Episode 11-Welcome to Season 2, Accessible Social Media
0-0:13 Orthotonics Accessible as Gravity plays and fades out
0:13 Hello and welcome to Accessagogy a podcast about accessibility and pedagogy. I’m your host Ann Gagné and this podcast is recorded on land covered by the Upper Canada Treaties and within land protected by the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Agreement, which is the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples.
0:35 Welcome to episode eleven or Season Two Episode 1! As you can tell by the new land acknowledgement a lot has happened over the summer. I moved to a new city, I started a new job, and I know that what I said in the season one finale which was that I was going to work on my book on accessible pedagogy. Well that, that did not necessarily happen. However, now that all the things that I own are in one city and I no longer have to do a lot of back and forth, I hope to find some time to continue working on that book going forward.
1:15 This is also exciting because I get to see how the podcast sounds recording into a new room. I moved to a place where every neighbour has a dog, and so I may be editing out some dog barks, and an incredible amount of bluejays, but you tell me how it sounds and I would be happy to modify. I’m also trying to be strategic about when I record and looking for times when it’s a bit quieter in my neighbourhood.
1:46 In this episode I want to return to what I said that I would be talking about in the Season One finale which was accessible social media, because a lot has happened in that space over the summer.
1:59 One of the other things that I did want to do over the summer as I said I was going to do was run a Zoom workshop for labour and community organizers about how to make their social media more accessible, in particular Twitter as many folk had been using that platform to share ideas and events, and I was seeing some visuals that were really not accessible, but then you know everything changed. People have been leaving Twitter or whatever it is called now for new platforms. Some ended up on Mastodon, some on Bluesky, some on LinkedIn which seems to be the place where a lot of academics are now.
2:38 It was a not an organized movement of course. People moved to where they felt most of their friends and followers were going. But one of the things that was not necessarily taken into account was the accessibility of where people would end up. Many folk on Twitter in disability community raised points about how the other new platforms were not accessible, they lacked alt-text for example, they lacked privacy supports, or safety supports, they had no private messaging ability. And so groups split up, and some necessary conversations basically ended.
3:16 I mention this because the same sorts of things happen when the choices are made about tools that we use in classroom settings, some of them which can be social media tools. And some tools that serve different pedagogical purposes, like to communicate, to annotate, to illustrate, or maybe just to work in groups, these accessibility considerations need to be thought of.
3:39 This is also of interest and importance in relation to generative artificial intelligence, or generative AI conversations that are being had in higher education, and this will probably end up being it’s own topic of a different episode later on in the season, but I just want to flag that as well. For today, I want to focus on social media, how we can make social media accessible, and some of the things that we can think about when we make choices to use these tools in eduspaces or stop using or platforms that we leave. I will focus on four main things to think about in terms of accessible pedagogical use in social media today.
4:21 So number one, think about the over all user experience of the social media tool. Questions to ask are how do the users navigate, how does it align with different kinds of assistive technology, how easy or difficult is it to use or engage on the platform? These considerations intersect with digital literacy and overall platform literacy considerations. They are, there are assumptions that are made that users of a certain age all know how to use all technology and of course that’s not true. Platform literacy is actually what is being referenced here and so some users may know how to use specific platforms very well, like TikTok or Instagram. But this does not mean that they will be able to use all platforms equally well, which a lot of folk have mentioned about Mastodon for example, when the learning curve seems to be pretty high when using that space. So when deciding to use a social media tool as a communication space or a backchannel in some of your classes, think about the user experience for the learners and if this would be a space that could be used without much support, and if not then you need to of course provide that support for the tools in your classes, give some guidance, give some training, give some resources in your learning management system, those kinds of things.
5:48 Two, ask what different kinds of modality that the social media tool can support? Are there different ways to communicate in accessible and a mixture of ways. Is it text only space or can it be text, audio, video, images? And ultimately if there are different ways to communicate, are there equally different ways to support this in an accessible ways. For example, are there captions for video that you can toggle on or off, so that there’s accurate closed captions for example and not just open captions. Is there a way to describe or alt-text the images that are shared? Explore the accessibility of the social media platform and look at what it can do and what is planned for the future. So look at the website and see what they are planning for the tool for future.
6:38 Three, are there financial or social capital barriers to using this social media tool? So the best example I have about this right now is what is going on with Bluesky and why you’ll never find me there. Bluesky is in Beta release, and so as a result they’re limiting the amount of people that are on the platform. And so to do this they are using invite codes which means that you see people on social media platforms asking for codes to join. And so of course this means that those with more social capital and that have connections will get the codes and thus the platform seems to be kind of self selecting the kinds of users that they want. And this has been going on for months. I know many academics have found new spaces and communities there, but many of us are still on Twitter because of that exact reason. The inequity of this platform roll out is an example of things that folk don’t consider when they pick a platform or a tool. Sometimes this gatekeeping of community is done through fees, so like you’ll get some freemium situations where it’s free to join or use a platform but all the useful tools on the platform become behind a paywall. I know many people have very strong feelings about Bluesky and I’ve seen it kind of be shown on Twitter, and I’m happy to chat about this, but really thinking about how these different levels of participation and you know how there’s like sort of a level of have and have not that’s been happening on that platform also become part of the necessary conversations that we need to have in eduspace.
8:25 And then four, and finally think about the safety considerations. I know a lot of institutions do the work of vetting tools for digital safety and privacy of data. Part of this vetting is sometimes, but not always, looking at the safety of the tool or the platform for the learner. So vetting means looking at the kind of data that they’re asking when you log in, what kind of data is stored or publicly available when one is logged in. However, safety is one of those things that are never certain, right? It’s impossible to say that there is one way to make a platform safe because safety is also very much tied to positionality. What is safe for one person, may not be safe for the another. And so I think it’s important to think about these things and think about how harassment protection policies work, or how are issues reported and dealt with on the platform.
9:18 These are only a few things to consider to make social media use more inclusive and accessible. One of the reasons why I didn’t facilitate that workshop for community organizers this summer, besides you know moving house, is that I can’t do a workshop on social media because social media space is so much in flux right now. Even the very concept of what social media is is changing. This does not mean however, that the folk are not responsible to create social media that’s accessible, right. So when you’re deciding on where you are going next, you should still think about the accessibility of where that next is. Think about where your messages are coming from or where they’re going on different platforms. People, institutions, communities, organizations are actively trying to see where their audiences are ended up and where to focus their social media energy and outreach. This is a situation that has and is changing daily and honestly this may completely change again come the end of December for example, and I’m sure I will return to these or connected concepts this season again.
10:24 So that’s it, that is episode 11 of Accessagogy, with a season two introduction and an overview of some things to think about to make social media accessible.
10:35 Remember as well that I also want this to be a space where you can ask questions and share concepts that you would like me to discuss. So if there’s anything that I mentioned here, that you would like me to clarify, please ask. I hope to be posting these episodes every two weeks as I did last year, and then have a blog post on my blog in the weeks in between.
10:54 As always if you have any ideas or aspects of your pedagogy that you would like me to address on this podcast, please feel free to send me an email at Accessagogy so that’s acc e ss a gogy at gmail dot com. I will try to include as many suggestions as possible in the podcast because ultimately, as you know, this podcast is for you. So that’s it, that’s episode 11 of Accessagogy, thanks so much for following along and asking how can I make my space more accessible today?