Thursday, 24 June 2010

book reviews

I discovered that a couple of the book reviews I wrote a while ago were published recently. They were good books, too. It was a pleasure to review them.

'Young People, ICTs and Democracy' (2010) Tobias Olsson & Peter Dahlgren (eds)

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

the facebook effect, David Kirkpatrick

I had heard some references being made recently (on the blogs of Michael Zimmer and danah boyd, especially) about David Kirkpatrick's new book, 'The Facebook Effect'. Specifically, some of the statements made by Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder and CEO) along the lines of 'you have one identity' were somewhat alarming, especially for those of us working in the terrain of identity studies, interested in how users of social network sites are performing a sense of self online. I'm currently revisiting how Goffman's dramaturgical framework might be (re)applied to identity performance on social network sites (building, perhaps on this wonderful essay by Trevor Pinch), so an insight into Zuckerberg's philosophy on identity was pretty interesting. Thus, I rushed (read: clicked) to to order my copy of the book yesterday, and it arrived today. I've spent large chunks of the day enthralled. The history of the site is one thing, but the insights into the people that built it are another. Very interesting stuff.

Here is the paragraph Zimmer and boyd were referring to, and the section which (for my current piece of writing) is the most resonant:
"You have one identity," [Zuckerberg] says emphatically three times in a single minute during a 2009 interview. He recalls that in Facebook's early days, some argued the service ought to offer adult users both a work profile and a "fun social profile". Zuckerberg was always opposed to that. "The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly," he says.
He makes several arguments. "Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity," Zuckerberg says moralistically. But he also makes a case he sees as pragmatic - that "the level of transparency the world has now won't support having two identities for a person." In other words, even if you want to segregate your personal from your professional information you won't be able to, as information about you proliferates on the Internet and elsewhere. He would say the same about any images one individual seeks to project - for example, a teenager who acts docile at home but is a drug-using reprobate with his friends. (Kirkpatrick 2010: 198)
IMHO, there are lots of problems with this line of thinking. This philosophy resists a whole movement in identity theory (and postmodernism) that frames identity as dynamic, fluid and multi-faceted. Identity cannot truly be successfully pinned down, even though we're always trying to do just that. Goffman explains that we perform different versions of self depending on the context we find ourselves in and the audience we find ourselves performing to. Granted, online social spaces problematise these dimensions of context and audience, but you only need to be confronted a Friend request from parents or co-workers or clients or students on Facebook to know that audience, context and (yes) multiplicity in identities is still such an important consideration.

Stay tuned for more. No time for fun speech bubbles today. I'm in srs bsns mode.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

scams and spams: they're coming through the portals!

I realise I'm coming pretty late to this meme-party, but I just saw this cute little 'hacker retrospective lol' on and I couldn't resist. Adieu!

"Where can I plug my modem in?!" The Net (1995)


I'm working on a piece of writing at the moment that is straying into some territory that I dealt with in my honours dissertation, what seems like an age ago (2007). So, I decided to pull the old beast out and see if any of it might translate over. And then I calmly put it back into the filing cabinet drawer and locked it away, hopefully never to be seen or heard from again.

I know lots of people have this experience with old writing (or any kind of work, perhaps..) especially as students or people still learning their craft. I had a similar kind of experience when I discovered some old first-year essays while helping my parents to move a few months ago, but that was slightly different. That was more nostalgic. My run-in with the honours dissertation could be more aptly described as horrific. It read like I was a Neanderthal belting around in a dark cave looking for a light switch. The continuity between paragraphs was atrocious, my expression was 'experimental' at best and the literature I was engaging with looks like it was just whatever was laying around at the time.

I think partly I have improved slightly, but it's also partly about the way my style has developed I suppose. As in, I'm getting close to actually working out what my style of writing and my approach to research might be. And that stuff in the honours dissertation is not it! I wonder if I'll look back on my PhD thesis in five or ten years time and be similarly horrified? The scary part is that as I send stuff out into the inter-nether, I won't be able to just lock it away in the filing cabinet if (read: when) I turn around and don't like it anymore. Also, how long does the 'Oh I was young and foolish!' thing work for?

[Actual depiction of honours dissertation- stock from mjranum]

Thursday, 3 June 2010

randoms in my bedroom

My first for-reals publication in a for-reals academic journal. Many thanks to the wonderful editor of this special issue, Erika Pearson!