You Got a Problem?

The Digital Soapbox: scream as loud as you need, just make sure to use bold or italics.

The Digital Soapbox: scream as loud as you need, just make sure to use bold or italics.

Well, do you?

Check this out: TrentUProbs

Students at Trent have harnessed the power of social media to communicate about common issues they face at Trent.  I want to use this as an example to reflect on my last post about social media and protest.  Is complaining about common issues on a public digital platform protest?  Not quite, perhaps, but does have a subversive element to it.

On TrentUProblems Twitter feed students post common issues they face everyday as students.  Some are your regular complaint – ones that you may hear a twenty-something student whine about in the hallway, others have more stuffing to them:

“Just paid $7 for half a salad”

Good point.  For an undergrad, $7 is a meal, not just a salad.

Twitter functions like any other social media space: communication is ongoing, interactive, networked, and functions like a continuous newsfeed.  With enough recognition, TrentUProblems could evolve into a more legitimate space, similar to a soapbox, whereby issues become concerns of not only the student users, but of administration and the university in general.

Trent students aren’t the only ones complaining.  Ryerson University and U of T have similar Twitter feeds:

U of T Probs


What does this say about student voices?  Are these just regular complaints?  Or is their weight to them?  Can they improve the university?

Over the past summer I had the opportunity to create a blog with a professor of mine and another researcher.  We developed a blog that researched social media in academic spaces and discovered that social media has the ability to help students and the university connect in new ways.  One of the institutions we researched is the Digital Media Zone (DMZ) at Ryerson.  The DMZ helps digital businesses get on their feet in the corporate world, however, it also helps connect students with university admin.
Ryerson’s Soapbox is similar to the above Twitter feeds, however, it is more official.  The Soapbox was developed by students and faculty at the DMZ and allows students to post comments and idea (ideas – complaints that have evolved into positive, potential solutions) and students are allowed to vote on the best ideas.  The university takes heed of the best ideas and works to accommodate them.   Better still, students also are notified of how they can help carry the idea out.

Democracy 2.0

Social media platforms serve a double purpose in the above examples.  It allows for casual speak and communication.  Students don’t feel threatened by the university.  They don’t feel small compared to the entire student and faculty body.  As well, students can innovative and collaborate with the university through this media.   The casual can become the official.  Digital media can perform such transformation sans the hassle and tug-o-war of politics if students and the university can meet in mediation through the platforms this media provides.

My question: is this an extension of my last post?  I tend to think so.  Complaining can be a minor form of protest since it challenges power structures by questioning them.  However, the important thing is to view complaining about issues as a legitimate means to improve the university.  Forget the whining on both sides – there is potential in how Ryerson is using digital media.  Other universities are beginning to utilize it for good, but I am waiting for more productive solutions.

Oh, and for that salad-eating tweeter, here you go:

Food Services at Trent


About dontpanictrent

DON'T PANIC: A Trent Graduate Student Blog

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