Last night, i was on a panel at the Hillside. Afterwards, someone asked me how i managed to cram a whole lot of theory into 8 minutes. The answer was simple: the press. I’ve found that the press is one of the best bouncing boards for working through academic ideas. They ask silly questions, have totally different motives, and are so far outside of academia that everything seems new and interesting. Other academics are jaded, too involved in the details and otherwise unable to provide that fresh perspective. I’ve given up paying attention to how they might quote me, because i don’t care; i simply enjoy the conversations.
Last week, i was talking to a reporter. She asked me a question about what makes interacting with people on something like Tribe or LinkedIn different than Friendster. This prompted a little a-hah moment. Dating is all about people matching.. people meeting other people. Classifieds are all about people connecting with *information.* Say what you want about the effectiveness of meeting people online, but the Internet has certainly been successful at connecting people to information… for almost everyone. And the Internet has definitely been successful at helping mediate relationships that already exist.
Even when you break down the kinds of relationships that form on Friendster, you start to realize that Friendster is most useful as an information gathering tool. (Yeah, yeah… a people DNS.) Familiar strangers. Headhunters using it to look up people. Tracking down old friends. Information, not necessarily socialization. Of course, information about people is far more fascinating than information about random objects. But getting information about people doesn’t necessarily prompt a desire to interact with or engage them.
Must process more, but when i said it out loud, i realized that the dichotomy of people/information is a really powerful axes for reflection on these tools.