Web 2.0

Sarah Thomson, Toronto Mayoral Candidate

Crossposted on rhizomicon

Notes from north of 49ºN

Last month, the Toronto Star ran an article on the use of social media in Toronto’s mayoral race. This fall’s election will be the first since the proliferation of social media and the wake of Obama’s campaign 2.0. A CTVGlobemedia poll released this week shows that the race is tightening up, as heir apparent George Smitherman {15.9%} was leapfrogged by Rob Ford {17.8} with a 3.1% margin of error and 37.9% undecided.

Now, most of the candidates have embraced social media with various “chiclets”::

for sites like Twitter and YouTube. The “downside” of social media is that it can be hard or impossible to control. This clip of a documentary where Rob Ford gets on the case of a reporter for calling him a “fat f*ck” was making the rounds on YouTube::

Well, first off, this dispels the irksome myth that all Canadians are mild-mannered and polite. How does this video play in the court of public opinion? It’s hard to say. Some might be turned off by Ford’s confrontational style, but it might be “on code” with his feisty approach and accountability stance. Smitherman is no shrinking violet, so it may be interesting if Smitherman and Ford go after each other and voters can see it on YouTube.

I think Twitter offers an interesting mode for engagement. Provincially, here in the Toronto Centre riding, Liberal MPP Glen Murray does a great job of using Twitter to have conversations with constituents. The mayoral candidates should look to Twitter to both engage voters and mobilize supporters, as well as crowdsource ideas to help round-out platforms. A breakdown of the candidates’ Twitter presence follows, in their order in the CTVGlobemedia poll with following/followers/Tweets::

  1. Rob Ford {17.8%} 151/663/256
  2. George Smitherman {15.9%} 1,540/1,609/119
  3. Joe Pantalone {10.1%} 508/591/245
  4. Rocco Rossi {9.1%} 1,019/1,432/732
  5. Sarah Thomson {5.8%} 1,017/1,082/1,066
  6. Giorgio Mammoliti {2.5%} 618/474/ 274

I think it’s important for candidates to follow their followers in order to get the most out of Twitter and the conversations it can foster. Rossi and Thomson are Tweeting frequently and it would be interesting for their campaigns to gauge and analyze how Twitter affects metrics for the various functional areas of the campaign, e.g., volunteering, fundraising, attendance at events, etc.

Song:: XTC-‘Mayor of Simpleton’

Twitterversion:: [blog] Can #Twitter be a gamechanger in #Toronto mayoral race, offering conversations & engagement? #ThickCulture #VoteTO @Prof_K

image:: The Beautiful Kind, Riverfront Times, by Emily Good

Originally posted on rhizomicon
A Twitter glitch caused the anonymous St. Louis sex blogger behind The Beautiful Kind to get outed when her boss found her after instructed to start Googling employees’ names. This Riverfront Times blog details the issues and the legal implications of the firing. The ex-boss sent a letter implying that the company feels justified in holding employees’ lives outside of work to be a occupational qualification. Here’s an excerpt of that lettert::

“We simply cannot risk any possible link between our mission and the sort of photos and material that you openly share with the online public. While I know you are a good worker and an intelligent person, I hope you try to understand that our employees are held to a different standard. When it comes to private matters, such as one’s sexual explorations and preferences, our employees must keep their affairs private.”

The blogger was on the job for about a month and was conscientious about presenting a demure image at work. So, it sounds like the 37-year-old single mom was more akin to Kelly McGillis in Witness than a tatted-up wild child with a libido hanging out for all to see::

“I was really Clark Kent about it…I dressed like a freaking Mormon when I went in. I was really overcautious and did an extra-good job. Because I always thought that if they ever did find out about it, I would have proved myself so much that they would weigh the pros and cons and decide to proceed a certain way that, you know, wouldn’t fire me. But I wasn’t there long enough to do that, and I don’t think it would have made a difference anyway, with the way they reacted. It’s like — I went from good employee to monster.”

Just going off of the general details of the case, an ACLU lawyer offered::

“One of the unfortunate things is that a lot of people are uncomfortable about unconventional sexuality, especially when a woman’s involved…That is not an employer’s job — to police the sexual lives of its employees — and when an employer discriminates on that basis it is sex discrimination and it’s against the law.”

One can’t help but wonder if the same result would have happened with a male employee. This blog post on aagblog details how the firing went down and the emotional aftermath.

I once had a boss who made the illegal statement, “we like families,” right when I started working there. I thought it was a strange thing to say and was wondering, “who do I look like, Angelina Jolie?”, but with 20/20 hindsight, it made perfect sense. That workplace was not only highly conventional but also none too savvy about the law in its bumpkinness. I thought my workplace had no business in my personal life or the fact that I didn’t live in the same zip code, which I found out later was taboo.

I think it sets a dangerous precedent for employers to have the ability to make hiring/firing decisions based upon non-performance criteria. The idea of an employees’ “reputation” being in the control of an employer because it may affect the employers’ reputation is in my opinion a stretch. I looked at the entries from The Beautiful Kind. Maybe I’m just a child of the West coast with urban sensibilities, but I fail to see what the big deal is, particularly when the employee wasn’t flaunting her lifestyle by linking her real name to her blog. The only reason this became an issue was the glitch.

While there will be many a finger-wagger clucking about what people should and should not post on the Internet, perhaps the real issue, given how the Internet makes everyday life more transparent and privacy is deader than dead, is that organizations and institutions need to relax the scrutiny and ease up on controlling people’s lives. The alternative is a morality driven not by church or community but by the employee handbook.

Song:: The Gleaming Spires-‘Are You Ready for the Sex Girls?’
Twitterversion:: [blog] St.L.sex blogger fired due to #Twitter glitch, after boss Googled names.Will morality now come fr. employee handbk? @Prof_K

Kay Burley of SkyNews-UK, from NowMagazine UK

Crossposted on rhizomicon

More kerfuffle from the UK that’s spreading like wildfire on social media. The current top UK trending topic is “sack Kay Burley”, stemming from viewers wanting the Sky News journalist fired after a hostile interview with a protester. Here’s a video of the interview {apologies for the sound quality, the volume does goes up}::

Burley’s tactics make her appear bullying and clearly not impartial. She also has very flawed logic, but the facts and being knowledgeable aren’t her strong suit as she mistook Joe Biden’s Ash Wednesday ashes on his forehead for a bruise. She later apologized. So, Kay appears to be opinionated, a loudmouth, and not too bright—I think she’s angling for a career in American cable infotainment.

Burley is being obtuse on purpose in order to make her point. The protests are about the “first-past-the-post” or winner-take-all method of tabulating seats in Parliament, which has resulted in the current hung Parliament. Kay doesn’t see any point in that as it a fait accompli and that the current party negotiations are democracy in action. She asserts that the people chose a hung Parliament, while the protesters are complaining that the hung Parliament is a product of a “broken” system.

Given social media, the news of this spread virally and the video footage of her exchange was put on YouTube {above}. Adding fuel to the fire, hecklers are interrupting her interviews with chants of “sack Kay Burley, watch the BBC” and this is now making the rounds on YouTube, as part of the “sack Kay Burley” meme.

Ah, a facepalm moment, UK-style.

Song:: Elvis Costello and the Attractions-‘Lipstick Vogue’

Twitterversion:: “Sack Kay Burley” meme goes viral.@skynews journalist hostile towards protester, gets social media backlash.#ThickCulture @Prof_K

Helena Guergis, Member of Parliament {Independent} for Simcoe-Grey in Ontario
Notes from north of 49ºN
My last post on the Toronto Sun featured a photo of Helena Guergis, who was the cover story for a brewing scandal in Parliament that caused her to resign her cabinet position and get turfed from the Conservative caucus. I’ll hold off from commenting on that story, as it’s evolving and includes an RCMP probe.
It hasn’t been a good year for Guergis. Earlier in the year, she had a meltdown on her birthday where she yelled at airport staff in Charlottetown, PEI. A few weeks ago, there was another incident which I found to be interesting. Apparently, one of her staffers used a pseudonym and posted a pro-Guergis comment in a local paper, after someone posted a negative comment about Guergis.YouTube Preview Image
Guergis tried to smooth things over, but in the CBC report, some residents of her riding {Simcoe-Grey} were put off by this. A while back, one of my students had a corporate internship where their job was to scan Internet discussion groups and plant positive “word-of-mouth”. I’ve always wondered the degree to which paid or volunteer shills were doing similar work in social media, particularly on comments on news articles. I have no idea how prevalent, if at all, this practice is, but I would hazard to guess that there is a great temptation to use social media to generate as much advantage as possible.
I don’t think it’s too much to ask for that politicians and their staff follow a policy of transparency when it comes to communications. It’s fine to advocate for a position or a candidate, but if you’re somehow affiliated with a politician’s office, full disclosure would be the best policy and there should be rules that enforce this. In this day and age of tracking IP addresses and websleuthery, I’m convinced that 95%+ of users have no idea of how trackable they are and pseudonyms only go so far.
Twitterversion:: MP staffer caught posting comments on newspaper’s website w/a pseudonym & causes backlash. How improper is such shillery? @Prof_K
Song:: Matchbox 20-‘Bed of Lies’

Montréal Habs fans on RDS network wearing "Subbanator" jerseys in support of P.K. Subban, from Deadspin.

Notes from North of 49ºN

A few days ago, a mini-controversy erupted when this vidcap from the sports network RDS started making the rounds. Here’s the Deadspin article. Two Montréal Canadiens {nicknamed Habitants or Habs} fans donned the jersey of a hot prospect, P. K. Subban, who happens to be Jamaican Canadian. They also painted their faces black and wore afro wigs.

Toronto Mike blogged about the incident and one of the Habs fans came on to comment. The words got pretty heated, but in the end, the fan apologized and Habs and Leafs fans once again could resume their hockey-based hatred of one another.

What struck me as interesting was how this drama played out. The French language cable network covering the 11 March game against the Edmonton Oilers chose to air 10 seconds of the two friends. Was the intent to be controversial? Was the intent to be a facepalm moment? The back-and-forth on Toronto Mike’s blog was interesting, as the polarizing effect of race brought up assumptions about the Habs fan and his intent by commenters. In the end, I thought the Habs fan handled himself well, given how people were responding and what was being said. Toronto Mike did a good job of not divulging the fan’s name. This was one of those rare moments where Web 2.0 seemed to actually foster a dialogue and didn’t degenerate into a protracted flame war. That said, it wasn’t always pretty, but a lot prettier than what one typically sees on news article comments on issues of race, which are often tantamount to text equivalent strangers yelling at each other at the top of their lungs in an open hall.

Here on ThickCulture, we have examined race in the post-racial era. Racism isn’t dead, it’s just gotten to a late stage where there is a consciousness about what is offensive and debates of this now enter into the public discourse space. I get a sense that race gets so intertwined with speech and knowledge structures that it often becomes a confusing and convoluted morass for many. This impinging upon liberties of speech, in terms of what one can and cannot say or should and should not say, creates a tension, which may result in a backlash.

Where are the lines in the post-racial era? Here in Toronto, last fall there was a party where a group of guys dressed up as the Jamaican bobsled team, depicted in the film, Cool Runnings {1993}. This story caused a stir and points were argued through social media comments on whether or not this was racist.

Photo of Halloween partygoers dressed as the Jamaican bobsled team inspired bu the film Cool Runnings {1993}, MacleansOnCampus

Four guys darkened their skin and one guy lightened his. The Torontoist chronicles how the story unfolded and offers a tutorial on what blackface is and its cultural significance. The students offered their explanation for their choice of costume::

“First and foremost we would like to apologize if anyone was offended…Throughout our childhood, Cool Runnings was something we reflected on with fond memories and therefore in the process [of] choosing Halloween costumes, seemed to be a promising candidate. With this idea in mind, we took notice of how the primary cast, consisting of four black characters and one white character, coincided with our group ratio of four white and one black member. This sparked the idea to add another comedic element to the costume, and have the black student go as John Candy and the white students going as the four bobsledders. At this point, several of us was already of aware of what blackfacing was and therefore took out various means of investigation to further our knowledge of the topic and ensure that what we were doing be doing may not be considered similar in anyway. The conclusion that we came to that simply painting our faces dark brown would not be a portrayal of blackface….understand that we did not act in a negative or stereotypical manner [at the party]. We acted ourselves the whole night, and did not internalize the characters.”

Here’s the theatrical trailer for Cool Runnings::

University of Toronto Sociology professor Rinaldo Walcott offered a different take::

“I think that in particular [Cool Runnings] became a part of the popular culture imagination of [white] Canadians in a way that [they] took responsibility for that film as though it was somehow an extension of them. And one of the reasons that I think Canadians identified with that film so deeply is because that film weathered something that many white Canadians come to believe strongly—that black people don’t actually belong here. That we are an insertion into a landscape that is not actually an landscape where we naturally fit.”

“For black people who understand this history [of blackface], Cool Runnings was never a funny film; it in fact replicated all of the techniques of blackface. It is in fact one of the ways that we have come to see that blackface does not require painting of blackface anymore. Just look at the work of Marlon Riggs. We know that in North America there is a deep resonance around producing images of black people that make black people look disgusting. Cool Runnings is a milder version of that. So we should ask… why do they remember Cool Runnings so fondly?”

Post-racial means navigating these choppy waters where intent collides head-on with history and its interpretations. Not to get all postmodern here, but while the metanarrative is dead, social media is a site where clashing mini-narratives that structure perceptions of the world, culture, society, etc. battle it out. I think the fellow Contexts blog Sociological Images is a social media site where clashing mini-narratives are de rigueur. I’m wondering if we will ever “get over” issues of race. I’m beginning to think we won’t, given globalization, etc., but perhaps it’s due to the fact that what this is really all about is identity.

What troubles me more than this is when the “right” language is used by individuals doing so strategically. The talk is talked, but the walk isn’t walked. That’s a topic for another blog.

Twitterversion:: RDS airs footage of Habs fan dressing to resemble P. K. Subban —controversy ensues. Social media mediates differences. @Prof_K

Song:: Fun Boy Three/Bananarama-“It Ain’t What You Do, But It’s the Way That You Do It”

MIT Open CourseWare Staff Pick Screenshot, February 2010, on YouTube

I’ve been thinking of the future of higher education with the advent of Web 2.0 for some time now. Will new technologies be a “game changer” for colleges and universities and what are the stakes? Currently, there is the issue of legitimacy that accredited schools and programs afford to both students and employers, taking a narrow and pragmatic view of higher education, and web 2.0 education alters the higher education business model. While costs are reduced, particularly with the use of online adjuncts, there are questions of quality. Technologically-mediated instruction still needs to be refined so it affords the same educational experience of face-to-face instruction. I’m interested in the specifics of this, with respect to the use of newer video codecs and interfaces that foster engagement, as well as the use of both synchronous and asynchronous modes of instruction and interactivity.

Online lectures are interesting, as they reduce education to digitized content. The instructor, lecturer, and professor are in the same boat as the photographer, music artist, film producer, and journalist. The digitization of what drives value allows it to be readily obtained, retransmitted, repurposed, remixed, etc. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a recent piece on whether or not lectures should be online. Most of the article focuses on what I see as side issues, but this hits on what I think is one of the key points::

“And lectures might just fall out of popular use in physical classrooms, because professors could just point to their past recordings or those of others and assign viewings for homework. To keep students interested in the classroom, some professors would focus more on discussion or group projects and things that can’t be easily captured on video.”

I think moving away from the “canned lecture” rehashing the text is a good thing. Way back when I was an undergraduate, back when dinosaurs roamed and PC meant pre-Cambrian, the best courses were those which built upon the readings, not parrot them. Fast forward a few years when I taught my own “preps” at the University of Oregon. I felt that my teaching was at its best when there was limited lecturing and more discussion of the material and the derivation of knowledge, particularly with the use of cases, articles, or blog posts by myself or students. Sometimes, I felt that being a good talk show host was what I was striving for.

I feel for what I teach, marketing, strategy, methods, economic sociology, consumer behaviour, etc., the lecture isn’t the true value added. It’s the moderated discussion afterwards, face-to-face and online, synchronously and {to a lesser extent} asynchronously. Web 2.0 can help universities rethink curricula, in terms of::

  1. What is optimally offered online given current technologies?
  2. How to address courses with different types of content/knowledge?
  3. How can courses be tailored towards students with different learning styles/abilities?

An old boss of mine scoffed at students claiming “alternative learning styles”, using quotation fingers, but over the years I’ve seen students who flounder in other classes come alive with thoughts and ideas just by allowing them to use different modes of expression, both online and face-to-face. While the Chronicle of Higher Education ponders issues of intellectual property, copyright, and even professors subject to ridicule, the weightier issue is how will universities offer courses, certificate programmes, and degrees in the context of lifelong learning that deliver value for its students and other stakeholders?

Future posts of mine will examine issues of Research 2.0 and a possible future for technologically savvy professors that understand how Web 2.0 and beyond can leverage efficiencies in teaching, move towards better learning outcomes, and foster a research agenda. Is this pandora or panacea?

Twitterversion:: Blog on the professor’s role as teacher w/advent of Web 2.0. Will digital content kill the teaching stars? #ThickCulture @Prof_K

Song:: Belle & Sebastian-“Family Tree”

Notes from North of 49ºN

The above video from YouTube does a decent job of explaining what the big issue in Canada is at the moment, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s proroguing of Parliament. Proroguing? It may seem like a Sarah Palinism, as in “pro-rogue”, but it’s a suspension of Parliament without dissolving it. Harper, a Conservative, prorogued Parliament last year when the other parties were threatening to form a coalition of New Democrats, Liberals, and the Bloc Québécois. This time around, Harper was being asked tough questions by Parliamentary committees about what his government knew about the torture of Afghan detainees after they were turned over to Canadian Forces. On 30 December, the Governor General, upon Harper’s request, prorogued Parliament until 3 March 2010, killing all bills and suspending all committees. The official reason given was the economy, but nobody bought it.

There were two major results::

  1. A grassroots effort using social media mobilized sizeable protests across Canada
  2. The Conservatives have lost ground in the public opinion polls and are in a statistical dead heat with the Liberals

On Facebook, a group for Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament has amassed 219,600 members {28 January} and last Saturday nationwide protests were organized. Here in Toronto, a sizeable crowd assembled downtown::

CAPP Protest 23 January, Yonge St. looking south of Dundas at Eaton Centre

The prorogation of Parliament is viewed by many as anti-democratic {See Rick Mercer’s opinion piece in the Globe & Mail}, although Harper has supporters of his decision. For the time being, anti-Conservative momentum has picked up the pace and support for the Liberals has increased—at the expense of the NDP, Greens, and Bloc.

EKOS Federal Opinion Poll Results:: 4oth. General Election—Mid-January 2010

It’s over a month until Parliament reconvenes. It will be interesting to see if the anti-Conservative sentiments will weather the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and any possible coherent response by Harper. Upon Parliament reconvening, I’m not sure if an election will be triggered. A weakened Harper that’s ready to deal may do more long-term damage to the Conservatives. I’ll be blogging on Rhizomicon within a few days on my detailed analysis of the EKOS poll data, which should make the Liberals a bit cautious about another {expensive} election in the near future.

Twitterversion:: Harper’s proroguing triggered Facebook mobilized protests.EKOS poll:: Grits surging @ expense of Tories,Greens,NDP,& Bloc. @Prof_K

Hypothetical clusters of online users based on Forrester's social technographics, along the dimensions of meaning & belonging versus consumption & consumption and production

I’ve always been interested by Forrester’s work on social technographics {click on this link to see the Forrester categories defined}, but I’ve been interested in extending these ideas by incorporating concepts like identity, sense of belonging, and meaning, as they relate to online social interactions.  While social technographics creates a one-dimensional hierarchical “ladder” along a continuum of passive consumption to interactive consumption and production of content, I’m interested in added dimensions of::

  1. How the social construction of relations we have affects our use of social media, as they relate to our identity and the meanings we derive from our online interactions.
  2. How a sense of community or belonging shapes our use of social media.

I think these are fundamental human activities, i.e., finding meaning and belonging to a “community” {broadly defined}.   The diagram I created above explores the idea of how social processes may affect technological engagement with social media and content.  It’s clearly not meant to be a definitive model, but the idea is that the greater the meaning an activity has, the more the activity fosters one’s identity, and/or the more an activity fosters a sense of belonging or community, the greater the interactivity with social media, in terms of consumption and production of content. In the diagram, the boundaries are meant to be fuzzy and the percentages sum to over 100% because the profiles overlap.  The Forrester profile groupings are based upon “participating in at least one of the indicated activities at least monthly” [1]. Addressing the interplay between 1 & 2 listed above would advance social science theory {e.g., symbolic interactionism [2] and sense of community [3]} and practice {from marketing to civic engagement} through the understanding of everyday online interactions within the context of social structures like groups/communities.

I see many of these clusterings of activities, distinguished from being characteristics of individuals, as non-hierarchical.  I will say I haven’t seen what’s behind Forrester’s paywall, which may addresss this, as well as my sociological interests. That said, I would hazard to guess that over time {as social media diffuses} there are a certain percentage of users who engage in “spectator” and/or “joiner” behaviours who are content to do just those activities. I’m not sure that there are that many who are or will ever be interested in “creator” activity.  My hunch is that those interested in “creator” activity won’t go much higher than 20%, along the lines of the 80/20 rule.

Nevertheless, I view social technographics as a useful concept and in my applied work, I’m interested in the specifics of online community and how they relate to online and offline actions.

Twitterversion:: New & interesting @Forrester research on social technographics.My graph ponders how social psych/sociology may shape this http://url.ie/4pxm  @Prof_K

Song:: Weezer-“Pork and Beans”


[1] Bernoff, Josh {2010} “Social Technographics: Conversationalists get onto the ladder”. Groundswell, Forrester Research, Inc. http://blogs.forrester.com/groundswell/2010/01/conversationalists-get-onto-the-ladder.html

[2] McClelland, Kent {2000} “SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM”. Grinnell College, Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology.  http://web.grinnell.edu/courses/soc/s00/soc111-01/introtheories/symbolic.html

[3] University of Maryland Baltimore County, PROMISE-Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate.  “Psychological Sense of Community:  Theory of McMillan & Chavis (1986)”  http://www.umbc.edu/promise/documents/Community,%20Psychology,%20Psychological,%20Sense%20of%20Community%20Theory%20of%20McMillan,%20Chavis%201986.htm

image:: Facebook from The Cartoon Blog
image:: "Facebook" from The Cartoon Blog—Dave Walker

Crossposted on Rhizomicon.

Sometimes when I read The Chronicle, I think of the slang term “chronic”, as quite a few of the articles/opinions are really hard to take, let alone take seriously.  A recent offering by William Deresiewicz on “Faux Friendships” on social media sites like Facebook struck me as a pining for an institution lost, akin to those decrying the demise of the institution of marriage.

My Best Simulacrum Forever

Many of you may find Deresiewicz’s article to be an interesting read.  He discusses friendship over time {I think he romanticises it quite a bit} and ponders its meaning in this current era of late capitalism.  Alas, he feels friendships aren’t what they used to be and Facebook isn’t helping.

“With the social-networking sites of the new century—Friendster and MySpace were launched in 2003, Facebook in 2004—the friendship circle has expanded to engulf the whole of the social world, and in so doing, destroyed both its own nature and that of the individual friendship itself. Facebook’s very premise—and promise—is that it makes our friendship circles visible. There they are, my friends, all in the same place. Except, of course, they’re not in the same place, or, rather, they’re not my friends. They’re simulacra of my friends, little dehydrated packets of images and information, no more my friends than a set of baseball cards is the New York Mets.”

Simulacra?  Well, isn’t that a consequence of being willy-nilly in friending, a promiscuity of sorts?  Not to judge it, but if you choose to have hundreds of Facebook friends, shouldn’t this be expected?  He goes on to talk about how Facebook offers a “sense” of connection, as opposed to real connection.  My “sense” is that this is a case of YMMV, i.e., your mileage may vary.  Now, I’m not a huge Facebook user and my presence on it is inflated by posting my Twitter tweets to my wall.  That said, yesterday, a Facebook friend posted on her wall that she would be hosting a table at a craft fair in The Annex neighbourhood of Toronto.  I saw it and made it over there and had a chance to catch up and have a few drinks.  My Facebook network tends to replicate my real connections and I tend not to “collect” second and higher order ties {friends-of-a-friend and so on} or very weak ties from my distant past.  Perhaps I’m an anomaly, but my point is Facebook is what you make of it and the meaning is in the usage.

TMI and Verbal Vomitus

Are we sharing too much of the mundane?  Deresiewicz thinks so::

“What purpose do all those wall posts and status updates serve? On the first beautiful weekend of spring this year, a friend posted this update from Central Park: “[So-and-so] is in the Park with the rest of the City.” The first question that comes to mind is, if you’re enjoying a beautiful day in the park, why don’t you give your iPhone a rest? But the more important one is, why did you need to tell us that?”

It’s been stated for a while that all of these Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets may seem like so much meaningless dross, but the sum of these paints can help to paint a picture of the everyday aspects of a person’s life, affording an intimacy that would be hard to replicate without technology.  A friend of mine in California said that SMS texting has brought his family closer together with just mundane <140 character texts.

The Transparency of Everyday Life

I have done blog posts on public political figures getting into hot water for content posted on Facebook, with the latest instalment here.  If privacy is dead on the Internet, is a corollary to this that our lives are now fairly transparent?  While we have a certain degree of control over what people see of our lives with social media, there’s a lot out of our control.  Fake personas and being “tagged” in a Facebook photo in an unflattering way are examples of what’s out of our control, but I think there’s a perceptual shift taking place where people are growing accustomed to “oversharing” and its fallout.  Deresiewicz is concerned by the private going public::

“The most disturbing thing about Facebook is the extent to which people are willing—are eager—to conduct their private lives in public. “hola cutie-pie! i’m in town on wednesday. lunch?” “Julie, I’m so glad we’re back in touch. xoxox.” “Sorry for not calling, am going through a tough time right now.” Have these people forgotten how to use e-mail, or do they actually prefer to stage the emotional equivalent of a public grope?”

I honestly feel that as time progresses, we will get desensitized to “oversharing” of private spheres in public, even at its most lurid.  One day, something like a decades-old “sexting” photo will appear, involving a political candidate or public figure and there will be a collective yawn.  Just like how adult content that would result in convictions in the 1980s are now bookmarked on browsers without batting an eye.

I don’t think friendship is “dying,” but transforming.  Technology has the ability to transform the social and its institutions, i.e., social conventions.  Are social media technologies like Facebook “falsifying” intimacy, as Deresiewicz claims?  That’s an interesting question.  I do agree with Deresiewicz that there is a commodification going on, which has the power to alter meaning systems when it comes to concepts like intimacy.  Along with commodification, I think there can be a tendency in technologically-mediated interactions to treat some {but not all} “relationships” as disposable.  Rejection.  This, perhaps, is the flipside to the immense potential of social media to connect people in ways which are impossible with just face-to-face communications.  It can be a huge “catch and release” system for some.

I think the article taps into an uneasiness shared by many.  Perhaps a dystopic fear that we are losing what makes us human.  The “sex in the future” scene from Demolition Man {1993} also taps into fears of how technologically-mediated interpersonal interactions, albeit in an authoritarian regime with “big brother” overtones::

When this is possible, those who decry the demise of friendship with Facebook, well, their heads will explode.

Twitterversion:: Is #socialmedia & #Facebook killing institution #friendship? CHE art. discussed brings up food 4 thought. #ThickCulture @Prof_K

Song:: Queen-“You’re My Best Friend”

George Castanza (Jason Alexander) from Seinfeld. Reference is to "The Comeback" episode (1997).
George Castanza (Jason Alexander) from Seinfeld. Reference is to "The Comeback" episode (1997).

On my other blog, I did a post about driving pet peeves and a close call I had on the mean streets of Toronto.  I made a passing reference to the idea of “crowdsourcing” a database on boorish road behaviours.  Well, it turns out there’s a website that does just that, Zapatag.com {blog, Twitter}.  What is Zapatag?  According to their “about us” page::

“Report bad drivers, track license plates, zap a tag and upgrade your commute. Compliment a carpooler. Lash a litterer. Tattle on a tailgater. Snap at a speeder. Bring accountability back to our streets the Web 2.0 way. Don’t get mad on the road. Get even online.”

Technologically, it was inspired by Twitter, but the more interesting implication on this blog is how such sites might affect us in the future.  What about issues of::

  • Privacy.  Is it a breach of privacy to link licence plate numbers to alleged incidents?
  • Defamation.  Is it defamation to link a vehicle to alleged bad/illegal behaviour?
  • Antisocial behaviours.  Will this lead to harassment, in terms of posting or retaliation for posting?

One of our fellow bloggers had a disturbing incident on a Thousand Oaks, CA thoroughfare.  I thought a site like this might be useful in cataloguing habitual offenders, but the technology does enable issues like those three listed above and probably more.  Privacy has been declared dead thanks to the Internet for over a decade.  What about defending one’s “reputation” online?  Where are the lines drawn between transparency and defamatory statements?  With the Internet and the decline of privacy, will the definition of defamation change?  A whole post could be on the antisocial behaviours angle.  What springs to mind is the cyberbullying mom case.

Invoking Bentham’s panopticon and doling out Foucauldian logics to each and every one of us {we all have the power of surveillance and voice with Web 2.0+}, will this lead to übertransparency and more mindful actions -or- will it create a anarchic free-for-all of accusations and defamation?

Song:: I Think Im Paranoid – Garbage

Twitterversion:: @Zapatag allows crowdsourcing of bad driving behaviours. It’s an interesting intersection of technology & society.  @Prof_K