Monthly Archives: July 2007

cat predicts deaths, web folk LOL

Oscar the cat lives in the dementia ward of a nursing home. When one of its residents is about to die, Oscar comes in and settles into their bed, comforting them for the last few hours of life. Researchers and doctors are intrigued by this. How does Oscar know that people are going to die?

Web folks can’t help but LOL. They want to know if Oscar is really predicting deaths or causing them. Their discomfort is emerging through the production of LOL cats, arguing for both in that distanced way that you know comes from nervous laughter. I mean, it is kinda eerie that a cat knows that someone’s going to die before they do, right?

Research on Social Network Sites (Take 2)

A while back, I blogged a list of known research on social network sites. I’ve since moved that list to its own page:

Research on Social Network Sites

I’m in the middle of doing a literature review and I’m worried that I might be missing new research in this area. If you have recently published a paper on SNS-related topics or know of new research in this area that’s not on my list, could you send me a link or add a citation in the comments? I’m particularly concerned that I know of very little research outside of the US and I have to imagine that there’s a lot taking place there that I simply don’t know about.

in-flight newstainment is paid-for advertising

I fly too much. Far too much. When I’m bored out of my mind, I can’t help but get distracted by the TV that they show – CBS Eye on America, a sitcom or two, and some various newstainment (or late-night TV reruns). I also read the magazine. I figured that, like other magazines and TV drivel, what was being run was reporting. It may not be the best reporting, but I figured that when they featured someone, it was because that person was in theory of interest to people.

This morning, I was notified that American Airlines was doing a series on “America’s Innovators and Entrepreneurs” and that I could pay $3995 (off from the normal $6995) to be included as an innovator. Ewwww. This reminds me of when in high school, I could pay to be in the “Who’s Who of America’s Students.” I realize that the blurring of news and entertainment is pervasive and I guess I should suspect that a lot of news is paid-for advertising, but knowing for certain that I’m being locked into a vessel of misery with pervasive advertising is depressing. Le sigh.

(I’ve included the full email in the Extended Entry if you’re curious to learn more.)

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responding to critiques of my essay on class

One month ago, I put out a blog essay that took on a life of its own. This essay addressed one of America’s most taboo topics: class. Due to personal circumstances, I wasn’t online as things spun further and further out of control and I had neither the time nor the emotional energy to address all of the astounding misinterpretations that I saw as a game of digital telephone took hold. I’ve browsed the hundreds of emails, thousands of blog posts, and thousands of comments across the web. I’m in awe of the amount of time and energy people put into thinking through and critiquing my essay. In the process, I’ve also realized that I was not always so effective at communicating what I wanted to communicate. To clarify some issues, I decided to put together a long response that addresses a variety of different issues.

Responding to Responses to: “Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace”

Please let me know if this does or does not clarify the concerns that you’ve raised.

re: MySpace and sex offenders

Regarding the report that MySpace has obliterated 29,000 accounts that are linked to registered sex offenders, please read Stephanie Booth. Her analysis is spot-on and I couldn’t say it any better than she did. So go read it already.

For reasons that I cannot explain, the Attorneys General have far better PR machines than MySpace. What you are seeing in the press is what the AGs have spun out in their ongoing efforts to force legislation to ban youth from social sites. This is about throwing out numbers that will make people feel afraid; it is not about trying to paint an accurate portrayal of what’s happening. The construction and perpetuation of fear from our most powerful lawyers in the nation makes me sick. (Then again, the most powerful one keeps lying to Congress so what should I expect?)

Berkman Fellowship

I am excited to announce that I will be a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School during the 2007-2008 school year. I will not be in-residence although I will visit Cambridge regularly. I am truly inspired by the Berkman community and honored by the fellowship. My hope is that, alongside other Fellows at Berkman, I can take some of what I’ve been doing concerning youth culture and figure out how to affect policy and social change.

Also, for those who aren’t aware, I’m no longer a USC Annenberg Center Fellow because there is no longer a USC Annenberg Center. To the best that I can suss out, this has to do with academic politics and poor decision making on the part of the USC leadership. Regardless of why, the closure of the USC Annenberg Center has devastated (or embittered) many who were hoping that interdisciplinarity would flourish at USC. I count myself amongst that group. When it comes to mourning the loss of the Annenberg Center, I’m trying to move beyond the anger phase, so I’ll stop now.

Education.AU = me + Australia

For the Aussies out there, I will be making my first trip to Australia in August. I will be offering two seminars as part of’s series. On August 6, I will be in Brisbane and on August 8, I will be in Melbourne. At each seminar, I will be lecturing for at least an hour, answering questions for a while after that, and participating in a panel with youth. There will also be workshops and other activities where I will help those present think through how to leverage what’s going on in relation to education, policy, technology, parenting, and social work. They should be pretty in-depth days and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to dive deep on issues related to youth and technology with a group of interested folks.

My understanding is that there is still space available if any of y’all are interested. You just need to register here. I should note that this is not a free event (getting me to Australia isn’t exactly cheap), but I think that it will be worth it. Deep dives on these issues usually are. So come! Bring questions! Let’s explore these topics together!

(My advance apologies to those in Australia who aren’t attending these events. My time is pretty heavily scheduled and so I won’t be able to meet up. Press is being handled by the folks at – feel free to contact them.)

processing Harry Potter

I just finished reading Book 7 and am now back online.

Like many other Harry Potter fans, I’ve avoided the Internet like the plague since the book leaked two days before the release. I added mail filters to prevent anything related to Harry Potter from reaching my inbox temporarily. I restrained myself from visiting websites that allowed open content and resisted from doing searches. I simply did not want to know the ending.

For the final book launch, I decided to stay in Boston since I knew so many fans that lived there. Besides, I absolutely love the independent Harvard Book Store and figured that the excuse to support them would be just wonderful. It was a good decision because there was so much enthusiasm in Harvard Square. “Harry and the Potters” played Harvard’s lawn and thousands of costumed children wandered about. They shut down the streets and there was HP music everywhere. The excitement was just overwhelming. And I couldn’t help but repeat over and over again, “all of this is for a book???” The little geeky fangirl in me was having a field day. As we stood smooshed in the crowd to pick up our copies, my friend was astonished by the number of college-aged boys willingly dressed like adolescents. He kept chuckling and repeating things that were being said further back in the line. My favorite? “How many people do you think have hard-ons here?”

Some of my friends were too afraid of spoilers and chose not to go out and celebrate on the eve of the book launch. The mere existence of people who find such joy in ruining others’ pleasure irritates me and so I was trying not to explode as friends were texting me with the antics of mean-spirited folks. One friend kept promising me that there was a most insidious place in hell for such folks. The spoiler who took the cake in the reports I got? The asswipe who had the gall to rent a plane and fly it over San Francisco/Berkeley with spoilers.

When I got to the airport on Saturday morning, I was giddy with joy over seeing hundreds of people waiting for planes, their heads all stuck inside the same book. The flight attendant kept asking me, “are you done yet?” and I kept glaring at him. It was clear that the dozens who were enjoying the book on the plane wanted to be left alone to read.

Personally, I had a hard time reading the book. I promised myself that I would read it immediately so that it wouldn’t get spoiled. But I wasn’t prepared for how much of it would center around Harry’s relationship to his mentor. I guess if I thought about it for a second, I would’ve known that. But I had to put the book down on a number of occasions as Harry worked through different emotional responses. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun by going into more detail than that, but for my friends out there, I feel the need to share that the book was a surprisingly cathartic experience for me. Grief is an odd thing, but thinking about Peter as Dumbledore brought a smile to my mouth alongside tears to my eyes.

Israeli teen culture

I’m back in the States, but I’m not yet back on sturdy ground. It’s been a rough month and it’s going to take some time before I’m ready to re-engage properly. Thankfully, time in Israel really helped me do some well-needed thinking.

What I love most about leaving the United States is how it lets me re-consider the American norms that I take for granted living here day in and day out. All that’s on my brain these days is teenagers so I couldn’t help but watch Israeli teens. This wasn’t hard because teenagers were everywhere (and there was one living in the house in which I was staying). While I have to go looking for teens in American public settings, teens were often within view in public places in Israel.

Israeli teens do not have the same restrictions that American teens have. There don’t seem to be curfews, except those that are imposed by parents. (When I asked about whether cops hound teens, I was told that the cops in Israel have more important matters to attend to.)

I was totally fascinated by how many teens were wandering the streets, hanging out in parks, or BBQ-ing on the beach past midnight each night. They were on the beach, in the malls, and generally around all day and night. Adults tended to be nearby but the packs of teens were free to goof around with each other with little explicit control.

In Ra’anana (a suburb of Tel Aviv), there was a big park. Teens from across the town gathered there every night. At 1AM, the cinema in the park opened its doors for local teens to watch a movie for 10 shekels and free popcorn. The only restriction was that they had to have an ID that said they were from Ra’anana. There were all sorts of activities in the park – video games, a playground, etc. Late at night, you could see teens walking in groups from the park towards home (long after their parents were sleeping). They were just goofing around with their friends and no one seemed to mind.

Even though I saw teens everywhere, I saw little evidence of heavy drinking. (Of course, I didn’t see a lot of heavy drinking amongst adults either.) There were certainly hookahs and my nostrils gave me the sense that it wasn’t just tobacco that people were smoking. For the most part, teens seemed far more interested in goofing off with their friends.

Teens weren’t that visible in the settings where payment was necessary. For example, I didn’t see teens at the bars/cafes on the beach or in the clubs on the pier where the average age seemed to be mid-20s. My suspicion is that teens prefer the public spaces because they are free.

I have no idea how accurate my observations are but it was pleasantly refreshing to see teens everywhere out and about. And for that matter, adults. Venice Beach is eerie late at night and I don’t dare go down there except with a pack of male friends. And even then… Tel Aviv’s beaches were a different story. There were crowds everywhere until sunrise. Even on weekdays. Everything was well-lit, cafes all had outdoor seating, and wandering the promenades seemed to be a popular dating activity. God that was nice to see.

RIP Peter Lyman

I had dropped out of grad school and was determined not to go back when my undergrad advisor encouraged me to meet Peter Lyman. I went to Berkeley to meet him only to find out that he had been called away to do jury duty. There was a message for me, telling me to come over for dinner with other grad students. So I arrived at his house, completely uncertain about what I was supposed to do or say. His casual, open, and supportive demeanor made me love him instantaneously and we chatted about all sorts of things. I felt an immediate connection and he encouraged me to apply, even if the deadline had already passed.

After I was accepted, we began plotting. We were always quite good at playing good cop/bad cop and working together to bend whatever rules faced us. We spent long hours talking about everything under the sun, going out for lunch or just sitting in his office grabbing books to debate about. I loved listening to Peter’s stories about starting the Free Speech Movement Cafe at Berkeley or talking to telcos in Mexico. Both of us had an activist streak and we loved plotting about how we would change academia or mediated society or whatever.

When Peter was first diagnosed with brain cancer, it was a complete shock. He went into surgery and I took over his class. We were all convinced that everything would get completely better and that optimistic outlook allowed us to plow through the worst of the pain. The surgery was successful, but chemo was a bitch. Even though he got better, the drugs ate at him and we had many painful conversations about how much life had changed because of the cancer. Still, we imagined a world when everything would get better and worked towards that.

Over time, new patterns emerged and we got back to plotting even though the pain never really went away. We talked about youth culture and academic publishing and regulation to suppress youth, albeit in calmer chunks than before. The MacArthur Foundation gave us plenty of room to plot and imagine a different future and we relished the opportunities to cause trouble together.

Four months ago, Peter called with dreadful news: the cancer was back, with a vengeance. Our conversations lost their plotting luster but Peter and I still got together and phone regularly to talk about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. As things grew worse, our conversations became more stilted, but his first student (Michael Carter) was always there to help Peter share stories. In the midst of all of this, Peter’s son Andrew and his wife gave birth to twin boys. Just the mere mention of the babies would put a smile to Peter’s face and a great deal of life revolved around those kids. But the cancer continued to do its damage and slowly, Peter faded away in the comfort of his home and with the loving support of his family. This morning, he left this earth.

Few students that I know have close relationships with their advisor. I was very fortunate in that way. Peter and I were always friends first, mentor/mentee second. Yet, he was always there to guide me through the perils of academic life. I wish that I could capture all of our conversations in a bottle. What I remember most is how much they always energized and motivated me to continue trying to change the world. I couldn’t have asked for more out of an advisor. He always knew who I should talk to or what I should read or how to make me think about a problem from a new direction. And no matter how crotchety I got in the field, he always gave me hope that change could happen.

I am going to miss him dreadfully. Peter was an amazing friend and an amazing advisor. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. May he rest in peace.