Friday, October 05, 2007

WSJ doesn't get social networking

Today's OpinionJournal has a column on the Taste page about social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. Stop the presses: the "friends" you have on one of these sites may not be equivalent to the friends you acquire in face-to-face communication:
But as a recent study suggests, the multitudes of virtual acquaintances that people are eagerly acquiring are not likely to replace real-world friendships. Evolutionary psychologist Will Reader of Sheffield Hallam University in Britain described the results of the study, which he presented at the British Association Festival of Science: "Although the numbers of friends people have on these sites can be massive, the actual number of close friends is approximately the same in the face to face real world." Most people have five close friends; Mr. Reader's research found that this number was no different among users of social networks. In other words, friendship in hypertext might provide the illusion of popularity and a wealth of online acquaintances, but online friends are unlikely to transform your real-world social life.
The author Christine Rosen continues: "Friendship is now about collection rather than cultivation." And "Nevertheless, the use of the word "friend" on social-networking sites is clearly a dilution and a debasement of the term." And
These virtual networks greatly expand our opportunities to meet others, but they do so by emphasizing quantity over quality. True friendship requires not merely connection and face-to-face contact, but risk--the risk of disapproval, of heartache, of being thought a fool. Social-networking Web sites may make it easier to accumulate "friends," but as a medium for the cultivation of genuine friendship, they are a poor substitute for the real thing.
What an odd argument. It coheres only as long as you assume that "friend" is actually intended to mean the same thing in the two different contexts. But the word "friend" isn't fixed even in face-to-face interactions, much less across computer-mediated ones. A few minutes of phenomenological research should dispel that notion.

OpinionJournal - Taste

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

You don't have the power to stop me! I'll tell President Bashir about this!

The title of the story is "Jimmy Carter faces down Darfur officials":
"You can't go. It's not on the program!" the local security chief, who only gave his first name as Omar, yelled at Carter, who is in Darfur as part of a delegation of respected international figures known as "The Elders."

"We're going to anyway!" an angry Carter retorted as a crowd began to gather. "You don't have the power to stop me."
Apparently the former US president and current "Elder" was incorrect about this:
U.N. officials told Carter's entourage the Sudanese state police could bar his way. Carter's traveling companions, billionaire businessman Richard Branson and Graca Machel, the wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, tried to ease his frustration and his Secret Service detail urged him to get into a car and leave.

"I'll tell President Bashir about this," Carter said, referring to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
Jimmy Carter faces down Darfur officials - Yahoo! News

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One way robots can be more like people

Via Doc Mara, a story about why Roombas are successful: people form emotional attachments with them.
"They're more willing to work with a robot that does have issues because they really, really like it," said Beki Grinter, an associate professor at Georgia Tech's College of Computing. "It sort of begins to address more concerns: If we can design things that are somewhat emotionally engaging, it doesn't have to be as reliable."
Roombas fill an emotional vacuum for owners - Tech News & Reviews -

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Leadership and the Human Stain - reacts to Wired's revelation that Getting Things Done guru David Allen is involved with a New Age group that could be considered a cult. Is this a problem?
Not to me. In fact, reading about Allen’s difficulties coming to terms with his life and, ultimately, himself makes him seem more worth listening to, not less. I say this as a man without a spiritual bone in my body, someone with no great respect for those who offer salvation or Truth to the misguided and confused. In short, I say this as someone who is not impressed with Allen as a believer, but is still impressed with his work and the role he’s taken as a leader offering tools to empower others to deal with their lives.
Leadership and the Human Stain -

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