Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Mugs Across the Curriculum

A group of Harvard students has fashioned a social network site for stimulating connectedness among coeds at several top-flight schools.  According to their site, 

You can use Thefacebook to:
- Search for people at your school
- Find out who is in your classes
- Look up your friends' friends
- See a visualization of your social network 

This has interesting possibilities, especially for its emphasis on institutionally centered networks as safe(r), inherently associational, loaded with potential for fruitful connections. The visualization feature is intriguing, too.  And although it's pitching the social dimension of undergraduate life (where there are, of course, other ways to "find out who is in your classes"), I can't help but wonder how Thefacebook could affect professional networks or whole fields of study, perhaps even the entire professorate (provided there is such a thing). For now, the group is playing on the kid-ish "poke" to name the contact gestures.  Pokes are kind of like trackback pings--only they're aimed at interpersonal, single-channel (removed from wide readability) communications; I suppose this brand of funning toward a sense of social connection and generated collegiality would doom Thefacebook to imminent failure in more formal (read serious, read professional) circles.  But it's fun to think about the potential, even to imagine how this might reweave the social fabric for community colleges or commuter-based institutions or large-scale distance learning programs (none of which appear on the list yet).  So far, according to the article on Wired News, nearly 250,000 students are registered for poking at 34 institutions.  Notably, the site limits poking to folks at one's own institution, which makes good sense considering that students at Harvard really shouldn't be poking students at UMich--and vice versa.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at June 9, 2004 10:16 AM to Technologies
Comments

When I first saw stories about TFB, I thought about sending a note to CCCC about it, suggesting that this would probably be a better way to retain members...

cgb

Posted by: collin at June 9, 2004 10:54 PM

Judging by the group's record of media coverage, Thefacebook looks fairly new. It's not too late to poke the C's leadership with the notion. Can't imagine uses of TFB could be any worse than listserv cults for spurring the field.

Posted by: Derek at June 9, 2004 11:15 PM

Actually, Collin, got to say that's a good idea. I'm not sure whether the CCCC/NCTE folk would get its purpose or potential, but the organization(s) is becoming more and more fragmented into those who use WPA (which is really not very many), those who've become disillusioned with the non-theoretical turn comp is returning to, and those who really don't know who the other folks are or what they are doing.

jeff

Posted by: jeff at June 10, 2004 8:31 AM