Dr. Howard Rheingold (@hrheingold) on #Storify and the Egyptian Revolution

Welcome back! We hope everyone had a great summer, and relaxing vacations. To kick off the lab’s first fall post we have an interview with Dr. Howard Rheingold, a social media expert, director and professor at Rheingold U, and a lecturer in Stanford and U.C. Berkeley Universities’ departments of Communication and Information.

 A couple weeks ago we posted a review about Storify, a site which pulls content from a variety of social media sites to create a ‘Story’ out of this collected content. In that post we highlighted how social media integration sites like these are starting to play an important role the professional lives and work of scholars and journalists. This week we are featuring an interview of Dr. Howard Rheingold on his use of Storify.

1)      Can you briefly tell me about how you use Storify.com?

A: My main use of it has been the story I created on the Egyptian Revolution. There was a lot of press about the role social media was playing in that particular revolution, so I thought storify.com was an appropriate venue to showcase what was going on, by collecting posts from other social media sites to tell the story.

2)      Who is the intended audience?

A: I wrote book on smart mobs years ago, and again, I think the connection between social media and the Egyptian revolution important. An Egyptian activist contacted me and I used this site to create the story about what was happening in the social media realm about this event. I think these uprisings are perhaps a trend in how social media can be used and who it’s useful for. Mainly I see my constitutions, my followers, and the general public reading my stories.

3)      Why did you start using this site?

A: One of my students told me about the site when I was teaching a night course a couple of years ago. I didn’t use it too much until the Egyptian activist contacted me. I interviewed him on Twitter and used Storify to make the tweets into a story, contained in one page. Again, I thought it was an appropriate site to use to show this.

4)      What are some of the benefits that you have experienced as a result of using Storify.com?

A: The main benefit is that it enables you to pull together a number of different media and add your own context, and turn it into a single page, a single url, to share.

5)      Can you give me an example of how your use of this site helped you reach out to the popular media or a wider audience beyond the internet?

A: No, I don’t really think about that. I think the site is more useful for the online public.

6)      What do you see as the main challenges with maintaining your own personal profile on this site?

A: It’s pretty easy to use. I would say the fact that it’s not widely known is its main drawback.  So far it’s not as widely known as blogging for example, or the other social media sites it pulls from. The main challenge for the site will be finding a broader audience and just more users.

7)      Should more scholars start using this site, or ones like it? And why?

A: Yes, it’s specifically useful for journalists. It is useful for more people to know about this site, but journalists are a particular group that this would be important for because of the increasing role social media is playing in collecting and disseminating news.

I am actually including it in a course I am teaching this year on digital curation. So my students will know how to use this site and similar tools. I think more people are starting to use it, I see storify links come up on my Twitter account sometimes, so obviously some people are starting to use it more.

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We would like to thank Dr. Rheingold who graciously agreed to be interviewed for this post. This interview highlights many of the current trends in the constantly developing world of scholarly social media tools. The use of these tools for specialized purposes, for example, is common. Incorporating new and important tools into their teaching is another trend, especially in the information sciences field. But perhaps the most important trend is for collaboration across professional lines. There is no doubt that many scholars use academic and non-academic social media tools to collaborate with peers, however the ability to communicate with professionals and the public outside of a scholars’ peer group is also beginning to be seen through use of these tools. Like Dr. Rheingold who uses Storify to connect with users across geographic and professional borders, scholars are increasingly realizing the role social media can play in gathering information from a wide variety of online spheres, and developing an audience outside their direct peer group.

Stay tuned for future posts where we will continue to discuss and explore social media trends in academia and beyond. Did we miss any important trends? Leave a comment and let us know your opinion.