ReadWriteWeb has the news and some related thoughts.
The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. There is an allure to enumerating how many women Don Giovanni slept with: It was 2,063, at least according to Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte. We also have completely practical lists — the shopping list, the will, the menu — that are also cultural achievements in their own right.
You would think after 20 years of the Web, we would come to a better understanding that it either helps us connect, or helps us segregate. You’d be wrong.
Following is some research and reading. But first…
What do you think? How diverse are the people you associate with as friends on Facebook or Twitter? Big range in class, race, religion, sex, age? Or are you judging diversity in terms of how many of your friends like Star Wars and Star Trek? If you’re a liberal, how many conservatives? If you’re a conservative, how many liberals? Libertarians? DC versus Marvel? Spiderman versus Twilight? Protestant versus Catholic versus Jewish versus Muslim?
I work in a career that smashes many of these distinctions, except four I can think of (more on that in a bit). There is a wide variety to religious practice, sources of entertainment, favorite music, and political leanings (although there is a libertarian streak). Programmers, as a whole are all very diverse in these areas. Our online social networks reflect this.
Now on to the four ares where we are far too much alike – class, age, sex, and race. Programmers tend to come from middle class households, be mid-twenties to mid-thirties, male (and heterosexual-male at that), and white, middle-eastern, or asian. And yes, our online social networks reflect this as well.
Me and many of my contemporaries fool ourselves into thinking we’re diverse – but you have to agree – those four are rather a *big* four. If we live in environments that are half women and half black, how come our online social networks and our workplaces do not reflect that?
In the end, I tend not to believe that social networking leads to social division or helps to bring people who are different together. I think it simply reflects our reality all too well. My hope is it doesn’t reinforce it. That what we are building will lead us towards greater connection with one another, no matter where we come from, no matter who we are.
Now onto the links:
danah boyd: “The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online” PDF 2009: we’re seeing a social media landscape where participation “choice” leads to a digital reproduction of social divisions.
Joshua-Michéle Ross: Three Paradoxes of the Internet Age – Part One:
More access to information doesn’t bring people together, often it isolates us.
Joshua-Michéle Ross: Three Paradoxes of the Internet Age – Part Two: Individual perception of increased choice can occur while the overall choice pool is getting smaller
Joshua-Michéle Ross: Three Paradoxes of the Internet Age – Part Three: The myth of personal empowerment takes root amidst a massive loss of personal control.
NYTimes: David Brooks: Cellphones, Texts and Lovers: People are thus thrown back on themselves. They are free agents in a competitive arena marked by ambiguous relationships. Social life comes to resemble economics, with people enmeshed in blizzards of supply and demand signals amidst a universe of potential partners.
Pew Research: Social Isolation and New Technology : People’s use of the mobile phone and the internet is associated with larger and more diverse discussion networks. And, when we examine people’s full personal network – their strong and weak ties – internet use in general and use of social networking services such as Facebook in particular are associated with more diverse social networks.
Alan Kay on comp.lang.smalltalk.squeak.beginners: Re: Smalltalk Data Structures and Algorithms:
What is wrong? Why is mere opinion so dominating discussions held on the easiest medium there has ever been that can provide substantiations with just a little curiosity and work? Is the world completely reverting to an oral culture of assertions held around an electronic campfire?
That quote is going to be passed around a lot.
It’s a one paragraph penetrating question into why the Bill O’Reilly’s of the world have so much more popularity then those who pursue the fact based journalism that a Bill Moyers pursues.
The New York Observer: In the Battle Between Facebook and MySpace, A Digital ‘White Flight’
FlowingData: Rise of the Data Scientist
Coding Horror: Code: It’s Trivial
Zero Intelligence Agents: How to: Use Python and Social Network Analysis to Find New Twitter Friends
Two links from Jon Pincus of Microsoft Research:
research.microsoft.com, January 2005: Jonathan D. Pincus,: Computer Science is Really a Social Science
Jon Pincus, on his blog, sharing the recent news regarding danah boyd joining Microsoft Research’s New England Lab
I wrote an intro for readers of paradox1x, on Clay Shirky, back in September.
A few favorite pieces:
Jeff Jarvis: The perils of publicness:
There’s an old social norm at work here that is, I think, an extension of old media, which says: You put yourself out there, so you put yourself at risk for getting attacked. This implies it is almost your fault for getting attacked. This is a basis of the public-figure defense in libel, the presumed right to go after people in the public eye. Once you become public, you give up the cloak and protection of privacy.
But now we are all public. Does that norm still hold online, when 180 million people have started blogs and countless more put videos on YouTube and photos on Flickr? Are they all, should they all be targets for the snipers and snarkers? Well, they all could be. But what’s our attitude about that? Is there a new norm emerging?
Bruce Schneier: The Future of Ephemeral Conversation:
Until our CEOs blog, our Congressmen Twitter, and our world leaders send each other LOLcats – until we have a Presidential election where both candidates have a complete history on social networking sites from before they were teenagers- we aren’t fully an information age society.
When everyone leaves a public digital trail of their personal thoughts since birth, no one will think twice about it being there. Obama might be on the younger side of the generation gap, but the rules he’s operating under were written by the older side. It will take another generation before society’s tolerance for digital ephemera changes.
rc3.orgWhen everything is recorded:
What I wonder, though, is whether we’re going to see some kind of crest in terms of how harshly people are punished for their previous online behavior. When there are embarrassing photos of everyone online, then by definition their existence will no longer be sensational.
Yep. Me too. Reaching that crest will be painful, ugly, and people are going to be hurt. I still don’t know if we will go over that ledge however, to reach the other side that Jarvis says is already here or Schneier says is on the way someday.
Jeff Jarvis: The perils of publicness
…the world his early films anticipated is the world we inhabit now. Like no filmmaker before or since, Watkins captures the constant manipulation and countermanipulation of the modern media, the push-pull of image projection and message management that has blurred the line between news and propaganda. His films are testaments to central truths of the current media environment: that mere logic is powerless against a brilliant projection of personality, that self-conscious “objectivity” and truth-telling are very different things, and that compelling narrative is impervious to facts. From the selling of the Iraq War to the selling of Sarah Palin, Watkins, like Orwell before him, shows how we are lied to, and how we lie to ourselves.
Furious Seasons: FDA Panel Slams Antipsychotic Use In Kids, Teens
At least we know one thing: it’s possible to have about the same number of men and women in computer science classes. That just about describes classrooms of 25 years ago.
Malcom Gladwell’s new book is getting trashed by some rather big name bloggers. Me thinks they doth protest too much because – for once – one of his books runs counter to Web’s domineering libertarian culture. If you’ve read “Blink”, read “Tipping Point” – what I consider a far better book and more applicable to the Web. His new one, named “Outliers” looks like a must read.
To Watch: “Strive For Happiness” – a documentary about sensitive subject matter – what the lives are like for those in families with loved ones dealing with mental illness.
A question to think about – will Britney Spears’s struggle with mental illness make it easier to talk about it?
Penny Arcade! posted a comic that summarizes what many think of online anonymity and the Internet: John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory: Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Fuckwad.
Up until the past few weeks, I would have agreed. But now I am starting to adopt a more nuanced view.
I don’t want to get into what has triggered the change of heart, and no – I am not anonymously blogging – my name lends credibility that I am not willing to trade. However, I have come to realize there are those who need to be able to speak out, and without anonymity cannot do so.
It’s confusing subject matter, so here are a few links of various viewpoints:
Business Week: Busting a Rogue Blogger: Troll Tracker has been unmasked as a patent lawyer for Cisco. Now they’re both facing litigation
SSRN: Anonymous Blogging and Defamation: Balancing Interests of the Internet: It is important not to silence communication on the Internet, but it is just as important not to silence victims of defamation. Therefore, this comment argues for the protection of libel plaintiffs facing defamatory comments from anonymous bloggers.
Media Bloggers Association: Announces Libel Insurance For Bloggers – huge news for those who intend to pursue acts of journalism independently.
Must See Video: Hope2604 – Steve Rambam Pt 1 – Privacy Is Dead – Get Over It
Must See Video: Hope2604 – Steve Rambam Pt 2 – Privacy Is Dead – Get Over It
Bruce Schneier: Essays and Op Eds
Time Berners-Lee’s new World Wide Web Foundation
Global Voices Online: Global Voices Advocacy: A project of Global Voices Online, we seek to build a global anti-censorship network of bloggers and online activists dedicated to protecting freedom of expression and free access to information online.
Slashdot: Your Rights Online