Flocking

From Unfocused Mike, Flickr Creative Commons

From Unfocused Mike, Flickr Creative Commons

Here’s another article, this one from USA Today (sorry about that), summarizing the latest thinking on social networking and the “contagion” idea (see previous post on social networking and contagion).  This article pulls together a few threads from different places…I like the idea put forth of flocking or schooling behavior as an analogy for human social networking.  And this image of birds on a wire really spoke to me.

Of course, there’s the usual drivel in this article, this time from Michael Bugeja (Iowa State University) who expresses concern that social networking sites, like Facebook, are just data mining and not “programmed to bring you a friend”.  Per usual, this sort of thinking misses the point.  Facebook, like any of the social networking sites, is a tool.  You use it to help you to build relationships, expand your network, deepen your connections.  It’s  like a fork or a shovel or a flashlight.  Not inherently good nor evil – just a tool.  No one is expecting Facebook to “bring them a friend” – they’re using it to deepen and broaden the connections they have. Why is it that people find that simple concept so difficult to internalize?  And speaking of tools, they make the point, in this article that, in addition to using social networking sites as a tool to extend one’s network, it is also a tool for social scientists to use to accurately measure our friendships and connections.  Good point.

I really like the wrap up in this article…”We’re not substituting online for offlline.  We’re augmenting.”

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5 Comments

Filed under Technology Trends

5 responses to “Flocking

  1. I expect more from a science writer who says a social network is a tool; no it’s not; it’s part of an autonomous system whose conventions were established out of MIT’s media lab under Nicholas Negroponte. All you are doing is approaching the subject as a consumer and hypothesizing without data, adding to the hype that feeds mega-corporations. If there’s drivel, it’s yours.

  2. rheyden

    Thanks for writing, Dr. Bugeja. I appreciate hearing your perspective. I was not hypothecizing – I was just expressing an opinion. So often, we hear new media tools blasted as “dangerous” or “inappropriate” or “distracting” when it is not the tool that is the problem but the way that the tool is used. We ban cell phones from schools because students will get distracted. We blame the internet for porn. We even blame Craig’s List for the violence perpetrated by Phillip Markoff. So, I’m not sure how I’m adding to the “hype that feeds mega-corporations” with this opinion of mine…but I do think that “drivel” was an unfairly nasty word to use to describe your perspective – you made a very good point about data mining. But I do think that the popular press gives ample (scare tactic-style) coverage to the potential dangers in the online world. Perhaps if we could find a way to include these critical literacies in our classrooms, everyone would be more well informed?

  3. Thank you for your professionalism. Yes, we need to inform digital natives perhaps as early as elementary school (considering the popularity of Penguin) about the good and bad of social networks, virtual worlds and Internet in general. I’ve worked with computer scientists here on an NSF grant titled “Uses and Abuses of Information Technol0gies,” as a cornerstone class at ISU. (Alas, we have to resubmit that grant, for technical reasons; but the point is, both sides must be covered to put a halt to the rampant consumerism at a time when youth, in particular, need commitment for than engagement.

    I wish you well with your projects.

  4. Sorry for the typos in the last post: Nothing like computer garble to rile a technological determinist. My last paragraph of the above post should have read:

    (Alas, we have to resubmit that grant, for technical reasons; but the point is, both sides must be covered to put a halt to the rampant consumerism at a time when youth, in particular, need commitment more than engagement.)

  5. rheyden

    And thank you for YOURS. In the tried and true traditions of journalism, all perspectives must be aired and understood. I wish you well on the resubmit.

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