Tag Archives: Facebook

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.


A quick note to thank Ritchie Pettauer (whom I met through Facebook!) for asking to publish my Facebook paper on his blog, datadirt. As he describes it:

the main focus is (pro)blogging, WordPress and online marketing with the occassional media theory twist. I also like to blog about music and funny stuff on the net – yup, it’s a wild mixture of highly personalized preferences; but hey, that’s why it’s called a blog and not a magazine.

I’ve been following it for a little while via Twitter and there always seems to be something fun and interesting posted over there. –A much cooler blog than this one! 😉

And Ritchie has reformatted my paper in a really easy way to navigate–I’ll have to steal it someday. 😉 Last, upon reading I see that in spite of my efforts, typos are plentiful in that text, and I want to make clear they are mine, not Ritchie’s.

This is not a post

ok, of course it is, but not a real one.

By that I mean that I have a ton of things to post about the IR 9.0 conference and other things as well, but I’m exhausted and sick right now, so I can’t muster the energy, will, brainpower, or anything else needed to compose something coherent.

Instead I will just say that I had a really good time seeing people I usually only see online. It was actually kind of strange at first because I noticed that I had gotten so accustomed to speaking with people individually through email, or FB messages, or Skype chats that being with them in a group where we all talked together felt very strange at first. But it was actually lovely, and sometimes a really amazing group chemistry would develop.

I also noticed that when most of your socializing is one on one, you can’t develop much sense of what people are like in a general way, only of what they are like with you. So that’s something to think about incorporating in my latest paper on Facebook.

So yes, all you people know who you are and I’ll name you later when I talk in a more professional way. Now suffice to say that you all proved even nicer, smarter, and more fun in person than I had even expected. So thanks, people. 🙂

–and yes, I just bet a few of you are almost feeling sick because I am writing in this so personal and gushy way on my, gasp, research blog. It’s called leading the examined life, my dear ones. 😉

Papers for IR 9.0

Here is our panel, by the way:

Web 2.0 sites are praised for promoting sharing and collaboration; at the same time, they are criticized for violating user privacy and profiting from the free labor of users. This panel considers the complexity of relationships among users, and between users and system designers. In particular, each paper explores what motivates user behavior, whether website loyalty, desire for sociality, indoctrination in networked behavior, or the power relations among owners/designers, consumers, and prosumers.

Elfi Ettinger presents in-depth interview results from users of an e-recruiting platform and interviews with system designers of the same platform, conducted in order to determine which design would insure long-term participation of its users.

Anders Fagerjord relates a study of what Norwegian Facebook users publish about themselves in their profiles and the way they represent themselves through “prescripts” provided by popular applications and publishing tools.

Christian Ulrik Andersen analyzes the Facebook software interface, in particular the Vampires game, to explore its discursive and semantic properties and reveal the political aspects of the software.

Kim De Vries combines a rhetorical analysis with an auto-ethnographic study of academic and scholarly Facebook users to explore how we interpret the social connections made through social networking applications.

Mirko Tobias Schaefer explores user participation that in the last 10 years has developed on a global scale and now contributes to the development of software as well as changing, commenting, creating and distributing media content.

A collection of all the papers is posted on the IR 9.0 conference site, but only members can see it and some papers are slightly abridged, besides it being one giant file. You can see full, individual papers here:

Participation Inside? User activities between design and appropriation. by Mirko Tobias Schäfer

Networking Vampires — Life in a social network seen through a game. by Christian Ulrik Andersen

Anders is missing ”is”: Posting and Prescripts on Facebook. by Anders Fagerjord

Sustainable e-Recruiting Portals: how can we motivate career-long applicant participation? by Elfi Ettinger

And I will add mine later today… Ok, I didn’t, but it’s finished and out for feedback, so probably by tomorrow night… damn, good feedback means revision…

Ok, here is mine though I am probably going to revise further; at least I feel this draft is not too embarrassing. Your Friend has just tackled you. Bite, lick, or tackle them back, or click here to theorize about what this all means.

Back in the Netherlands

So now I am again visiting the Netherlands for the research and talks I mentioned earlier. I have been at the University of Twente visiting the Information Systems and Change Management (IS & CM) department, which is where I gave my talk, yesterday. It is quite interesting because when Elfi invited me I at first wasn’t sure how my research on Facebook would be relevant to the work she and her colleagues are doing, but actually, there is a surprising amount of overlap in the questions we are investigating. So the talk went well and also helped me to further refine my thinking about how participation in Facebook is affecting professional, in this case specifically scholarly communities.

A couple of points on that:

  • Communication on Facebook leads to a greater feeling of co-presence (basically the feeling of being with someone) and it assuges the discomfort of asence (the feeling that we exist only in the process of communication, so we are always flickering in and out of existance). So, when academics get to know each other via Facebook, they may connect more quickly and more solidly–though this of course depends on how they use it, which leads to the next point.
  • This increased connection seems linked to a more playful use of Facebook in which people allow the border between the personal/casual and the professional/formal to blur. Of course that makes sense; if we think someone is being more casual and personal, we feel we are seeing a more authentic self, that we know them better. In fact, slightly inappropriate behavior adds to this because we assume it is less calculated. I mean, who would behave in a way that was professionally inappropriate on purpose? (Of course this could be equally calculated, but I think most people don’t imagine others treat every online action as if it were a move in a game of chess).
  • But even if someone is not deliberately offering an image that is somehow distorted, distortion is inevitable because no one can put every detail that might be observed by somone physically proximal into a facebook page (or into a blog, or homepage, or what have you). So people always must choose what to include.
  • Possibly Facebook feel more authentic though (and maybe it actually is) because when someone is addressing several different audiences–close friends, family, colleagues, other communities to which she belongs, she cannot address all of them at once. So some actions or posts or status updates are aimed more at one group or another, but everyone may see them. So it may be that Facebook does offer a more rounded or more integrated picture. But as privacy controls improve and as more people use them to filter the content the present to each group, this complete picture maybe be fragmented–hard to predict.

So those are some of the ideas I am thinking about, and now the question is how to gather data on them, since most facebook profiles are closed to non-friends, but I can hardly make any claims based only on what I see my own friends doing.

So, back to the visit; I had two very nice dinners, first at De Kater, where I had some amazing salmon stuffed with shrimp, and the next night at Sam Sam, where I had duck breast that was quite good too. While at Sam Sam I also tried a drink that combined beer and Sprite, and that was a little weird, but ok.

Silly to mention the food in the middle, but it was very good…. Anyway, I met a lot of nice people in the IS & CM department who are all working on interesting stuff. I won’t put all the individual links in with the names; they can be found through the department page linked above. But I enjoyed speaking at length with Bjorn Kijl, Michel Ehrenhard, Romana Aziz, Roland Muller, and of course Elfi. Also I had a very interesting talk with the head of the department, Jos van Hillegersberg, and I spoke a lot with Celeste Wilderom who was also hosting me at her house. Everyone has statements about their research on their homepages, though I’m not sure it’s all up to date, but anyway, some of them are looking at social networks in ways that relate to my work with Facebook, and some lokk at organizational change and communication, among other things. That actually has some connections to my other project on the institutionalization of new media in the Netherlands. I am looking at new media groups rather than business, but many of the issues are similar, particularly because now ICTs have such a strong effect on everything.

Staying with Celeste was a treat–she has a very nice house! But also, it was my first time to stay in in a family house and so I went with her to drop off her daughters at school and got to see a bit of Dutch family life. This post has grown quite long now, so I will end it here. I about an hour I go to the train station to make my journey back to Rotterdam. Hopefully when I return I can get my stupid chipcard sorted out (I managed to foul it up again) and I will have a chance to upload some pictures. –So the posts here will get a bit out of sequence as I back up to add those.

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

More about Facebook

Since I am speaking at two different conferences about the way people participate in Facebook, I have been (believe it or not) reading about Facebook, about relationships online, about what motivates participation, and so on.

here are a few things I’ve noticed:

  1. Though it was noted at least 5 months ago that many faculty are now using social networks and that 25-34 year-olds is the fastest growing segment of users, no one seems to be looking at how or why they use FB. Some articles have been written about faculty disclosing too much online, but so far I have found nothing else.
  2. Almost every academic study (and there are many) concentrates on either how kids/teens use FB, class, racial or ethnic differences in who uses FB, how to use FB to teach, or how to use it to make money.
  3. There are lots of non-academic slideshows and articles comparing FB and MySpace about how to make money or seduce women with FB. –I mention this because my search efforts are hampered by these kinds of documents cluttering the web.

But I have found some very interesting stuff about online relationships from Jonathan Marshall who has published about a concept he calls ‘asence’ including this one in Fibreculture. In brief, he argues that particpants in online communities experience asence, which he explains:

In offline societies, it is generally possible to tell whether a person is present or not. Presence and status are acknowledged by others making, at the least, eye contact or grunts in a person’s direction, or by their pointedly ignoring that person. Identity is reinforced by reaction. People are generally aware of who is listening to the conversation and of their reactions to each other. Online this is usually not the case. It is possible for a person to be present without others being aware of them: there is no marker of existence beyond the act of communication itself. “Asence” is the term I have coined to express this almost ontological uncertainty, or suspension of being between presence and absence.

Marshall goes on to argue that in an effort to overcome asence, participants will exaggerate gender characteristics and may also use romance and even netsex to reinforce intimacy. He developed these ideas from studying the Cybermind mailing list, but I think asence could explain certain behaviors I’ve noticed on Facebook. –more details on that soon.

Two other useful possibilities involved Fluxus and the theory that humans have evolved to be ‘infovores’ –love that term! But I’ll save those for the next entries…

And by the way, apparently Twitter addicts are 61.3% more likely to visit Barcamp.org than the average internet user. –Not directly related to anything, but it caught my eye. 😉

nothing like reading back over your dissertation…

To inspire at best that oh-so-pleasant feeling of wanting to sink through the floor. Since I decided to reformat my dissertation and put it online for free, I found it really was not possible to do that without actually reading any of it again. And boy was that fun. Yeah.

I think some of the individual chapters might be ok by themselves, but the literacy narrative in the intro. bleah. And the whole thing seems incoherent. But I suppose there’s something salutary about reading back over it, just like getting plenty of fiber or something.

–let me interrupt for a minute to say that I found what seems like a cool app. on Facebook called Touchgraph Photos, and I cannot get the damned thing working. (And yes, I have checked the forum and so on.) So tiresome.

Anyway, I probably won’t do much with the diss right now because I have too many other things to worry about and work on. (which should be obvious from my procrastinating with Facebook apps) But once I do, dear readers, I will of course link it from here. Maybe. If I can stand the embarrassment. 😛

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. 😉

I spend all my time on scheduling…

Some of the people I’ve started to know on Facebook are Hans Bernhard and Lizvlx, otherwise known as Ubermorgen. We’ve talked about all kinds of things, from our kids, to the joys of Ikea, to what motivates our work. And we spend a lot of time sending each other drinks and throwing sheep and all the silly Facebook stuff.

So now I’m trying to arrange for them to come and speak at our school. Of course one reason is that their work is cool–I loved “Vote Auction,” for example, and I think it would be great to feature such amazing reality hackers here. But also I just like them and while Facebook is fun and all, and skype is pretty good (assuming Hans gets his audio working 😉 ) still none of it beats meeting in person. So hopefully we will work something out for early spring.