Zerubavel is a sociologist interested in how we socially operate in time. In The Seven-Day Cycle, he quotes Staffan Linder:
Those who complain that girls these days are 'easy' fail to understand that in a hectic age girls must accelerate to save time, both for themselves and for their male friends. It would be inconcievable, for reasons of time, that a modern young lady should require her presumptive lover ... to appear for one hundred evenings and wait outside her door, to be admitted in the hundred-and-first.The rise of the "quickie" as a modern institution must also be understood within this context.
This paper models love-making as a signaling game. In the act of love-making, man and woman send each other possibly deceptive signals about their true state of ecstasy. Each has a prior belief about the other's state of ecstasy. These prior beliefs are associated with the otherís sexual response capacity...
The way I figure it, while I'm working on my dissertation, it's not a distraction to read good science writing. Indeed, it keeps me in good writing form.
That's why I'm leafing through Galileo's Commandment: 2,500 Years of Great Science Writing
I'm reminded how alienating technical writing can be in a tongue-in-cheek essay by John McPhree (from Basin and Range:)
Rock that stayed put was called autocthonous, and if it had moved it was allocthonous. "Normal" meant "at right angles." "Normal" also meant a fault with a depressed hanging wall. There was a Green River Basin in Wyoming that was not to be confused with the Green River Basin in Wyoming. One was topographical and was on Wyoming. The other was structural and was under Wyoming. The Great Basin, which is centered on Utah and Nevada, was not to be confused with the Basin and Range, which is centered in Utah and Nevada. ... To anyone with a smoothly functioning bifocal mind, there was no lack of clarity about Iowa n the Pennsylvanian, Missouri in the Mississippian, Nevada in Nebraskan, Indiana in Illinoian, Vermont in Kanas, Texas in Wisonsonian time. Meteoric water, with study, turned out to be rain. It ran downhill in consequent, subsequent, obsequent, resquent, and not a few insequent streams.
Sure, in my field, we pride ourselves on using terms that everyone understands. Then we redefine them: "social navigation"? "awareness"? "collaborative spaces"?
A "Friend" on Friendster is different from a friend in person, and an "egocentric social network" isn't a way to describe P*ris H*lton. A "visualization" doesn't involve finding a happy place, and the "graph" that I draw doesn't come in pie or bar forms.
In other words, even the technical terms I use aren't the same as the technical terms they're stealing from.
zephoria asks, what is beta in the context of social software?
A few years ago, Gina Neff and David Stark wrote an essay: Permanently Beta: Responsive Organization in the Internet Era.
In it, they argue that the continuing cycle of beta software is a new way of running organizations, ones that have a built-in feedback cycle between users and organizations.
But one of the side effects of this responsive organization is that it stays responsive: that the organization and the products within are never "finished", are always co-evolving with their environment--are, in other words, always in Beta.
"Friendster Beta", as one might read the title page, is simply declaring that status on its front page.
Looks interesting, from the first page or two. I'm very much into the idea of breaking down barriers between "doing stuff" and "collaborating" (that's pretty much my dissertation topic); I like the idea of working on that in the IDE.
From the individual developer's perspective, the IDE (integrated development environment) is where coding takes place and is the home of many different development tools. If coding is a team effort, then why not add collaborative capabilities to the IDE toolset alongside the editor, compiler, and debugger? In this article, we explore this notion of integrating collaboration into the IDE.
ACM Queue - Building Collaboration into IDEs
Unforuntately, the interface to the website is pretty bad... very annoying to try to print. Too bad--looks like there's a lot of articles that might be interesting.
(Incidently, I've interned twice with this team at IBM Research.
Denounce, a parody site, is all over social software this week:
Friendster Secretly Shares Member Information with Government
Amazon Launches New Social Network Called "Pricekut"
And if we're really into ranting about visible networks, danah boyd's apophenia has some thoughts on just why she (and so many others) doesn't like Orkut in particular.
UPDATE: I'm pretty sure that Christopher Allen is all over this topic ("So you don't have to"). Follow his and danah's links to get there from here...
The term "snowclone" was coined for the fill-in-the-blank ... things ... that keep appearing around the net. You know. Like things that are "the new black."
For the nonce, let's look at
* The Hidden Epidemic
* The Second-Oldest Profession
* Considered Harmful
For a while, one of my friends was researching--um, some STD. I don't remember which. Chlaymdia, maybe? Anyway, the rhetoric was all about Chlamydia: The Hidden Epidemic.
Google searching for hidden epidemic tells us there's a lot of them:
* Sexually transmitted diseases, both general and specific
* Infertility in general, and PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) in particular
* Compulsive gambling
* Chronic pain
* Seniors with drug addiction
* Chronic fatigure syndrome
* Foot-and-mouth disease
* Lyme disease
While I'm at it, I'm interested in the second oldest profession, too--I don't remember what kicked off that particular interest. Perhaps just running into Erma Bombeck's book on a bookshelf?
It seems there's a lot of them, too.
* Intelligence and spying
* Music, or art
* Veterinary medicine
* The covert arms trade
(There are far fewer "third-oldest" professions: cleaning, lawyers, writing romance novels, and maybe a few others.)
A number of years ago, Dijkstra wrote an essay on structured programming called "Go-To Considered Harmful.".
I don't know if he was the first to use the phrase. But now it's common among computer scientists trying to warn each other of their own pet peeves:
* "Reply-To munging"
* Recursive make
* csh programming
And, of course, "Weblogging considered Harmful."
(DiveIntoMark has a much better list. I'll let him do the hard work.)
Genre shifts the focus from issues such as the nature and degree of relationship among "community members", to the purpose of the communication, its regularities of form and substance, and the institutional, social, and technological forces which underlie those regularities.Now BoingBoing talks about the imaginary girlfriend phenomenon on Ebay... and I was startled to realize that it's a genre. Here. Check a few imaginary girlfriend auctions and virtual girlfriend auctions out:
Tom Erickson, Social Interaction on the Net: Virtual Community as Participatory Genre
Do you want to make your ex girlfriend Jealous, ... Fool them with an Imaginary Girlfriend. ... I'll be whatever you'd like me to be. I'm a 19 year old college student. I'm 5'3, and 110lbs. Help me to pay my student loans, DEBT and rent. In return I will pretend to be your girlfriend/friend/pen pal for 1 month. You can e-mail me as much as you want, and chat with me on MSN and Yahoo IM. You will recieve 4 mailed letters; one per week, scented especially for you. When our 30 days have expired simply break it off and tell your friends I was crushed. You can dump me how ever you want, I will even write you a letter begging for you back .... You will recieve a letter once a week, and a Special Valentines day card to show off to your friends, or leave out so that ex may find it. If the bidding excedes $50 you will recieve 3 glossy Pictures of me to show your friends. If the bidding excedes $100 dollars, you will recieve a pair of my sexiest underwear scented with my favorite purfume. If the bidding excedes $150, I will send you some "special" photoes of me and a cam session online. If you would like another 30 Days, Price can be discussed via email, as I will not block your address from my email. Happy bidding.There seems to be a few interesting aspects. One is that there is a broad consensus on what you get from an imaginary girlfriend: a personal gift, a letter or two, a racy photo and a nice photo, and emails for one or two months, concluding with a tearful note begging you to take them back. There are also small variations between them: some often phone conversations, others don't; some offer IM access, others don't. What interests me, though, is that an economist might comment on how the market is converging on something--but in my mind, what's happening is that the genre is stabilizing. Before recently, no one in history had ever tried to sell a short-term virtual girlfriend, as far as I know; the ebay members are now in the process of deciding what to call it ("fantasy girlfriend" and "virtual girlfriend" are other choices, and both have hits), deciding how much to charge, and precisely what services to offer.
ashley_thm: Let me be your Imaginary Girlfriend/Pen Pal
Dear customer, We are glad to inform you, that your DarkProfits.com Sales Order
has been successfully completed. Sales order number: 3445096-01.04 Customer' Number: 1333027 Amount charged: $149.95 Time of charge: Product ordered: 1 Month Child Porn Unlimited Online Access. Customer' Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Please note, that refunds are not available for this type of transactions. Your credit card was charged by (Link: www.darkprofits.com,)www.darkprofits.com, it will appear on your next credit card's statement. Kings regards, DarkProfits.com Sales Department. email@example.com You can also cancel your order by phone: call us +1 877 479 7378
Wired has an article talking about how
Social Nets [are] Not Making Friends: it seems that people are getting irritated at all the various requests.
Which is my quiet explanation to the several folks who have tried to convince me to join Orkut.
I never read CHI-WEB [the HCI mailing list] as much as I should, much less the information architecture list.
Fortunately, the nice people at UIWEB are keeping a list of some of the best posts.
(Reprinted from Metablog)
There are a couple of interesting technological recurrences that are worth discussing. One of them is literary form of the epistolary tradition. (Which is also in keeping with my usual attempts to explore the non-exceptionalism of new media.)
I'm not the first to tie email to the epistolary tradition: see essays like "Email and Epistolary technologies: Presence, Intimacy, Disembodiment" for--I think--fruitful discussions of how people literarily concieve of themselves within letters. It would be easy and interesting to tie many of the ideas in this article into blogs--indeed, blogs are sometimes more nakedly confessional than the essay discusses.
At the same time, there was a parallel tradition of persons sharing their opinions publically:
I would suggest that these forms are both important to get at the gist of how a blog functions as a series of literary persona.
"It is indeed not easy for any man to write upon literature or common life so as not to make himself known to those with whom he familiarly converses, and who are acquainted with his track of study, his favourite topicks, his peculiar notions, and his habitual phrases." Samuel Johnson: Addison (Lives of the Poets)
(from the Samuel Johnson archive)
There's something to be said for direct interfaces that tell you what they are for: is this a form of Direct Manipulation?
Courtesy Black Belt Jones
My advisor has told me about an photo-ethnographic study carried out at his former employer. Back then, they were the Document Company, and were absolutely sure that the world would soon be taken over by the Paperless Office. But in order to get the office paperless, everyone needed a scanner, so they could change paper into bits.
The study was of how people were using scanners. They found very few scanners in fully operable, and operating, condition. Instead, they found a lot of doorstops, paperweights, and convenient flat surfaces.
So it interests me to find a company that is again trying to revisit the dream. These people use scanners to dump documents into an archive, then use SQL to find them again.