Monthly Archives: March 2004

clarifying the Viegas survey

I’ve heard people quote Viegas’ survey pretty regularly and i find the tendency to generalize quite dangerous. As she notes, this cannot be done because of the snowball methodology. Please note what she states in her caveats:

Respondents to this survey were not selected on a random basis. Announcements for the online survey were posted to mailing lists within MIT as well as on a few high-traffic blogs published by people known to the author of this survey. The viral nature of blogs meant that the links to the survey page quickly spread to many other blogs. Nevertheless, this does not qualify as a random sample of the blogger population and, as such, the results from this survey cannot be generalized to the entire blogging community; instead, these results are representative of the state of affairs in certain portions of the blogging world.

This pilot study is a great first pass at these questions… I really hope folks follow up on them rather than generalizing from them.

an aversion to mail

When i read an aversion to mail on Foe’s blog, it made me smile. And then i found myself repeating the story in diverse social settings all week. So it must be blogged cause i know this is something i’m going to want to re-read a few years from now.

“When he died, piles of letters, packages, and manuscripts sent by admirers were found, none of which he had opened. In fact, the only letters he did open were letters from publishers, and then only very cautiously: he would make a tiny slit in the envelope and then shake it to see if a check appeared. If it didn’t, then the letter would simply join all those other things that can wait forever.”

From an account of Faulkner in The Threepenny Review.

Like Foe, i despise the phone. With a passion. But i can’t say that i like mail that much more. In fact, i just got an email from a dear friend asking if i was going to attend her wedding. And i felt super uber guilty because i could bank money that her invitation was probably sitting in the pile of mail that i haven’t checked since November. It was. I rely on changing addresses so regularly that mail doesn’t follow. I read all of my bills online (i won’t sign up with anything that doesn’t have an online account system). I’ve also opened mail so late that the checks have expired. Then i feel stupid. Of course, that’s what direct deposit is for.

As i get older, i learn to despise all forms of mediated communication. The problem is that context is lost. When i look focused, my roommates know not to interrupt. With mediation, i can usually cue people that i can’t IM. But then there are the spammers. They’ve invaded. Every. Aspect. Of. Mediated. Communication. We’ve got the telemarketers and the junk mail. Email is crawling with them. I turned off SMS because of them. Hell, i have to do blog cleansing more often than car flyer cleansing these days.

Intimate communities: social/emotional support, technology and the gender divide

[Cross-posted to:]

With social networks all the rage in places like Silicon Valley and the DoD, most of the focus has been on how social networks can help you access information, find jobs, track terrorists and, all to often, abuse your connections for personal gain. I just reread Claude Fischer’s “To Dwell Among Friends” and various other social network papers.

Historically and broadly speaking, men and women have different types of social networks and use them for different purposes. For example, most men don’t have any trusted emotional confidante other than their wife. Men use their social networks to address functional needs; women are more likely to use their networks for social/emotional needs. Women were classically the group who maintained a family’s community social ties.

While tools may not being built to explicitly help people people manage their social/emotional support networks, they are obviously being used that way. From Usenet groups to LiveJournal to mailing lists and IM/SMS, people are often using technology to reach out for social/emotional support. There’s nothing more calming than logging into AIM and seeing your buddies all displayed. Often, that peripheral display provides enough social support to not necessitate certain kinds of communication. This is shared context, an opportunity for intimacy.

When we talk about production of information, we’re often focused on the kinds of content that can be assigned metadata and useful to everyone. Yet, much of the content that we share in everyday life is about maintaining intimacy. We check in with one another. We share {{hugs}}.

So, i have to ask… what kinds of social/emotional support does technology provide you? How? Is this about supporting everyday interactions or providing access to a whole new world of support?

[This entry is based loosely on Joi Ito’s discussion of “Full-Time Intimate Computing.”]

through kitsch and beyond

Moose pointed me to Michelle’s personal path through kitsch and beyond in her art. There’s something really compelling about it for me… embedded in the description of her path through art is a discussion about growing up. Of course, it really helps that it starts out with an analysis of Ween because i really do adore those guys.

I know that i’m growing up. It’s a weird feeling to know that, with each breath, there’s a bit more change occurring (and a few more creases in the boyd). I mean, there has to be because all i can see is the big differences… i have to imagine that it’s a smoothed out interpolation. All the same, i find myself getting lamer. I don’t just stay out to stay out and i prefer sleep to caffeine. I no longer feel the compulsion to fit in with the freaks by actively following the social norms and i’ve stopped trying to make small talk with anyone whose initial discussion points involve drugs, sex or the music. Perhaps it’s just another shift, but it’s funny to taste the changes, to start accepting that i don’t have to be a caricature of myself. Ah, the new form of identity crisis… getting stuck in the identity that you constructed for yourself.

Of course, i still love kitsch and i still love Ween.