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

Ben Anderson benander at essex.ac.uk
Mon Sep 11 09:14:10 PDT 2006

On 11 Sep 2006, at 14:58, Alex Halavais wrote:

> I suspect that most systems consider "friend" to be "contact." I also
> suspect that most people do not define "friends" the same way their
> software does, though there is almost certainly "leakage" in
> terminology. And, frankly, I think that these kinds of issues are
> leading to everyday elaboration of such gradations (viz BFFL, friends
> with benefits, and other neologisms).
> What I find most interesting about the Flickr case is that you can
> mark photographs appropriate for "friends" or "family" or both. Just
> because I want my friends to see a photo doesn't mean that I want my
> Mom to.

it is this aspect (amongst others) that has been the downfall of many  
collaborative systems (social software). See the extensive Computer  
Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW) literature on permissions and  
roles for example. The reason they fail is the reason flickr works  
(for tagging at least) - real life categorisations are highly  
heterogeneous, situated/contextual, flexible (over time & between  
people) and (often) contested.

This is a very tricky computer science problem and it is only human  
to try to keep things simple to implement (& thus stupid). I have not  
been active in CSCW for some time so I would be hopeful that it now  
has a better handle on this although my impression from the various  
social software sites is that either it has not or it hasn't filtered  
out to the development community (yet)!

Dr Ben Anderson
Deputy Director, Chimera, University of Essex
+44 (0) 7710 187 806

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