networks: March 2007 Archives

danah boyd has a fantastic entry today, on "fame, narcissism and MySpace." There's nothing there that she doesn't already say much better than I could, so I cite her entry more out of appreciation than with an eye towards adding anything.

Long story short: claims about MySpace producing a generation of narcissists misses the broader social point, which is that MySpace is only a small symptom of a much deeper cultural tendency towards unwarranted esteem (from "you can do anything" to "you deserve everything").

Particularly interesting to me is the vicious cycle that boyd describes with respect to so-called "reality" programming (even the name itself is symptomatic of the economy at play). This kind of programming helps contribute to the spread of narcissism (Why should you be the next American Idle?), and then harvests that attitude by providing outlets for it. reality programming appeals to network execs because they can pay talentless amateurs a fraction of what they pay actors, without any corresponding drop in advertising revenue.

Anyhow, boyd has some good thoughts on fame, esteem, attention, and narcissism, and there are some really nice followups in the comments. Check it out.

In an episode that demonstrates where my media preferences and habits lie, I caught a post of Kathleen's today a couple of hours in advance of the digested email list to which she refers.

Anyhow, in this conversation, a senior scholar raises the question of whether or not students should be blogging about people who may one day be their colleagues. In short, this scholar has a Google alert set to inform him of mentions of his name, and he wonders about the ethics of allowing students to post their initial forays into his work publicly ("While I am happy that folks are reading my stuff, I am aghast that their entries are on the web for all to read.").

It's an interesting question. Like Kathleen, I don't think it's "unethical" per se, as long as it's made quite clear to the students what the potential drawbacks are should they choose to make themselves identifiable.

But I do think it's a question of ethics in the sense of ethos, which is what I take Kathleen to be talking about. It's important (for different reasons at different points along the academic spectrum) to understand the ethical consequences of blogging, the ways that it may help to construct an identity that potential employers and colleagues may one way be able to access. That's one of the lessons that emerged from the whole Tribble flap.

I think another point worth raising is that, soon enough, these same people (in the case of graduate students) will be writing articles that are in the journals for all to read. It's not quite the same thing, true, but there's one thing about the comparison that does work. It's easy in graduate school (and beyond) to imagine that scholarship, particularly in the humanities, is a matter of moving around quotes and citations, almost treating our sources as chess pieces in our various writerly gambits. It's easy to forget that the proper names that appear on our books and in our articles are more than simply functions. They also signify real people, who will react to our work and our citations in various ways. In other words, it's easy to forget that we are often writing about real people with varying levels of investment in the ideas and quotations that we patch together with our own writing.

I'm not always good at it myself, imagining how the people whose work I draw on would themselves respond to my appropriations. But I think that many of us have to undergo the transition where we write dissertations that challenge "the field," only to realize eventually that we ourselves are "the field," that there is no objective field-out-there but instead networks of colleagues, each of whom tries just as hard as we do to get it right, to advance our understanding, to contribute to knowledge.

Transforming one's self from a student to a scholar is in part a matter of coming to terms with the fact that your audience as a scholar is in fact real, addressed rather than invoked. And I don't mean to make it sound as though my transformation is complete--I think it takes a long time to shake the temptation to treat the field as a reified, monolithic whole in need of correction, revision, or enlightenment. I struggle with this myself.

But one of the things that blogging can do, particularly if one does it in the context of a community of scholars, is to make that transition easier. I'll be spending time with a lot of other bloggers in New York next week, some whom I've known (and I know) pre-blog, but many of whom became "real" to me first through this space. And in a lot of ways, that community has become the audience that I write to, even when I'm not writing in this space.

Not everyone who keeps a class blog is going to have the same experience as I have, certainly, but the potential rewards are substantial, I think, if they develop some sense of the ethos they must develop and the audience they may one day address under more formal circumstances.

That's all.

Information dorkologies

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one of my bedroom shelves

One thing I've noticed about my usage patterns with respect to Library Thing is that I have the tendency to record books that are within eyeshot of wherever I happen to be. So the books on the shelves next to my couch? All inputted. The ones on the shelves in my bedroom? Not so much.

It only took me roughly a year and a half to come up with a solution to this problem. I went around my apt to the various shelves, and used my digital camera to snap them, and have been recording the books from the pix. Duh.

If I could add one feature to LT, it would be on the duplications page. Sometimes I forget what edition I have, or whether it's hard or soft cover, and since there are different ISBNs for different formats, it's only when I check the duplicates that I find 10-15 books that have been double-entered. It would be sweet if, rather than just linking to each of the versions, there were radio buttons, so I could choose which of each of the pairs I want to keep, and then single-click the duplicates away. As it stands, we have to visit each page, click remove, confirm, and wait. My other solution (quit with the multiple versions!) would be a little more challenging to implement.

And yes, this is my Saturday night this week, taking pictures of my books. And no, I haven't gotten to this shelf yet. And yes, that is all.



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This page is a archive of entries in the networks category from March 2007.

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