Here are two fantastic podcasts to listen to about Facebook:
Tama Leaver discusses the recent MySpace / Facebook class meme that has generated a lot of International media attention, on Australian radio
Robert Scoble (and Calacanis and Felder) debate the value of facebook, particularly for the business community and its potential for viral marketing
I am totally hooked on Facebook, well at least for now *laugh*. I think the chance to play asynchronous games of scrabble has a lot to do with it!! But there are a couple of key reasons I find it culturally intriguing:
1. I’m really interested in the way it seems to conflate all my different life groups together and what that might mean. In Second Life there has been some blurring of boundaries between work and play, but there are some pretty clean demarcations of space which construct different areas as one or the other. Facebook on the other hand is much more like one single space, and so everybody you invite in will kind of co-exist. Right now for example, I have family, colleagues, friends and strangers all seeing me interact within and around all these various groups. Now although I have quite an extensive social presence online with my blog, flickr, podcasts, slideshares and so on, I am still quite a private, reserved person in general. So to have people seeing a much wider picture of who I am – like seeing me joke around with my niece, or dedicate a soppy song to a guy I like – is somewhat confronting to my sense of public vs private persona.
Australia has been late to come to Facebook. FB only became international in September of last year (I think) and our Universities have been slow to adopt. Right now there are only a few faculty members in all of my University using it, and none of my immediate Education colleagues have it. I’ve asked some of my students if they have it and have been met by blank stares. So although I don’t really mind for now that all my friends see so many aspects of my identity, I suspect I might come to censor it down the road a bit if it becomes widely used amongst my students.
2. The whole “friending” thing has been theorised really well by others who write about MySpace, and some people have called it a performance of identity that is contrived and fake. It’s also similar to the whole linking on blogs thing – as if who you link to might make you somehow better perceived by others just by association. But Facebook feels a bit different because its a reciprocal thing, so people are only listed as my friends if they choose to be. I have to confess that when Howard Rheingold became my friend I was thrilled, because it opened up a dialogue and we’re now also friends in Second Life. But I am equally thrilled when somebody I don’t know so well becomes my friend because I feel as though I have been invited into their personal domain – the flip side of the concern I had in point 1! People I didn’t know very well before, I now feel a lot closer to. I am exchanging messages with blog friends whose blogs I (shamefully) barely comment on (Scoble and his friends talk about this phenomenon in the podcast I linked to above). I am playing scrabble with people I might only have exchanged 2 emails a year with before! (I get hundreds of emails a day and am terrible at keeping up). Perhaps this is a false sense of friendship or community or relationship because I am just projecting here, but for now I am all wide eyed about it all.
Here are some great posts about twitter I have noticed in the past two days:
Chris Duke talks about the uniqueness of twitter, what makes it special to him, and further elaborates on ambi-synchronicity
Alja writes a detailed and fascinating blog post titled “What makes Twitters Tweet?”
Personally I can’t seem to quite get the right feel for twitter yet, and I think that is entirely because of my time zone. I’ve taken some time each working day from the office to have twitter running – at lunch or in the background while preparing lectures, and its been very active and noisy and would be GREAT if I wasn’t trying to work. But with the new semester and hundreds of students (well ok I have 200 students) and lectures and workshops and everything, I just haven’t had time to join in during the busy times. And in the evening when I do have some time to join in, nobody is there until quite late. I’ve really wanted to explore and enjoy and participate, so its meant staying up a lot later than usual, and I won’t be able to sustain that for very long 🙂 I guess that means I need to expand my twittering network.
The other embarrassing thing that happened to me is that I added lots of people to “follow” (i.e. I see everything they say) – and started twittering back in response to the things they were saying because I wanted to join in… and then discovered that they hadn’t added me so they couldn’t see anything I said to them! So it was like I was chatting away to an empty space and… you know what they say when you start talking to yourself, right?
So the synchronous side of things isn’t quite working for me, but its still been amazing from the asynchronous perspective. I found out about the first four links above to podcasts and blog posts from twitter, for example.
And more on the economy of text – the 140 characters you are permitted to use allows people to really play with their language creatively to get their ideas across. This is not new – sms and texting “language” has been around, debated and discussed for some time now. But I have found that with phones extending the number of characters allowed (and adding email functionality to them) that the creativity of language has become less essential in recent times. I’ve found it very refreshing to see this being rediscovered now with twitter, and I really hope they do NOT extend the character limit. I’m so tempted to give my students an assignment in which they have to respond to an essay question in one tweet, so that they learn how to be succinct and clever with their language, instead of some of the long-winded drudgery I get handed up to me 🙂
OK, midnight scrabble beckons.