I received an email from Marshall Keys on Monday morning alerting me to topical articles that appeared over the weekend in the NY Times Magazine and New Yorker. The former is entitled Scan This Book!, and is an interesting vision of the future of the book. A few mentions of libraries, but none of librarians. I have some notes jotted down but left them in the office so may come back to that one later.
The latter is entitled "Me Media", and is not (yet?) available online. It should appear in the EBSCO databases in a few days, at which time I will update this post with a link. It's a pretty detailed look at Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, and I learned quite a bit about that site by reading the article over lunch. But Marshall asked me if I'd post this brief entry containing some of his thoughts about the community aspect addressed in this article, and I'm happy to oblige. Marshall says he'll follow up in the next couple of days with additional posts on privacy, and then "possibly about the implications of this article and the FB phenomenon for libraries and information commerce."
Here are Marshall's initial thoughts on this article:
John Cassidy’s article on Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, [“Me Media” in the May 15, 2006, New Yorker) is worth reading for anyone who is interested in the social networking phenomenon. It is making me think about some of the statements I have made about young people, privacy, and community in such places as my talk last month to the Savannah Off Campus Library Services Conference (which should be posted today on the conference site http://ocls.cmich.edu/conference/presentations.htm)
Facebook differs from other similar sites in several respects. Most important, until recently it has not been open to the entire universe but only to a subset of it, college students (originally Harvard students, then students at prestigious colleges, then all college students). Thus the community of which users are a part is automatically a restricted – exclusive – community. The admission of high school students has led to howls of rage.
Facebook has been a gated community, if you will, or a restricted community like a country club or La Cosa Nostra, for that matter, accessible to “people like us” but not so accessible that members feel their connection diluted. This “Our Crowd” mentality is the reason that many of them have been comfortable posting personal details online. In response to complaints about opening up new user categories, Facebook is creating a new Limited Profile that will differentiate between what users expose to the world and what they expose to their self-defined “In Group”. Shades of the line waiting outside a club. Only the cognoscenti will know whether they are seeing the inside information or the information accessible to the Great Unwashed. You may get into the club, but if you don’t get into the VIP Room, you aren’t there.
This is very different from the kind of open group that Sixties leftovers like me have in mind when we use phrases like “building online communities.” In our internet communities, no one knows if you are a dog or physically deformed or gay or of a different race. All are equal, and what grants prestige is the quality of your discourse. Facebook may be the commercial future, but I think it stinks.
More to follow tomorrow. -- Marshall
Has anyone else read the article yet? What are your thoughts? Here's what others are saying...