Reflecting on Air-B-N-Me & the Class

After participating in Air-B-N-Me, it allowed me an opportunity to reflect on how it was a microcosm of my experience with digital media as a whole. It was daunting at first, fun and creative once I got into it and yet included some technical obstacles that frustrated me and left me wondering if it was all worth the effort. The opportunity to “participate” in digital media with my colleagues and with others was fun, although it still seemed like less of a free-flowing give-and-take and more of a bulletin board type of opportunity. I don’t think that was the original vision of the project so I’ll give the creators the benefit of the doubt, but I believe that the creativity exhibited by both the creators and participants made the project worthwhile. As I pointed out above, I think it provided a lens into what’s good and bad about my online experiences thus far. It also showed me that the possibility of exploring new ways to use digital media to share online space in a creative way that expands our ideas about reality and community makes the whole thing worthwhile.

Going back to the beginning of the class, we focused on our responsibility to participate in the world of digital media and how the line has become blurred between our “real” lives and our digital lives. This is a tough lesson for a guy like me to learn because I feel strongly that there are simply parts of our lives that should remain unplugged. However, even during the time I’ve been in this class, I’ve found myself dragged (sometimes willingly, sometimes unwillingly) into the online world more and more (spending more time on my phone, more time tweeting, on Facebook, etc.).  Is this good or bad?  I still tend to see my kids spending time online and my reflexive response is that they should shut it off and go find a friend to play with outside. However, this class has helped me realize that their online lives are in some ways equally substantial and consequential as their lives in the real world. I am trying not to disparage the lessons they can learn by participating in online communities, while simultaneously trying to take more steps to immerse myself in that world. At the beginning of this class, I wrote in my second blog (This is Collaboration?) that I was appalled at the idea that someone could take the skills they learned in World of Warcraft and parlay that into a job at MIT. The problem I had was seeing how the skills earned by manipulating online communities were so different or more important than the skills used to navigate disputes and problems in the real world. Several months later, I feel like I can look back and have a better understanding of the particular difficulties inherent in building your online profile and communicating therein. Understanding how to communicate without being misunderstood, how to communicate to a large group of people in remote locations and how to keep abreast of the sheer volume of communications in an online space are daunting and unique challenges.

The presentation that I created helped me see more clearly the connection between what I do as a journalist and the participation of people all over the world. Up until now, I still saw UGC (user generated content) as something of a unique aspect of my business – something that overlaps with my job only every once in a while. But I see now that journalism is being transformed as we speak by people providing content and analysis and participating in the way news is not only created but communicated and understood across online spaces. We in the news are no longer even the match that lights the spark, but one match of many. And while we play a role in how news is communicated and understood by the masses we may no longer be the primary conduit of that message or the key to how it is framed. Finally, I’ll mention the technical problems that I encountered along the way. Creating my presentation, joining Instagram and participating in the Air-B-N-Me brought me face-to-face with a number of challenges in actually getting programs to work the way they were supposed to. In many ways I felt like my son as he tried to figure out what file to take pictures from or how to rename them – something totally unrelated to the task he was trying to accomplish (although he didn’t know it). I feel like some of this stuff should be intuitive and it’s not, some is needlessly complicated for the sake of aesthetics and some simply doesn’t make sense. Maybe it’s my old brain trying to comprehend something new, but I don’t think so. I think there are times when people who are in charge of bridging the gap between new media and the new generation sometimes forget about us in the generation that came before. Give us a break – we are trying to get on board as well.?

NetProv Air-B-N-Me

I wasn’t too sure about this project at first. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all good with the creative aspect and the idea of inhabiting someone else’s life actually inspired a few interesting story ideas that I tucked away for future use. But in this case, it was the technological part of this that made me nervous. I have absolutely zero experience with Periscope and was concerned about letting people actually view my life for any period of time. (I know other people seem to have no problem with that, but it’s not exactly my thing). In reality, it turned out that my fears were (somewhat) justified when it turned out that the creative part was by far the most fun and the actual process of getting the posting together and up on the site was far more painful than I would have thought (and admittedly more difficult than it probably should have been).

Meeting with my group was a good way to kick off the project. I had initially thought about creating an ad that would offer the lurfer an opportunity (“swapportunity”) to be a child again.  I had a vision of me riding my bike down a hill in the sunshine when I was 10 or 12 and feeling like there was simply no weight on my shoulders. No responsibilities, none of the pressures that would come later in life. Enticing right? However, in discussing that with my group I initially thought a classmate was doing something similar. And then when she switched, I felt like perhaps others on Air-B-N-Me would do it.  I haven’t come across a similar idea on the site. Oh well. During our discussion, Melissa talked about giving some insight into what it was like to do her job as a waitress and I decided to take one of the unusual aspects of my job and make it the subject of my swapportunity. Thus, I decided on PreDawnDriver and gave people the chance to ride with me (instead of me?) to work at 4am from the Jersey shore all the way into NYC. The pitch? Enjoy a quiet commute with no traffic and no one bothering you – just you, the moon and the empty road. Creating the ad was easy and I accomplished it without difficulty. I created the video over the course of a few trips and then cut it together with Windows MovieMaker, added sound and posted it to YouTube. The problem was that I could not figure out how to post the video. I could see other people’s video links under their own posts. But when I tried to add to my forum posts I got this.


Error 404 – Not Found

The document you are looking for may have been removed or re-named. Please contact the web site owner for further assistance.

I tried a couple of different routes. I went back to the original instructions here. Nothing under settings. Clicking on Content under my account just took me back to the main swapportunities page. Nothing. I even tried to switch from Google Chrome to Firefox. Still couldn’t figure it out. I even reached out to Melissa to see if I had to sign up for  Periscope and that I had simply misunderstood the directions. She said no, I simply had to create the ad and put in the URL for the YouTube video. But how do I do it???

After probably an hour over a series of sessions, I finally figured it out. Go to Forum Posts, then to the available listings under the Forums Index and I had to crate a New Topic. Problem is, this wasn’t intuitive to me. I couldn’t see what forum I was posting in. It didn’t say anything about the ad. Why not at least put a NEW button on the page with all the other Forum Posts. Or label a button New Posting. I wasn’t even sure where my post would wind up until I actually posted it and saw that it had (to my relief) shown up where everyone else’s had.

This is my ad.

I also took some time to look at other people’s ads and found them creative and interesting for the most part. I will give a shoutout to our classmate Colin for an exceptional post.  I also check out this post and this post and commented on both. Some of the others seemed like people simply mailing it in (so to speak) – shooting something, anything for 30 seconds and posting it.  I wonder if in the next incarnation of this, we push people to videotape the wildest, most fascinating and unusual moments for people to “swap” with. It would take a bit of a change in the narrative behind the project, but might make for interesting results (and could prove to have more of a life beyond a classroom project.) All in all, I enjoyed Air B-N-Me – I thought it was a very creative idea nd I enjoyed taking part -just would have done the site a little bit differently.