[Air-L] Reputation and friending (was Reid Cornwell)

Alexander Halavais halavais at gmail.com
Mon Jan 4 11:37:48 PST 2010

This may seem at odds with a URL posted earlier, but with the greatest
respect (and sympathy) for those who have already entered into this
thread, I humbly suggest that discussing any person's character on
AIR-L is:

1. Inappropriate. AIR-L is intended to further research and while it
frequently becomes a more friendly community, none of us would want
our personal character adjudicated in such a public setting. So, to
second Peter's comment, I think we should quit it.

2. Ineffective. Really, the question of whether to befriend someone or
"friend" someone is more effectively handled by talking to people you
trust and, for people who write in public, reading what they have
said. Why would you trust 2,000 relative strangers' opinions on
another stranger? If we want to talk about something a person has
written, an argument they have made, or even a project they have
undertaken, that's another kettle of fish, and this would be a great

3. Boring. I don't really care, particularly, about the reputation of
a single person. I know some do--that's why TMZ rakes in the bucks. I
encourage someone to start a Reid Cornwell fan page on Facebook, or an
"anti-fan" page if they prefer. I just don't think it is why people
come to AIR-L.

So, since the above is very much "do as I say, not as I do," I
recommend the following tangents, which actually take those issues on
without ever having to talk about any single person:

1. Has the nature of reputation changed? Do we now make friends in a
different way? Most of the people I consider friends IRL I met either
because I was introduced to them by people I trusted, or because we
were forced to work together on something (school, work, sporting
team, chain gang, same diff.). But now, I feel Helen's pain: If you
are a friend of Henry's shouldn't you also be my friend?

2. Is whuffie a reasonable construct? Do we all, like public
officials, now have "approval ratings"? Did we always, and now it is
more explicit?

3. How, when anyone online can be a dog, do we determine if someone is
a "mensch"? I know that many of you on this list have "alts," and nom
de plumes (d'ordinateurs?). If you are like me, you are concerned that
they keep their "good name," even if they happen to be fake. How do we
determine if a person or an organization is "legitimate"? If it
"matters"? When does the social construct of a public persona or
organization become "real"? Where is the border between astroturf and
grass roots--or is there any? (Obviously, this is a question Wikipedia
struggles with.)



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