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Sunday, April 29, 2007

local/global lives

When I went to Nepal in 1997, my dad encouraged me to observe the ways of life of some of the people we saw because so many old ways were being lost. He also told me stories of the introduction of TV into island communities. An intact community with a variety of ways of interacting now spends much of its time watching TV, absorbing lives from far off places causing rapid change that leads to alcoholism and general community breakdown. That's the extreme end of things.

The internet, or perhaps Web 2.0, or whatever, is supposed to be different. Our spending time looking at a screen is supposed to connect real people together- create community rather than destroy. I find myself drawn into Facebook and Myspace (and this blog!) and indeed, it does feel like a new social forum. I saw a parody video on You-Tube related to these social networks which included the line "Go ahead, let Facebook intrude into and completely change your life!"

As usual, I feel like I'm a few years late getting into the debate. I guess I just want to try to clarify the ways in which these new forms of communication and community building change our lives. In what ways do our local lives fit into our distributed networked lives?

There's a voice in me that says I'm not supposed to ask these questions. It says that it is the job of the sociologists to ask these questions. The wisdom of this voice is that perhaps really all I should be doing is finding something that works for me. I don't need to answer these questions for others. But at the same time, without asking the general questions, the space in which I will actually find my own solutions isn't opened up.


Sarah Silbert said...

Yeah, it's an interesting question. I have to occasionally step back and evaluate my use of facebook and other web communities. I don't like the idea that everything people do, any picture that is taken, is just something more to put on a profile.

I don't know if this is what you're getting at exactly, but what scares me the most is that after I watch a movie I like, the first thought in my mind is "I can add that to my facebook now!"

Boaz said...

That's a good way of putting it. So your daily life becomes input for your online profile where your more important identity is stored...
I guess I haven't really taken it to that extreme- but I can see that direction.
But actually, is it really that bad? As long as your online and offline identities interact with each other... multiple personality disorder is no fun.
Anyway, thanks sarah. We should talk one of these weekends. Hope things are good w/ you.

Sarah Silbert said...

I think it's bad, the fact that online identities are often just for show. But then, so are offline identities in some cases. So maybe you're right.

Facebook has a very big presence on my campus, so I guess I've just thought a lot about how and why people use it.

Yes, we should talk sometimes. I hope you are doing well.