[Air-l] Facebook and Friending

'Gail Taylor gdtaylor at uiuc.edu
Mon Sep 11 06:59:17 PDT 2006

Barry Wellman wrote: 

>One problem with almost all social software is that it makes
>two false assumptions: (a) It assumes that relationships are 
>dichotomous: Friend/Non-Friend.(b) It assumes that friends 
>all belong to the same group.

For myself, the problem is not the software, per se, but rather the processes that go into building, maintaining, and sustained use of groupware software products. Groupware software products are developed by individuals who complete work tasks on their own or as members of groups (small, medium, large). These individuals perform tasks in environments where there are overlapping technical and social systems. Components of technical systems are are also produced in environments with overlapping interactions between technical and social systems. Personal values shape and define processes and products in both of these systems. 
Groupware software product users also complete tasks in environments where there are overlapping interactions between technical and social systems. The Facebook protests call attention to interpersonal conflicts that are direct outcomes of these overlapping systems. 

Facebook is a business venture, and users are consumers of the product. My understandings of this issue are grounded in the socio-technical perspective of personal interactions in organizational settings. The socio-technical perspective is grounded in theories and principles that have emerged in disciplines such as industrial engineering, industrial psychology, industrial relations, and computer science. Historical foundations are tightly linked to the work of Taylor (1911; scientific management), Roethlisberger and Dickson (1939; Hawthorne studies), and Blau (1955; social service agency field accounts). Understandings of the Facebook protests are also grounded in the socio-technical systems theory (STS) which emerged from work conducted by researchers at the Tavistock Institute in London (Trist and Banforth)in the 1950s and 1960s. Contemporary understandings of issues raised in postings related to the Facebook incident can also be found in the change management literature t!
 hat has been written about the impact of digital communication technologies on personal interactions (Cooper,1994; Kling and Lamb (1999), and Mumford (2000). 

Danah Boyd wrote in a previous posting that bits of data are not relative to this discussion with regard to being carriers of information related to privacy issues. Bits of data are pieces-and-parts of a person's identity, in the context of this discussion. Bits of data are compiled to create representations of a person's identity. Developers of the software make decisions relating to which compilations of data will be exposed or hidden from view. Developers also decide how much control the user will have over these same processes. Actions are driven by personal values. These values were detectable in the letter of apology and explanation that Zuckerberg wrote to users of the Facebook software, that was routed in another message over the weekend by someone else who is also participating in this conversation. My apologies for not remembering the name of the person who routed the posting. 


Gail D. Taylor, M.Ed.
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Human Resource Education Ph.D. Student
Educational Psychology Teaching Assistant

"We can't just have mainstream behavior
on television in a free society. We have
to make sure we see the whole panorama 
of human behavior." -- Jerry Springer

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