The Division of Social Roles

Shirky’s and Danah’s comments on Friendster reminded me of a response I sent to Danah, after I introduced myself to her. Through various connections, and most notably from a link of my friend and former roommate I found that Danah was interested in some of the same things I am. (When it comes to making connections within a social network, I observe the “when it rains it pours” phenomena: when I “connect” with someone, there is usually more than one event corresponding to that connection within a period of a few days.) When she asked about my Friendster identity I responded:

… I feel a bit like one of those old Comp Sci professors that don’t have email! The social networks are fun of their own accord, but I personally haven’t felt the need to use them, I’m a bit hesitant given the privacy and cliquishness aspects. I spoke to Dan Brickley about this a while back with respect to FOAF. In the past, I labored to actually remove links to my blog, and carefully maintain the separation of my nyms. The expectations are changing now though, blogs are so common and the line between the personal and public is much thinner….

In part, I already felt that my present “networks” were serving me well, and I was also following some of my friends’ experience with Friendster. I was seeing folks connecting with existing friends and goofing around with pseudonyms and such, but not much else. Or at least, not much beyond what I presently get from the various blogs, lists, and the face-to-face communities I belong to.

Over on my personal blog, I wrote about how I’ve largely given up on trying to actively keep my nyms separate; but the reader also has the ability to follow very granular aspects of my life: my personal blog, my public blog, with its own technology, culture, and other subdivisions. This reminds me of Armand Mattelart’s identification of the relationship of globalization with segmentation. As communication technology forces one’s horizon ever forward, one’s blinders and tinted glasses must become that much more sophisticated.

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