[Air-l] From Social Isolation in America to Facebook

radhika gajjala radhika at cyberdiva.org
Mon Sep 11 03:17:29 PDT 2006

>Barry 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.

false according to whose praxis?

and whose defining the sameness of any group?

>It also makes (at least) a third: (c) It assumes that relationships are
>symmetrical, though I'd wager more folks might identify Barry as a friend
>that Barry knows - or at least that plenty of folks consider him a friend
>whom he may not consider a friend, or even know.

According to my (Indian) junior high school "friends" (potentially - 
since I asked them about this in a face-to-face lecture setting in 
their school and have not connected with them on any SNS yet) on 
orkut  most of them will let a familiar stranger on if they ask to 
"friend" them, but block this person from seeing their "real" 
friendsy stuff.

I'd probably do this on my livejournal as well myself.

So the word friend takes on different meanings in different settings 
- therefore is it not possible that we who are (in practice) using 
the word in specific offline contexts in particular ways are in fact 
assuming a dichotomy based elsewhere.

Of course the use of the word by the designers of the software is 
probably also in that dichotomy (as Carolyn Marvin and others  have 
pointed out habits and practices based in previous technologies do 
pile on onto newer ones).
In actuality, its the people who inhabit these networks in their 
daily practices that are shifting the definitions/notion of "friend"?



Radhika Gajjala
Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator
School of Communication Studies
302 West Hall
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, OH 43402

For queries about  
BGSU's School of Communication Studies
Grad program, email comsgrad at bgsu.edu

For info on the Theory Research cluster at SCS - see

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