Monthly Archives: June 2007

Dear esteemed members of the press,

Dear esteemed members of the press,

I am in the field collecting data and then will be attending a conference. I am not able to respond right now. Do not call my house phone. Do not pester my department. And do *NOT* hound my subletter. All press inquiries should be sent to press [at] When I can, I respond. When I can’t, I don’t. Do not use other email addresses – I check the press one from my phone and answer them in order when I have spare cycles. Other requests are typically ignored.

The BBC coverage of my blog essay is hugely problematic. If you want to discuss what I’ve written, please read the essay itself. This is not a formal report. This is a blog essay based on observations from the field. And this is not a 6-month study; it is a 4-year study with a tide shift that I’ve noticed in the last 6 months. Again, read the essay. At some point, I will turn this into a formal article, but this is not that. Cover it as you see fit, but do not call it a report.

Thank you,

knowledge access as a public good

Over at the Britannica Blog, Michael Gorman (the former president of the American Library Association) wrote a series of posts concerning web2.0. In short, he’s against it and thinks everything to do with web2.0 and Wikipedia is bad bad bad. A handful of us were given access to the posts before they were posted and asked to craft responses. The respondents are scholars and thinkers and writers of all stripes (including my dear friend and fellow M2M blogger Clay Shirky). Because I addressed all of his arguments at once, my piece was held to be released in the final week of the public discussion. And that time is now. So enjoy!

Continue reading

woah…. omg. reflections on mega-viewership

Wow. ::jaw on floor:: When I posted my article last night, I sent it to some friends and academic lists figuring that it would stir a conversation. I figured that some usual suspects would read it and offer valuable critiques. I was not expected Slashdot, Digg, Metafilter,, Reddit, and other aggregators to pick it up.

Meme flow on the web intrigues me. When I post a well-thought out, well-written analysis, I get a few thousands hits and maybe a BoingBoing mention. So far, I’ve received 90K hits for this latest piece, the most problematic of essays I’ve ever shared publicly. Figures.

I know that there are problems in that essay (and I tried to caveat and caveat away till I annoyed myself). So I am not surprised that folks are up in arms about all sorts of things. Still, the response is fascinating. I guess there’s nothing like something problematic to get a conversation started, eh?

I can’t decide if the response is good or bad. I’m clearly getting raked through the coals by lots of folks from lots of different perspectives. I actually find this quite constructive and helpful. I’m getting a lot of feedback from teens, parents, teachers, youth ministers, and other non-tech audiences which is extremely thought provoking. The feedback varies tremendously in tone and content. Some folks are saying I’m completely right; some are telling me I’m dead wrong. The latter clearly gives me an opportunity to follow up with folks that I’m not representing well and I hope that it’ll be a chance to learn what I’m missing.

I think some folks misinterpreted this piece as an academic article. No doubt this is based on my observations from the field, but this is by no means an academic article. I did add some methodological footnotes in the piece so that folks would at least know where the data was coming from. But I didn’t situate or theorize or contextualize this at all. It’s more like publicizing field observations. There’s much work to be done before this can be anything resembling an academic article. The “citation” note at the top of my pieces also confuses this. That was meant for when people picked it up and stole it whole from my page or when people got to it indirectly. I put that as a standard for my blog essays a while back because of this issue. I guess I see my blog as a space to work out half-formed ideas. I just didn’t expect 90K people to read it. Blog essays to me are thoughts in progress, blog entries that are too long to be blog entries. But I can see where there’s confusion.

I also clearly pissed off the academics by inappropriately appropriating academic terms in an attempt to demarcate groups. I intentionally picked two that have a political valence meant to hit at some of the crunchiness; I went back and forth with terms and decided to repurpose academic ones since they work as better metaphors than most everyday terms that I could think of. For example, I hate how poorer populations or marginalized populations are always framed as powerless so I appropriated an academic term (“subaltern”) that comes from post-colonial studies when work was done to give power to the voices of subaltern soldiers in India. Still, I want better terms and am hoping someone has suggestions.

I’m still wading through the responses. I’m still floored by the responses. I’ve been in the air and offline all day so I haven’t had a chance to go through everything. But in the next few days I will and I will respond. And I *really* appreciate the feedback and critique. I think some good can come out of this unbelievable feedback.

I also need to get my head around the fact that sharing something problematic has sparked more of a conversation and reflection than being precise. In some senses, this bothers me. At the same time, inciting people to think is exactly what I want. So I am feeling very bewildered. Is the way to make change to present something problematic so that people have to engage by disagreeing? Hmm..

More soon…

viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace

Over the last six months, i’ve noticed an increasing number of press articles about how high school teens are leaving MySpace for Facebook. That’s only partially true. There is indeed a change taking place, but it’s not a shift so much as a fragmentation. Until recently, American teenagers were flocking to MySpace. The picture is now being blurred. Some teens are flocking to MySpace. And some teens are flocking to Facebook. Which go where gets kinda sticky, because it seems to primarily have to do with socio-economic class.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to articulate this division for months. I have not yet succeeded. So, instead, I decided to write a blog essay addressing what I’m seeing. I suspect that this will be received with criticism, but my hope is that the readers who encounter this essay might be able to help me think through this. In other words, I want feedback on this piece.

Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace

What I lay out in this essay is rather disconcerting. Hegemonic American teens (i.e. middle/upper class, college bound teens from upwards mobile or well off families) are all on or switching to Facebook. Marginalized teens, teens from poorer or less educated backgrounds, subculturally-identified teens, and other non-hegemonic teens continue to be drawn to MySpace. A class division has emerged and it is playing out in the aesthetics, the kinds of advertising, and the policy decisions being made.

Please check out this essay and share your thoughts in the comments.

Update: I wrote a response to the critiques concerning this essay. My hope is that this will help clarify various issues people raised.

Update: I take this topic up again in Chapter 5 of my dissertation. If you are looking for data to back up this argument, check that out.

“Sicko”, Barack, and Danny Pearl

The last two days have been a complete trip. I woke up yesterday expecting to drive to Hartford to prep for my speech when i realized that New York was two hours from Hartford (or so i thought because i forgot about traffic) so i decided to “swing by” New York to see the premier of Michael Moore’s new film “Sicko.” I had watched a bunch of it online but i really wanted to see it live with people and i’m *so* glad i did. I made it to Manhattan in time to catch the 7:45 showing. Little did i know, Michael Moore was in the audience seeing how people would react. The women behind me “uh huhed” and “oh yeahed” and “you go girled” the whole way through – i think they approved. The audience loved it. I loved it. “Sicko” is hands down Michael Moore’s best film to date and i strongly encourage everyone to get out there and see it next weekend for opening. For those who don’t know how the film industry works, opening weekend means the world. How many tickets are sold that weekend dictate how long the film can be in the theaters. So if you watched it online, just buy a ticket for next weekend to show solidarity and support. It’s critical that this film get seen far and wide in the US, or at least far enough for folks to make a stink.

Personally, this film is very important to me. As many of you know, i broke my neck when i was 16 in a freak accident. I didn’t have health insurance. It cost $88K. That debt still haunts me. I wasn’t able to get the right physical therapy because of money. My neck still causes me problems on a daily basis. I’m not eligible for independent health insurance and my fear of being uninsured makes me panic about a post-grad school future. I have often wondered who i would marry to get insured. There is no one to blame but when i had my accident, everyone told me to sue the school because of the medical costs. I couldn’t justify this in my own conscience. It kills me that every accident requires someone to blame or else you aren’t covered. I don’t want to live in that kind of a society.

Luckily, i think that there’s a health care theme going on in discourse these days. This morning, i had the great fortune of hearing Barack Obama speak at the United Church of Christ’s Synod in Hartford (where i had the honor of speaking about why youth are using social network sites). It was truly inspiring to see Barack speak in person and he got a standing ovation when he announced that he would sign a universal health care plan into existence in his first four years should he be elected. He really energized the audience and it made me smile to see so much optimism (without the pure politicking) in a candidate.

After yapping with folks all day, i realized i needed to zone out or i was going to completely lose it so i went to see A Mighty Heart. I can’t say the movie was brilliant, but it was good to see Angelina connect her politics to her films and the story of Danny Pearl is just heartwrenching.

Oh and while i’m being all daily life documentary here, apologies for the low blogging levels lately… i’ve been running around more chaotically than normal (even for me). I gave up this month and subletted my apartment. I will be traveling at near continuous levels between now and November 1. On the plus side, starting in November, i will be locking myself in my apartment (no conferences, no talks, no consulting) to write. The light at the end of the tunnel is starting to appear and i can’t tell you how excited i am to begin writing the dissertation/book. I suspect to be gone from public life between November and June but i also suspect that i will be blogging more (as being locked up in my apartment tends to encourage that). But i will give you more updates on that as things progress. I hope everyone is well!

Oh, and go see Sicko!!! Pretty please!

Vodafone Receiver #18

I am happy to share that the folks at Vodafone Receiver decided to mashup some of my blog entries and my AAAS talk for their Issue #18. The piece, called Socializing digitally won’t be new to many of you, but i still find it exciting to see a morphed version of my writings. What’s even cooler is that it’s published alongside some work that i think is uber cool. The other pieces in this issue are:

My apologies for everyone for the sound on my piece. This is not my fault. And i agree that it sucks that you can’t turn it off. For those with a sound aversion, here’s a PDF version of my piece

let the stalking begin

I regularly receive press releases from companies that i promptly delete as a new form of spam. Today, i received one that stopped me in my tracks:

You can now load software in your kids’ BlackBerry and/or cell phone that will be your watchdog (to prevent them from being approached by someone potentially trying to molest them)

How it works — the program will send the parents a text message when a foreign IM, text message or e-mail comes into their child’s phone or PDA (anyone not on an approved phone contact list).

The concept was thought of by Bob Lotter, a software publisher in Orange County, because he was so alarmed to learn that 56% of kids receive unwanted cell or PDA solicitations (which they don’t tell their parents about). (Sixty percent have been approached.) Lotter has also created a homepage for parents on resources they need to track strangers.

It was a peculiar press release because the company (a known PR agency) did not include any links and i can’t find much about Bob Lotter other than he seems to be connected to the scientology world.

I’ve been waiting for mobile stalking software for a while. We already have GPS-driven stalking software that will let parents figure out where their kids are. (Kids have figured out how to circumnavigate this by sending their phone off with their friends.) And i’ve met plenty of parents who obsessively scour the phone bill to see who their kids are talking to and for how long. But i’m quite impressed with this new level of parental stalking software.

I’m also absolutely fascinated by the assumption that “your kid” will have a Blackberry and that this software will prevent your kid from being approached by a molester (at first, i thought that the advert was going to be for mace). This software is not about protecting children from strangers that they meet face-to-face – it’s about giving parents control over who their kids talk with rather than teaching them how to navigate people. Of course, i can’t wait until mobile text message spamming kicks in. Kids will be getting hundreds of messages from people that they don’t know and thus their parents will be notified and notified and notified. There’s nothing like a bit of spam to make this a complete mess.

Anyhow, this just infuriates me and i can’t even offer a proper analysis except to scrunch my face in disgust. As i’ve written about before, the stats on predators is pretty clear: it’s people that children know not strangers. I kinda suspect that the #1 child molester (the parent) is not going to be on the list of people blocked.

Surveillance destroys parent-child relationships – technology does not solve relationship issues. And yet, we keep building technology. Why? Fear sells. These people will inevitably make money off of parent’s fears. Le sigh.

The Devil Came on Horseback

After WWII, my grandfather and grandmother moved to Khartoum in what is now Sudan. My aunt was born there but they left before my mother came into the world. My grandfather often told me that political tensions were already rising when he left, but he isn’t one for talking details about these things. I’ve always been quite intrigued (and often disturbed) by what has and is happening in Sudan.

When Bich Ngoc Cao told me that i absolutely must see The Devil Came on Horseback, i decided to take a break from my current state of workaholicism to see it. Her recommendations are usually spot on and this film is mind-blowing. I knew of the atrocities in Darfur, but this film does an astounding job of really personalizing the stories of the people involved. It’s deeply disturbing, showing the horrifying images of genocide through the lens of an American Marine Captain who is assigned to document the lives of but not protect the people of Darfur. At one point, he can no longer sit by and watch and so he returns home to the States to rally American politicians. He figures that if they just knew, they would be in there to stop it. Or if the American people just knew, they would make their government do something. As we know, the tragedy in Darfur continues.

On top of the amazing depiction of what is taking place, there’s a simple message: raise a fuss, contact your politicians, make them know that you care and that you want them to do something. I am trying to convince myself to believe this could work, although i admit that i’m feeling very disillusioned with our political structure. Still, i do believe that it is important for the American people to understand what is taking place there. This is genocide and it is horrific. People are being brutally murdered because they are of the wrong race. The women are raped and tortured and people are burned alive. And, just like with Rwanda, we have turned a blind eye while China continues to fund this atrocity. I really recommend checking out this movie when it comes to your town (currently, it seems to be on the film festival circuit). Also, check out Save Darfur for more information on what’s happening in Darfur.

list of non-english social network sites

I’m trying to track down a list of all major non-English social network sites (definitions below). My interest in collecting this information is for an academic article on social network sites, but i suspect this information would be useful to others as well.

Cyworld: Korean
– launched 1999 as a forum, SNS by 2001
– 20 million accounts (Nov 2006)

Hevre: Hebrew

Lunarstorm: Swedish
– launched 2000
– 1.2 million accounts (Nov 2005)

Mixi: Japanese
– launched 2004 as a diary tool, SNS ?
– ?5.7 million accounts (2004)

StudiVZ: German
– launched in Oct 2005
– 950,000 accounts (Nov 2006)

QQ: Chinese
– launched 1999 as IM, SNS ?
– ?160? million accounts

If you know of ones that i’m missing, could you please add them in the comments? I will update this entry with additions. Ideally, i would also like to know a few things about each non-English site (including the ones above):

  • What do they call “Friends” (both natively and English-translation)?
  • Do they allow people to comment on the profile?
  • When were they launched?
  • Approximately how many accounts do they have?
  • What is the primary age group that uses it?
  • Is there anything significant or unique about the site?


Major: I am looking for the sites that have attracted a core population in that language. They should be relatively large in proportion to the number of speakers of that language. Think MySpace instead of Tagged.

Non-English: I realize that most sites are used by non-English speakers. I’m looking for sites that are dominant in one language where the site’s infrastructure is in that language. If there are multiple languages, i want the dominant one (i.e. Cyworld as Korean not Chinese). Sites like orkut are on the fence because while it is an English site, it is the dominant Portuguese site.

Social Network Site: To count as a social network site, the site MUST have 1) a public or friends-only profile system; 2) a publicly articulated list of “Friends” who are also on the system (not blogrolls). Friends must be visible on an individual’s profile and it must be possible to traverse the network graph through that list of Friends. If the site does not let you “comment” on Friends’ profiles, please indicate that. This is not necessary although it is a common component. I’m not interested in dating sites, community sites, or blogging tools that do not have public profile + friends that are displayed on profiles.

If you have a site that you think fits this, please list it in the comments. The more information you can provide about the site (including links to data but not to the site), the better. I need to confirm these and it’s rather hard since i don’t speak most languages. Please don’t put the site as the URL in your comment – place the name in the actual comment.

Finally, please, i beg you, don’t use my comments as a place to advertise your new startup. I hate deleting comments but i will delete posts people make to advertise sites (as i always do). You don’t get any Google juice from my comments but you do piss me off.