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Monday musings on Australian literature: Aussie Lit and Facebook

September 17, 2012

In writing this week’s Monday Musings I will be venturing a little into my discomfort zone. It’s not that I don’t use Facebook because I do, having been a member since 2007, but that I’m not an expert in how to make the most of it. I figure though that this post might encourage some discussion and teach me a few things in the process. Let’s see …

Early in the life of Facebook, cultural organisations and groups saw that it was the place where people – particularly young ones – were congregating, and so they decided they needed a presence there. Most though, it seemed to me, had no idea what to do with that presence, and their pages languished somewhat. But, in the last year or so, things have changed dramatically. Part of the reason is that Facebook’s functionality has improved, particularly in the way pages now “push” information. Previously, I had to GO to an organisation’s page to see what was happening. There was no way I could remember every organisation on Facebook that I was interested in – and if I did remember, I didn’t have the time to GO to them just on the off-chance they had added something new. Now if I “like” an organisation, its communications appear in my feed. A big improvement – except of course the quantity of material being fed to me can be overwhelming (even with my pretty small list of “friends” and “likes”). I’m not sure what systems are out there to help me manage that … but I assume there are some. If you have any hints, please let me (us) know.

Facebook certainly isn’t my prime source of literary news and information, but I’ve noticed that I’m learning more from its feeds now, than I did even a few months ago.

That’s my intro … the rest of the post will simply list a (highly selected) few of my favourite pages that relate to Australian literature. (I’m not sure whether the Facebook links will work for you if you are not on Facebook, but I’m providing them anyhow).

  • 100 Years of Words is special to me because it relates to the production of an anthology of writing to celebrate the centenary of Canberra, Australia’s capital. The anthology, titled The invisible thread, will be published in 2013. I can’t wait to see it … but in the meantime I am enjoying the literary bits and pieces the team shares about literary things of interest to we capital residents!
  • Australian Women Writers was established in response to discussions over the last couple of years about gender bias in Australian publishing and book selling. I have mentioned the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012 on my blog (and have a clickable badge to it in my sidebar). The AWW page aims to network authors, reviewers, bloggers and readers – and is very keen to look at all the genres women write and read in. It serves a broad church (within its gender-limited field).
  • Meanjin (which ran last year’s Aussie Tournament of Books) is a good example of a literary magazine Facebook page that keeps me in touch with their magazine, their blog and general literary news.
  • Text Publishing and Allen & Unwin are two publishers whose feeds I find useful, partly because they publish overseas authors as well as Aussie ones. I’m not totally nationalistic, you see!

In addition to the above are pages for writers centres (such as the NSW Writers Centre), literary festivals (such as the Melbourne Writers Festival), blogs (such as my friend Lisa’s ANZLitLovers), and so on. There are also author pages, but I’ve not generally found them to be particularly useful for general literary news. I guess that’s natural. They’re primarily about promoting their own books.

Finally, just to show that I’m not totally rah-rah about new technologies, much as I appreciate the benefits, I’ll close with a quote from a post on Meanjin’s blog. The writer James Douglas discusses Jaron Lanier‘s book, You are not a gadget. Here’s Douglas’ conclusion:

The message is simple: the tools available to us from digital technologies, especially the tools that afford us the opportunity to ‘publish’ ourselves—Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.—may offer us exciting and stimulating opportunities for communication, but they also change us as people. It is our own responsibility to pay attention to what these tools do to us, how they express our individuality, how they value or devalue our work. This, I think, is one way to make sense of DeLillo’s remarks that email encourages ‘a response that I may not be willing to execute.’ The immediacy of email, in DeLillo’s view, interpellates him as an individual marked by ‘availability’; accessible and responsive to contact. Web 2.0 open culture may necessitate open people, which is not always to our benefit.

There’s much to think about here on how we engage with social media. For me it’s not a case of not doing it, but of working out what I’d like to get from it and trying to keep it to that. Easier said than done, and I recognise that some impacts on me may be subliminal, but I plan to keep trying.

I’d love to know if you use Facebook and, if you do, what you like and don’t like about it. Do you primarily use it for communication with friends, or is it also a useful tool for news in your areas of interest?

20 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2012 1:50 am

    It’s funny that Facebook is becoming more a site of information for you; I feel like my Facebook feed is turning into nothing but the same few people posting endless memes and pictures with “funny” captions on it! Although, I guess, thinking more on it, there are a lot of businesses starting to use it to good effect…

    End tangential Hannah-thought.

    • September 18, 2012 8:39 am

      Oh yes, Hannah … There have been lots of funny captions … But I don’t get the memes, about which I’m not sorry. The info is still low-ish in proportion, but getting there, if there is where it wants to be!

  2. September 18, 2012 2:13 am

    I’ve just signed up for the Australian Women Writers Facebook page! Looks interesting to me. One of the things I can’t stand about this age of new information is that I can’t keep up – competition deadlines, award news, short stories, writer articles. It’s just too much. I do use Facebook and it has been useful to discover some old lost friends and draw attention to my blogposts, but there are so many more diehards out there who have more time than I do to be productive/unproductive. Sometimes I wish it just weren’t there as it makes me feel inadequate. Or completely frivolous!

    • September 18, 2012 8:41 am

      Fair point Catherine … Nigel of Under the Dovecot posted a good article recently on his battle with social media. I was nearly going to link to it but that ended up not being the way my post headed.

    • September 18, 2012 10:02 am

      Oh, and I meant to say, that’s great that you signed up to their page. I think it would be right up your alley … a very diverse group across literary fiction and non-fiction, classics and all the genres.

  3. September 18, 2012 3:57 am

    I’m on Facebook but I rarely logon to Facebook. It is just too much of a time suck. It basically has just become a reminder calendar for friends’ and family members’ birthdays. I prefer to get my book news via blog feeds, online magazine/news feeds, and sometimes Twitter.

    • September 18, 2012 8:46 am

      It can be … I find Twitter almost more overwhelming in terms of quantity … But it can be a more targeted source I agree, mainly perhaps because of the sorts of people there or that I choose to follow!

  4. September 18, 2012 7:09 am

    I don’t tend to use Facebook for news, mainly because there is so much on there that I only happen to see news if it is in the feed.

    • September 18, 2012 8:50 am

      Thanks Marg … I’m only just starting too … And it may not turn out to be efficient. Just another prong to explore at present.

  5. Bryce permalink
    September 18, 2012 12:36 pm

    Facebook is brilliant for keeping in touch with friends overseas. It is of some help in keeping up with literary and music news, but I mainly follow blogs and other websites for that. I loathe the deluge of memes and “funny” pictures that Hannah mentioned, but mostly control it by asking FB not to show updates from the main culprits (see “How do I control what I see in my newsfeed?” in Help). My main concern about FB is that it can entrap us in the business of self-presentation. Stephen Marche said: “Curating the exhibition of the self has become a 24/7 occupation.” FB, twitter, personal blogs etc are useful – as long as we are aware of how we are using them, and can pull back when we catch a whiff of narcissism.

  6. September 18, 2012 2:41 pm

    “Curating the exhibition of the self has become a 24/7 occupation” is powerful stuff but is a pretty effective description of much of what is happening. Staying aware is the critical thing I agree.

    I will check out that “How do I control …” section. I think I’ve used it or a similar functionality before but haven’t checked it for a while. I probably don’t have enough irritating things to bother me … I tend to scroll very quickly down the page to check for people/things of interest but of course if you don’t check regularly it becomes a much more major exercise, one I don’t bother to engage in – so it is all pretty serendipitous in the end.

  7. September 18, 2012 8:08 pm

    Thanks for the shout about the AWW challenge and Facebook page – and for the other links.

    My experience with Facebook has been pretty positive since I first joined. Apart from connecting with family and friends, I started using it to network with Aussie poets who were creating multimedia poetry, and along the way created a group to support Haiti after the earthquake. At the time Facebook seemed a good way of getting in touch with like-minded people, but that was before I found Twitter. Twitter has definitely been my platform of choice since then.

    • September 18, 2012 9:48 pm

      Thanks Elizabeth … I must say that while I’m on Twitter as you know, I don’t check it regularly enough. I go to Facebook first because of friends and family. For the info side of things I think Twitter has a lot to offer. But all these things can take time from actual reading, can’t they?

  8. September 18, 2012 11:12 pm

    Ahh, exactly Sue. I could read a LOT more if I didn’t read facebook and blog feeds quite so much- and still I’m always behind on them. I haven’t gone near twitter or pinterest. I do subscribe to quite a few news sources and organisations on fb, and I get quite a lot of news there these days. Although some of it is duplicated with fb posts and appearing in my google reader. Yes it can get a bit bogged down with political messages from the US, and religious or mystical pictures and quotes, but still there’s enough jokes to carry my interest. After all who can’t spare a few minutes for a funny cat video, or a cute dog picture each day? It’s nice to keep some fun in it too I think.

    • September 19, 2012 12:03 am

      Oh Louise,you are the online queen in terms of what you are across … I hate the ways things just keep proliferating and yet I recognise new people come along with some thing they believe they can do better … Everyone gets scattered and you join several to keep up with this person an that person … But time doesn’t expand. Wah!

  9. September 23, 2012 8:22 am

    As always a very interesting post (and, as you know, this topic has been on my mind). Two things jump out for me: ‘It is our own responsibility to pay attention to what these tools do to us’ and Bryce’s ‘FB…can entrap us in the business of self-presentation’. Social media is here to stay and, like television, it’s our job to work out how to use it. I rarely watch television, mostly because there’s little of interest, and as each day goes by I’m using social media less and less; in fact I’ve all but stopped using Facebook to ‘socialise’ – I’d rather have a coffee with a friend. However, writing – and publishing – is such a tough game and platforms like Facebook and Twitter can help to build an audience. For me the problem is the ‘feed’ – there is too much rubbish. Even wonderful organisations will post funnies and observations on ‘life moments’ to humanise themselves. So it can become a trap. I’d rather choose to visit sites like Meanjin and Wet Ink – and Whispering Gums! – rather than be told to visit. In essence, I like to control the machine (at least try to) rather than have it control me.

    • September 24, 2012 4:22 pm

      Thanks Nigel … I nearly linked to your post but then realised that mine was heading in a different direction, so I’m glad you’ve commented here. People might decide to follow it up!

      I agree that it is our job to work out how to use social media. It has a lot to offer but needs to be harnessed. I was thinking the other day how the minute people finish something eg the end of a movie or concert, arrive at home or at a friend’s or family’s place (and before they get out of the car), they pull out their phones to check for messages? social media statuses? What is that about? I have a mobile and use it for practical things” Coming home now do you need any shopping on the way? Readers’ Festival finished, can you pick me up now please! And so on. But my life isn’t tied to the mobile. A generational thing I guess. But, to come out of a movie and check your phone before chatting to the people you’re with about what you’ve just seen does seem a little sad to me. Who’s most important – the person/s you are with or the person/s living their lives somewhere else? I know this sounds a bit curmudgeonly and I don’t mean it quite that way. Mobiles have made some things so much easier but they expanded beyond a phone communication device into a social media device and I wonder what it all means in terms of our relationships with each other.

      So, like you, I mostly choose to visit rather than be tied to communications pushed to me … but am still working out my balance.

      • Elizabeth Dartnell permalink
        September 25, 2012 3:14 pm

        I’ve enjoyed this discussion, Sue, and especially some of Bryce’s comments. To tell the truth, what I’m doing now is the most active I’ve ever been on FB! So while I’m ‘on’ it I use it only rarely and passively…finding it all a bit tedious with the exception of Whispering Gums! (One of your recent columns inspired me to re-read Kings in Grass Castles – and the Sally Morgan books as a counterpoint to the Durack experience – so never underestimate the power of your words.)
        By the way, I still have a mobile that only phones and texts, so put me in the dinosaur class…

        • September 25, 2012 4:23 pm

          Oh welcome to Whispering Gums Liz. It’s lovely hearing from you and I’m thrilled that my blog encouraged you to reread some books. Thanks for telling me.

          Mr Gums (or you know who) and I only joined the smart phone set a few months ago but I don’t use much of its smart functionality. We mainly did it because of problems with the phones we had (mine kept turning itself off out of the blue) and we saw a deal on some prepaid (see we are dinosaurs – or is it cheapskates!) smart phones.

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