August 25, 2008
Random Thoughts on Facebook
Okay, I know that Facebook is far from being a new topic of discussion or an emerging technology in the social networking arena. We are all familiar with it--have at least heard of it--and many of us use it on a regular, irregular or even constant basis. My stance on Facebook is that I am glad I signed on, despite the fact I did so only under a certain amount of protest with an underlying element of hesitation. I enrolled in Facebook originally to give some exposure to my favorite campus organization, the UM Council for Disability Concerns. Well, that didn't take, and only 17 members, when lightly pressured, half-heartedly joined last year, and I don't think that any have visited the site since. However, I have, fairly often, and I am glad that I can. Facebook, to me, is logical and easy to use. Contrary to its name, it isn't "in your face" with all kinds of pressures and complications. If you want to look at unusual facets and new applications, you can check those out, but if you want to keep things simple (and I usually do), you can stick to updating your own profile status or check out what your friends have been doing lately, including taking in any witty sayings they have jotted down for posterity. You can even send a pot of flowers, a message, or a poke (although originally I hesitated with the latter because it did not sound very friendly when I first saw the term). But by and large, it is the friendliness of Facebook that appeals to me most, I guess. I find out little things about people, and they are generally good things--hobbies, charitable interests, abilities, kookiness of a gentle sort. And those little things make the person seem closer to me, whether or not I see him or her regularly and whether or not he or she is really a "friend" or just an acquaintance. Summing up, this morning someone I know from seeing her at the YMCA asked me to acquaint her with the basics of social networking, and I quickly and enthusiastically agreed, figuring that what she should start out with is an invitation to join Facebook!
August 19, 2008
Random Thoughts Inspired by Deep Blue
Yesterday, on my way home from work, I meandered into a campus presentation on Deep Blue by the librarian who conceived of and nurtures this all-campus online depository. I had not expected to be there for anything but supportive purposes--to pad the audience (the session had been arranged by a close colleague, and I hate it when speakers or facilitators are presented with, and possibly disappointed by, an embarrassingly sparse audience.) Well, the surprise was on me! Although I happened to be very familiar with the content of the presentation, the presenter's style was so lively and interesting that I listened closely to the nuances, admired the performance, and left with a couple of thoughts to ruminate about.
The speaker referred at one point to Neil Stephenson, author of "Cryptonomicon," apparently a masterful sci-fi work that I have never even heard of, and his distinction between an academic being either a Beowulf or a Dante (forging out to publish on his/her own or being generously supported by his/her patron, the academy). I had studied Beowulf in the original Anglo-Saxon version, way back when, and although I cannot say that I really read Dante in the Italian, I probably should have--so my attention was piqued by all three references.
Another statement that held my interest was the speaker's self- admitted reluctance to tell a faculty member that he/she was infringing on a publisher's copyright if he/she was posting his/her published papers on his/her website without proper permission, since "that is not the way to start a friendly conversation." I know that many people think it's perfectly okay to post one's own publications, because they are uninformed about or don't remember signing their rights away. I asked the question that came to the forefront of my mind: Wouldn't an academic want to have this information, if only for ethical--if not for legal--reasons? I would want to be told, so I figured that others would want to do the right thing, too. I did not receive any confirmation from the audience, which I thought was also interesting. Again, could I be the only one who thinks this way?