social networks


It was interesting to come across an old post from 3 years ago and realize how the social media environment has changed in such a short time.

Back then, the social media of choice for the Younger Techapillan was texting and instant messaging, with the occasional email; and for Techapilla, blogging, email and instant messaging. These days, the Younger Techapillan prefers to use texting, Skype and Facebook, including Facebook’s chat feature. Email has gone the way of the legendary dodo. Techapilla still clings desperately to email, messaging and blogging, but has added Facebook and Yammer into the mix. Twitter, I hear you ask? You gotta be dreaming!

There is still as great a reliance on social media as ever. It remains a lifesaver during long, long waits at appointments and the inevitable social isolation that comes with pediatric cancer.

Quite un-apropos of an earlier post on Library 2.0, I’ve just read Steven Johnson’s Everything bad is good for you. The basic premise of the book is that – contrary to generally held assumptions – today’s popular culture in the form of TV, video games and the Internet is actually more intellectually stimulating and socially-expansive than the popular culture of days past. TV shows, for example, have become more complex, with multiple plot-lines, layers of subtlety, and hidden references to movies or contemporary events. Social networks have built up around specific shows, where plots and subplots and relationships are dissected in infinite and miniscule detail. The outcome of all this is that humans have become more intelligent over the years – what Johnson calls the Flynn effect –  as our brains are exercised and stimulated in increasingly complex ways.

Johnson acknowledges that not all popular culture necessarily has redeeming qualities, just as not all popular culture of the past did. I’d have liked to have seen more discussion on the seamy trend of some TV shows and video games – Johnson just pays lipservice to that. But overall, a great read.

So, Johnson’s book and Library 2.0? Johnson talks about how social networks, a fundamental precept of Library 2.0,  operate; although the book was written in 2005, so doesn’t really pay justice to the massive growth in social networking that has occurred over the past couple of years.

More particularly, Johnson’s book and video gaming in libraries? Has Johnson convinced me to change my mind, that gaming nights (as opposed to having video games for loan) have no place in libraries? Not at all. But I might be a little more flexible on the concept of libraries installing video games on library computers and allowing patrons to actually play, rather than just try them out before borrowing.

Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch has written about the use of Google Earth to help in the search for missing adventurer, Steve Fossett.

There are already projects out there which rely on using idle time on individual computers to solve various scientific problems – see for instance World Community Grid. A nice, effortless and inexpensive way to contribute to the good of humanity. Projects such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, which Michael speaks about, are a social extension on this kind of thing.