Category Archives: social networks

Rough draft of an abstract

This is due tomorrow and this will be replaced by the final version when that’s done. In the meantime, suggestions are welcome.  And yes, my dear tweeple, and Facebook friends, and other connections, probably I will pester you for interviews or some such… You will be immortalized in academia –if you aren’t already! 😉

This paper explores the way collective archives emerge from the individual digital memories of participants in social networks, facilitated by social sotware applications. Examples are drawn from social networks in northern California, particularly the SF Bay area, though being largely carried out online, these networks are actually much more widely distributed.  These collective archives are described as “ethereal” because they are widely distributed, mainly linked through blog entries, twitter feeds, and other ephemeral locations. The evolution of these ethereal archives represents a response to the disappearance of space as a contraint on archives and archives now rather being constrained by time.

Digital technology allows us to preserve our memories both easily and without the constraints of space, and at the same time to broadcast those memories through blogs, microblogs, photostreams, video collections and social networking sites that incorporate all of these.  This already huge and rapidly growing mass of information is now instead constrained by time: the time it takes users and creators to navigate, find, and attend to any one item. Harold Innis argued for the importance of communication over time, because these archives become an extension not only of personal, but of collective memory.  Both individual and community identities are shaped and preserved in collaborative and ephemeral archives, made up of a few people’s Flickr sets, another’s blog, yet another’s Youtube collection, and many others’ Twitter feeds.  While digital media allow communication of all kinds to be preserved, the volume of communication is now so great that much is in danger of being lost in a sea of texts, images, audiofiles, and videos.

However, as these materials accumulate, sometimes they prompt the emergence of a community or strengthen and expand what was once a small and physically proximal group into a much wider and more influential network. As people connect, their personal archives are linked into what might be called an ethereal archive, dependent for it’s organization on the social connections across the network expressed through links shared through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and so on.  Not only will events or objects begin to generate folsonomic tagging across platforms, but people as well, most often in the form of @twitternames. Not surprisingly, clear examples of these ethereal archives have evolved around the San Francisco Bay area, wherein reside not only many technophiles, but also cooperatively minded people.

Bath Toy for Worm


Bath Toy for Worm
Originally uploaded by cuuixsilver

Interrupting my conference coverage to try catching up some of the other stuff I’ve been doing. This piece of art by Florentijn Hofman is out in front of Worm (about which I’ve written quite a lot already). I love the duck, but also I was interested to hear from Hajo that because Worm had some connection to the artist, they were able to have the piece anchored there for a few weeks at a much lower cost than was usually charged.

There are so many ways that social networks impact these scenes!

Live from IFIP WG 9.5

Can’t write too much at the moment because I will be speaking myself in 27 minutes. 🙂

Some quite interesting talks here, but I am surprised (pleasantly) how broadly representative the panelists are. The conference is small–only one track of three speakers per panel for a total of 8 speakers including me! –Not counting discussants and the conference organizer, but still quite small. It leads to very interesting discussions between talks and I expect dinner will be quite nice that way as well. At least I hope so!

Some themes are emerging, but I’ll wait until I have a chance to digest the ideas a bit more and read the proceedings before I comment on that. I did not get my revisions done in time to be included, but now both the slides and paper or online at Scribd. I was especially interested in David Kreps‘ talk and hopefully will find his stuff in the reader.

One trend though, to whet your appetites–agreement that the virtual/real or online/offline dichotomies are unsatisfactory ways to undersatnd any of this stuff. Finally!

Talk at University of Twente

Now it’s official; I will give a talk at University of Twente on June 25th. Here’s the blurb:

A preliminary report on how scholars perceive their social network/audience on Facebook, and what effect the risk of and real border-crossing or transgressive behavior has for them personally and professionally with their colleagues. –So in other words shifting the focus the what students are doing or how they perceive us to what we scholars are doing and how we perceive each other. I make a rhetorical analysis of gestures that are exchanged between users, and in particular discuss how these gestures may help create a feeling of presence.

My own experience suggests that while perhaps there is some risk to the behavior encouraged by Facebook, there is also considerable personal and professional benefit to engaging in the prescribed playful actions of Facebook applications. They seem to encourage connections that are emotionally more intimate and stronger, which offers both personal and professional advantages. People with whom we have multi-valent relationships online may also become people with whom we might collaborate on research, or organize conference panels, or at least go to for advice when visiting their home countries/cities.

Thus I ultimately argue that along with the playful air pervading Facebook, there can also be a feeling of risk, and that users sharing experiences that give rise to this tension actually strengthen their social and professional bonds. In academic circles there aren’t many venues where play and risk are valued or even possible, which may explain why Facebook has been so attractive to many of us who by rights (as trained critical thinkers) ought to be the most resistant to its charms.

So basically people get a sneak preview of the talk I will give the following week in Germany at IFIP WG 9.5 and preliminary thoughts on the paper I’m preparing for IR 9.0

Long Distance

I can remember back in 1999 or so I was first making friends online, and at the time people around me expressed surprise that I would really count any of these online acquaintances as friends. And of course not all them were or became friends, but some did. Now, almost 10 years later I am still friends with some of them, even close friends. Along the way people really stopped asking if net friends were real friends, and I have many many friends now whom I mostly connect with online–scholars lead an itinerant life, or at least I do.

But of course it’s not exactly the same.

There are people I see almost every day or every week in my immediate locale whom I consider friends, a few of them close friends. But even those that are not so intimate emotionally I know quite well in other ways just because I see them often. So I know what they typically eat, or whether they prefer coffee or tea, what kinds of clothes they like to wear, whether they are morning people or night owls–and this is all without explicit discussion. I just observe it.

I know these things about some of my online friends too, but only if we talk about it. I don’t know about others, but when I am taking time to email, or IM, or chat, I don’t usually spend time on these little details unless for some reason they become important as part of a larger point. But even as I write this I experience the same problem of what I would describe vs what might be observed–there are some people, a few, with whom I am in such close contact that even though we are only connected via skype or email, these details come through. But when describing our daily lives through an online medium, we all make choices about what to leave in or out. These choices create some picture of us for readers that really is only a thin slice of our lives, so in some ways our online friends almost inevitably have a distorted picture.

This is not to say people we see in person don’t have pictures of us that are distorted in other ways, but I think the distortions may be less exaggerated because a broader range of information is available. Online we have mainly text, maybe some pictures or videos, and almost all of that is chosen by the author (leaving aside for now the issue of involuntary publishing that afflicts people with highly public identities). So it seems to me that this may serve to concentrate the distortions.

But does this actually matter? I don’t know. As I said, some of my online friendships started 10 years ago and those that have lasted always lead to meeting in person at least occasionally. So maybe this is really no different from the largely epistolary relationships that were common before the telephone, or before rapid travel became fairly accessible to large numbers of people. But having both kinds of friendships does sometimes make me feel in an uncomfortable way that there is some kind of disjunction between those with whom I feel closest and those whom I might guess have the widest range of information. Are those closest friends closest to the “me” that I think of as “me”? I suppose the question has always been there, but now technology makes me really notice it often. Damn computers and ICTs. 😉

Open source women back each other up program

The Open source women back each other up program is not really a techy program, but rather:

1. a program I completely and utterly support because in the US at least it is really needed.

2. an interesting example of how the meaning of a techy concept, open source, is being contested. Or rather, how it’s metaphorical meaning is being contested. And I agree with one person who comments on the whole thing, the guy who came up with the “open source boobs” phrase should have been saying public domain. Jackass.

–And this is what started the whole tempest to begin with.

And while I will say like everyone else, this response of course is parody; I find it really really tempting sometimes.

The science fiction community–more fun than a barrel of weasels. Or ferrets. yeah.

Where the hell are my slides?

Here I am, about to lead off my panel with a presentation entitled “let’s Pretend,” which covers the first stage of my research on Facebook. I argue that the risk of transgression that is built into Facebook, and in particular into certain applications and into the way users appropriate those applications in order to communicate in ways other than intended, foster a playful atmosphere and make the site more attractive.

I look so serious because I have had my laptop for only a couple of days and I can’t remember where the hell I put the presentation slides. 😛 Lucky you; they can now be found here. [Thanks to Scribd, which is the easiest site I’ve seen for sharing files of all kinds–not like GoogleDocs for editing, just for sharing, plus with some social network and archiving kind of stuff built in. It seems cool.]

It was a good panel though and felt more coherent than many of the other internet/web/new media panels. And we had discussion that ran over the break and into the next panel which was rude of us, but also signals a good panel. 😉

Embodied experience and the post-conference buzz

I’m not sure if it’s true for everyone, but I notice that starting by the end of my first day at a conference and lasting for weeks after, I often have so much more energy for writing than usual, even though I’ve keeping long hours and maybe having drinks as well. So what accounts for that?

On one of the now numerous email lists of which I’m member, someone posted about how interacting face to face always creates some energy that flows around between people. I’m not sure if that’s always true; sometimes socializing can be a bit of a strain, if for some reason it feels awkward. But on the whole, I think that’s right. Whenever I go to conferences and meet even one person I really connect with, I’m energized. Once I’ve made these connections, I can usually solidify and sustain them through a combination of email and skype, facebook messaging (and playing) and so on. I even find these virtual contacts energizing, if I have real conversations. And lately I’ve experienced something of that energy even with people I’ve never met in person, but in those cases I also feel an even more urgent wish to meet in person.

But I think there is something about physical presence that so far can’t be replicated or replaced by any virtual modes of contact. In a way it’s like falling for someone in that there’s a a similar feeling of immediate connection, of excitement, except it’s over a different kind of prospect; an intellectual potential, rather than romantic. –Or maybe romantic too, for some people. 😉 Or maybe only I feel this way. Most academics would hesitate to admit this, even if they felt it, I think, because though even porn is starting to be accepted as a subject for study, it’s still not really ok to talk about being motivated in our own work by pleasure, other than the most intellectual and abstract. I think that so many academics are suddenly not only joining Facebook but also getting really involved in it is that it allows expression of some of that same kind of pleasure that we experience when meeting in person.

Why do we all love Facebook?

I’ve really been wondering about this; all of these friends and I are supposed to have seriously critical attitudes toward Web 2.0 and all that, but were acting just as goofy about Facebook as our own undergrads. This really got me thinking about what is so powerfully attractive that in spite of knowing about the privacy issues, the labor issues (providing content for free, right here…) and all that stuff.

Right from the start I noticed how much the interactions encourages by Facebook remiind me of how my college and/or grad school friends and I used to interact. We saw each other everyday, ate together often, left each other notes, phone messages, were in class together, went to parties together, and spent hours and hours talking about, well, everything. We did know each others favorite movies, music, books, food, color, clothing style. And we knew the “whys” behind every preference.

Now, I’ve come to realize that I am one of those very social people who will use any channel available. But I wonder how much everyone who has experienced the the kind intense friendships I did in college wishes to regain that kind of connection. During grad school I realized that everyone was getting busier and busier and it was proportionally harder to maintain the intense connections we had enjoyed before we all started to become really “professional.”

I’ll post some more about this later, after I observe some more… 😉

Facebook Mania

I’ve had an account on Facebook for awhile and thought it was rather boring, but suddenly some of my friends are joining–all people who study new media things.

The funny thing is that now that were all on there, we are acting just as silly as the obsessive college students about which all the news-stories report. So we send each other virtual high-fives, little “gifts” –just icons– we post things on each other’s profiles. And this is in addition to all the emails, skype calls and chats, etc. etc. Of course this has only been goiing for about a day; maybe we’ll all get bored and drop it.

But, and I don’t how long these have been available, there are quite few fun applications you can add into your profile, so that’s kind of fun too… now if I could just connect it to my SL avatar, I could close the circuit completely.