CUNY Commons On Tour
Email can be tricky. It has almost no tone, certainly no inflection…humor is a fool’s game. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve sent only to find myself mortified twenty minutes later. For the more neurotic among us reading the most glib, offensive or downright truculent ways one might interpret a sentence as harmless as “…just make sure it’s back by Tuesday…” as something more akin to “…do this or we release the hounds…” can keep one perched over their BlackBerry until the early hours of the morning. That said, there’s something kind of marvelous about the internet. The web is living evidence that people want to communicate. We want to share with others. In fact, we can’t help it.
I suppose that’s a given though. Of course we desire to communicate with each other. You don’t pick up a hammer and a chisel and start writing into stone unless you really want other folks to hear you out. When you consider the ocean of ink that has carried words back and forth for millenia, the internet (and its follies) is just another gangly adolescence for communication. However, as beautiful as the internet and all of its paraphernalia is for communicating, it’s still in some ways just stand in for the real McCoy – face to face.
The Commons was built out of this very dilemma. While regular readers already know, if you’re new to the joint the Commons was designed to bring the larger CUNY community together. If you’re teaching Shakespeare over at City College there’s a good chance you don’t get to talk much with your colleague over at Brooklyn (if you even knew she was there!). Likewise for those committees that cut across schools or even the university. It’s hard enough to get everyone together in one place regularly, let alone when you need to speak to everyone asap. New York’s a big place, and we’re all busy people, you can’t shake everyone’s hand. Fortunately it’s never been easier to communicate and connect. The Commons helps you do just that.
We’ve found, maybe ironically, that the best way to get people excited about the Commons is to go talk to them.
We do a lot of presentations every year. You can think of it as ‘The Commons – Live.’ Our Outreach Coordinator Michael Smith calls it the CUNY Commons Road Show. There’s the Welcome Students day at the Grad Center, the annual CUNY IT Conference, various web development conferences, CUNY tech conferences, just to name a few. Meeting people and sitting down with them to show them the Commons and our community here is the best way to help people really see what the Commons can do. While we don’t have the resources to do a lot of one-on-one work we do give presentations to share the Commons across CUNY. If you have a technology event coming up or think the Commons is a good tool for your department/club/project and want to arrange a presentation you can always reach out to us. We’re a small crew here so it might take a little planning but we can make it happen.
A great example is recently we made it up to Lehman College for their tech showcase and got to speak with the folks there about using the Commons to connect Lehman with other colleges. Lehman already has a strong presence here but it was great to take questions and hear back from people on what they wanted the Commons to be. I feel like I say it all of the time but you, the Commons, dictate what we do with the site. Hearing back about what’s working and what isn’t tells us what direction to move in. Sitting down with someone and making an account with them tells us tons about how to overhaul that process. Just loading the Commons on all of the various computers around CUNY tells us a little something about how different OS’s and web browsers handle the site.
If meeting people and talking with them face to face is best and everything that follows is what will do, the internet, and by proxy the Commons, is the most sophisticated way of approximating the ideal we’ve ever known. You can find someone, check their profile, read their blog, see what their interests are and then reach out to them across the city and the university. Whether it’s a step up from papyrus or not is relative, but it’s fun to remember that this is still, all things considered, a pretty new thing for people.
So go blog more!