Monday, March 16, 2009

Social networks and email

The SXSW people have learned this week that social networks are the new email.

The linked article doesn't say a whole lot, but as far as I can tell, I agree with the thesis. My sense is that it relates to the much larger problem that lots of jobs now involve an unmanageable flow of email and unrealistic expectations for responding to all of it. This problem is already at the center of writing about efficiency: David Allen's Getting Things Done and its many spinoffs, for example. But the deeper issue involves adapting asynchronous communication, which offers chronological flexibility at the price of obligation, to keep the connectivity of the digital world while removing the guilt.

That is, the fantastic thing about Facebook status updates, when used well, is that they give the reader a real sense of connection to the writer, but the expectation of reply becomes a more clearly voluntary option. It is like the shift in land mail from having the recipient pay postage to having the sender pay--but with obvious increases in the dispersal of information. I suspect that social networking is one early answer to the problem of using email too much and too broadly.

Friday, January 30, 2009

I wonder whether it's a really bad idea

to let my students in on the fact that I read this blog

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The most interesting contest I've seen in a while

It speaks for itself:

Contest to Create Robert Burns Memorial on Second Life

The Centre for Scottish Studies at Simon Fraser University is holding a contest to create a memorial to Scotland's Bard that is suitable for a twenty-first century globalized world and that can be reproduced on Second Life. Statues, busts and portraits often represent Burns as a nostalgic relic of the nineteenth century. We are looking for a more contemporary image to convey the fact that Burns's messages regarding respect for nature, universal brotherhood (and, by extension, sisterhood) and the uplifting power of the human spirit have never been more relevant. The deadline for entry is April 1, 2009. The winning design will be awarded $300 (Canadian) and will appear in Second Life on SFU's island during Tartan Week (April 6-10). For more details or to submit an entry (preferably in digital format), contact: Leith Davis (

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Roland Burris fair tent

When considering the question of why Roland Burris would let himself get caught up in multiple tawdrinesses with no apparent objective other than to become Former Senator Roland Burris, you might consider this sequence from David Foster Wallace's brilliant 1992 account of the Illinois State Fair.

Between two minor corporate tents is the serendipitous snout of the "Sertoma Mobile Hearing Test" trailer, inside which a woman with a receding hairline scores me overdecibeled but aurally hale. Fifteen whole minutes both in- and outside the huge STATE COMPTROLLER ROLAND BURRIS tent fails to uncover the tent's function. Next door, though, is a bus on display from the city of Peoria's All-Ethanol Bus Sustem; it is painted to resemble a huge ear of corn.

I think you see what I'm driving at.