Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Phenomenon



Chanced upon through Googling, Friendster and Publicly Articulated Social Networking, an ethnographic study of Friendster and social theory and other related aspects of human-computer interaction. It was presented by a UC Berkeley student in 2004 at a conference in Vienna.

To highlight some interesting points:
"Relationship indicators in Friendster are binary: Friend or not... Because of this weakness in the system, the weight of a Friend connection is often devalued because trust cannot be guaranteed... By asking users to articulate and collapse their [own social] network in a public way, Friendster is also asking them to give up their status as a social connector, or bridge... Notably, most users fear the presence of two people on Friendster: boss and mother."

On Friendster's value in connecting people other than dating, "in one somber situation, a man with a Friendster account passed away in his sleep. His unconnected friends were able to pass on information to one another via the site. Friends of other deceased Friendster users have constructed memorials via the site... Women advertise their porn sites by attracting potential clientele... Two users capitalized on their social network... they decided to auction connections on eBay. In their ads, they promised both Friendster and real-life connections to hipsters, artists, musicians, record labels, etc. One was serious, while the other was simply making a point:
The 'self' you're packaging on Friendster is a strictly delimited individual - but when I'm selling my network on ebay, the value is determined by my extended self, defined by its relationships and surfaces rather than content - in other words, the true me, in its full, fragmented, postmodern glory, all the more true the instant a dollar value is placed on it!
My 2 cents' worth: A man is measured by the company he keeps... a man is also measured by the profile he puts up publicly. Though it isn't very fair to judge people through small, 2D gif graphics, you do get an inkling of who they are from the pictures they put up.

Some may dismiss Friendster as a young thing or another medium for the sociable to celebrate their connectedness. But quite significantly, Friendster clearly epitomizes the phenomenon of social networking through various websites and web applications. How many times have you received an email asking you "update my address book" or "enter your birthday so that I can better keep track of important events"? Just as globalization is sweeping the world's population closer together, the global cyber-village is growing with countless users added daily and shrinking because of increasing ultra-connectivity and medium convergence - all at the same time.

*deep breath* That's enough blogging for a lovely saturday on a long weekend.

Oh yes, I'm a silent trawler of the Friendster tubes :)

1 comment:

garota said...

interesting post - i like your insights on the connection between social theory and tech-human interaction.

curiously, i find the strength of networks like friendster also its limitation, because what you know about a person through available info also tends to preclude other aspects of a person (unless other means of communication are available).