-as-obvious ramifications for identity. Jacob Appelbaum has stated, “Everything you do on the Internet paints a picture that tells a story about you tomorrow.” This is a great quote I keep coming back to because it helps highlight the relation between contemporary action and future ramifications. While it can be argued that all online actions can be tracked back to their source, Facebook and Google make this simple. If I used Facebook rather than livejournal when I expressed my love for the world of Sailor Moon, I’d have that associated with my real name forever. Now imagine how much more concerning this situation is when we start discussing mental health support groups or discussions about illegal actions.

Eric Schmidt once suggested teenagers change their names when they turn eighteen to distance themselves from their youthful hijinks. Realistically, though, a name change is not enough to bury your online activities from anyone if you used your real name to begin with.

But perhaps my biggest issue with Google+ is that it’s ‘like Facebook, but better!’ It’s a step forward in terms of user privacy, but it’s not actually a big step. We’re still being asked to allow a walled garden to mediate our social interaction so they can make money from our personal details through advertising. On the one hand, Google could have done much better and released something revolutionary. On the other hand, this could never have happened if it needed to consider the profitability of such a system. It doesn’t make good business sense to allow Google+ users to easily communicate with other social media platforms.

And this is where we stand. No closer to seeing the mass adoption of a federated social media system that grants users complete control over who holds their data, “just as you now choose your e-mail provider, and yet still connect with friends who use other services.” (Ariel Bleicher, “The Making of Diaspora”)

Also, Google+ does not (yet?) use nested comments. So that’s an automatic minus fifty points from Googfyndor!

Summary

Google+ is better than Facebook for various reasons, mostly to do with user privacy. Facebook is still better in practice because Google+ doesn’t have the large user adoption – yet.

But I still don’t like the shared, basic premise of either system. I’ll definitely play around with Google+ for a while longer, and keep submitting feedback every five minutes when I have an idea for improvement (sorry, extremely busy Google developers – it’s just that you’ve got a button right there and it tempts me so!), but I’m going to continue using email to have conversations and organise social engagements because it’s easier, safer, and (among the people I associate with) email raises fewer problems of accessibility.

Until I can use a service to communicate with everyone without requiring them to join a new, commercial service that may not be around forever, it is a broken social networking system.

* I’m only kidding**.

** . . . Or am I? Perhaps that is the point!

Bullying in the networked public

I was bullied two days ago. I was at a bus stop with a few other strangers when a ‘P plater’ with two friends stopped a car on the side of the road opposite us and began heckling. I was listening to a podcast and trying to ignore them so I didn’t hear exactly what they said to me, their final victim, before driving off, but I believe the taunts may have raised witty questions about the status of my sex.

I wanted to tell myself that this didn’t get to me, but it did. It wasn’t that I felt insulted – if anything, that I heard the same taunts from twelve-year-olds when I was growing up is an insult to their wit – it was because people felt this sort of behaviour was something they could get away with. Words can hurt, badly, and this just isn’t acceptable. But what could I do about it? Paying attention to bullies only makes it more enjoyable for them, and responding can escalate the situation.

As a common target for bullying, I was no stranger to the ‘light bulb moment’ experienced soon after a confrontation when you realise the wittiest response you could – but rarely ‘should’ – have made. This time it was different, though; rather than the typical, verbal, “No, sir, I think you’ll find it is you who is silly looking”, a better idea better came to me, something frightening in its simplicity to change the uneven power structure I found myself in:

Pull out a camera. Say nothing. Begin filming.

This digital disarmament would work because, even if they drive off laughing at their victims, there is a looming question about what did and what will happen. Would I give the film to the police? But they can’t do anything – can they? Would I give it to local high schools and attempt to contact their parents? What if I managed to find them and attempted blackmail? Would I post it on YouTube, using their license plate for the video title, and attempt to find more identifying information about them to better illustrate the monument to public shaming, forcing them to own their actions for the rest of their lives?

Or, perhaps, I wasn’t even filming at all. This ambiguity is, I would argue, far more concerning than a single act of cowardly verbal abuse toward a stranger – in many cases, at least. Where the abusers had control over a brief situation, I may now have control over personally identifiable and incriminating information about them – information that is infinitely reproducible and not ‘lossy’. The power dynamic is immediately reconfigured. The uneven power has been dissipated from my transgressors and I immediately have the upper-hand.

With the average citizen’s gradually increased potential to be an instant surveillance recording device, such a response becomes more and more likely. In fact, ‘license plate titled YouTube videos’ and similar responses could easily become a ‘thing’ that – once public knowledge – parents, employers, schools and other authoritative institutions may routinely search for.

The part of me who remembers growing up as a daily target of bullying can certainly see the benefits of such technology trends. Once people realise their actions may be monitored, the tendency to taunt others could be reduced, and this is certainly a positive result.

However, such a lesson may be learned at the expense of (for lack of a better term) ‘reverse-bullying’, which could produce longer lasting effects. Not only has the bully’s power been reduced, the victim is now able to respond with a retaliation action that has potential negative consequences larger than the original act of bullying. And this new power, in the hands of one who has been forced into a defensive position, may be difficult to restrain.

Education becomes an important issue here. In addition to the many complex concepts about information flows and identity ‘the youth of today’ need to learn in order to protect themselves in our digital society, we need to make explicit the consequences of recording devices. On the one hand, we should not post things about others. On the other, we shouldn’t bully because others can post things about us if we do, or our actions can be easily traced (cyber-bullying and IP addresses) and we can be punished. But disarming both actions through education could make everyone paranoid about surveillance.

Education is not my area of expertise so I may leave the questions on teaching children about surveillance and the effects this has on social freedom for another time. The issues around reverse-bullying strongly resonate with me, however, as a person who strongly believes in the power of reform over that of punishment. The temporal nature of digital media increases the power of punishment exponentially in this scenario, and the act of passive retaliation – say, having a camera visible to make a statement of ambiguity but not recording at all – is only successful if there is a sense that punishment effects are a real possibility, which would not be the case if everyone was passive. So, in short, people are going to get hurt.

But people have been getting hurt for many, many years as the victims of bullying. Even if the odd tragedy is inevitable, I do feel the popularisation of digital recording devices could improve the situation overall. I just wonder if I’m being overly optimistic.

What’s in a blog name

I’m terrible at naming things.  There’s a lot about the arbitrary nature of names that makes me uncomfortable, and the part of me that does believe they can have positive value can never be satisfied that a name is ‘just right’ for its use.

In short: I’m a perfectionist, and a philosopher.  (A terrible pair of traits to have!)

So when it came to starting a new blog I loved the fact that I could just start writing in WordPress and change its name later on.  I could produce posts and easily move it to a different address once I think of the perfect handle!  I started with my real name because, while boring, it’s just a simple, obvious place to begin.  As long as I don’t care about anonymity it’s a good way to use an existing brand in a new setting.  But I also feel my real name is an inadequate representation for who I am.  Yes, its meaning grew with my actions, but it encompasses the sum total of these actions over my lifetime.  I wanted something else, something that represented who I am right now.  The easiest way to do that is to start from scratch, create a new pseudonym and just start participating.

One of my best qualities is that I am quite good with puns.  While this helps with picking out a cool name, I encountered issues of relevance and originality.  My first new blog from last year was called ‘eTheChange‘ (it’s still alive), a take on the oft-quoted Gandhi phrase, and this wasn’t too bad except that I felt limited in content.  I would happily write about activism and social change using digital media (my research focus in 2010) but anything else just felt out of place.  I then recently began a new blog with the working name ‘dailyontology’.  It sounds like paleontology (I wanted to dedicate my life to this when I was young, like every other kid) and I could use it to post about my own, daily existence (or something).  Still, I wasn’t happy with it – not everyone understands what ontology means, and I didn’t want to suggest that I’d post daily.

Then, reading some Asimov the next week, I thought I could use the pseudonym ‘andrewoid’!  Robotics is cool, and my first name is Andrew . . . but it made me worry that it created associations between me and a particular mobile operating system by Google that I have never actually seen let alone have a well informed opinion on.  And it appears a few others are using the name already on various social media sites.  I know it’s becoming increasingly difficult to have a simple and original name, but I didn’t want to encroach on somebody else’s established brand.

The next day I came up with the best name so far: ‘threadpoet’!  But this didn’t feel relevant to my planned content unless I got back into regular sewing projects.  I’ll happily settle altering it for a sewing group name, however: ‘The Thread Poet Society’!

The final, and current name comes from a conversation I was part of.  A friend was recounting an adventure that led them to a park bench where they were subjected to the not-so-modest actions of very public pigeons.  Being especially quick that day I said, ‘They were exhipigeonists!’

It didn’t immediately seem right for a blog name, but it began to grow on me.  I’m researching networked publics and I’m making an effort to be more open than I have been in the past, so it actually had some relevance.  And besides, doesn’t everybody like birds?  (And didn’t they used to be dinosaurs?!)  The final persuasion came when I did a quick google search for ‘exhipigeonist’ and it came up with zero results!

I think I’m set on it, at least for the time being.  The name’s not as important as what you do with it.  And even if it’s not ‘just right’, my actions will inform a new identity around it, forcing it to cohere.

So the next big question is where to begin.  Luckily, I already have a list of topics!