on sociability

[updated 2010-06-03]

Well now.

WOOT as they say (they being, well, these guys and these ones; in the lovely Unword Dictionary but not yet in the OED).

Further to previous posts about Facebook, subjectivity, and so on: I note that I have now officially been defined as


Anti-social, that is, by defining or non-defining myself (all depending on your point of view) as follows:

Waiting with bated breath and tremulous excitement for my first ASBO to drop through the letter-box. Do they drop? Are they brought by a person, to emphasize the sociability of the ASBO-awarders? I’d quite like an ironic velvet cushion with gilded tassels at the corners, a couple of footmen in nice sleek knee-britches, and a trumpet fanfare. At least (given my location) a full mounted Mountie or two.

It’s clever. It’s my deliberate action to tick, not tick, or tick then un-tick boxes. But there’s no “I refuse to share this information and think it’s rude and intrusive” box to tick. Nor is there a box saying “I didn’t tick any boxes but I am actually a social sort.”


1. The less information “you” [=I] share, the less social the experience
⇒ sharing no information at all = a completely non-social experience and
⇒ a deliberate refusal to share = anti-social.
∴ I am anti-social.

2. “The experience”: what and whose experience? yours? No: “when your friends use them [= applications, games and websites]”
⇒ your friends’ experience
⇒ not sharing thwarts them
⇒ I don’t love my friends, am not a proper friend, am not in fact and by definition actually a friend to my friends
∴ I am anti-social.

3. That “experience” = the whole sharing business.
⇒ Not sharing goes against community spirit and indeed the whole Facebook community. As that is a society of sorts,
⇒ such behaviour is a crime against society. Such criminals are social pariahs, outcasts, outlaws.
∴ I am anti-social.

I don’t like this sort of prescription and imposition, with implied consequences for not toeing the line. Sneaky and bordering on bullying. This is not a nice anarcho-collectivist kind of happy voluntary philanthropic sociability.

[Suggesting one subversive possibility: use the “notes” function to write comments about Facebook, then make “My Notes” available to Outsiders and co. In my case, for instance, “My Notes” links to the MMM posts on Facebook. Yes, little things do please little minds.]

On a more positive note, the Noam Chomsky FB page is a delight. Some screenshots:


[update/continuation, 2010-06-03]

Something else I’m keeping an eye on: Academia.edu –essentially, a social networking site like Facebook, but for academics. With space for one to stick up one’s c.v., papers, and books; all manner of interests, likes, and current reading (presumably one is supposed to stick to the more academic end of things). I’ll probably write about it again at some point; but even back when I joined (09/2008) thought it was an Interesting and Promising Thing.

RECENT BRAINWAVE: As I do like the idea that I might make some small contribution to world peace and harmony. Academia.edu could offer an alternative avenue for academic assessment, of the sort practised by the old RAE and new REF in the UK, and by assorted review, performance, merit, promotion, tenure etc. systems in universities worldwide. Coupled with a more sophisticated version of Google and other hit-rates, and social networking “like” stats. Including RateMyProfessor; with sophistication, delicacy, caveats and so on—but students’ opinions should enter into things, and not just as expressed in university surveys, seeing as how these are not always flaw-free … And with direct links to journals online, and (but this is iffy, given it doesn’t work for smaller fields) Web of Science and other citation indices.

This could have the following positive repercussions:

  1. Increasing online activity and interactivity amongst academics.
  2. The recognition—and advocation—of this, even if “just” as “outreach”, by universities.
  3. Encouraging more journals to move online, and indeed to move entirely online.
  4. Ditto for books. And please, using sensible electronic copy-editing and page-setting stuff, of the sort that’s available to any numpty with a computer… and cheap and easy… with a move in publishers’ budgets back to good human proofreading, editing, and commissioning-editing, freed up from techy expenditure.
  5. The extension of Ac.’s empire to operating as a sorting-house, meta-network, etc.; centralising all matters academic. The “stats” and “followers” functions are already there, including connection to Google searches for you. I’m sure there’s more meta-crawling and meta-site syndication possibilities out there.
  6. One centralised location to consult: making administrators’ and peer-reviewers’ jobs easier, smoother, and maybe even fairer.

(Again, there will be more about this at some later juncture. Just throwing the idea out here right now, in case it catches the eye of one of the Powers That Be.)

Brainwave in progress aside: the reason I’m writing about Ac. is that the marvellous PhDComics has a new  series on there, called Academica. It has, for example, this lovely piece that ties in nicely with MMM’s discussion of identity on Facebook:

See? FB needs more buttons. I should add that the bottom row of buttons (the one ending “Be the first of your friends”) is not part of the comic, but is on Ac. A bit pushy for my liking, but it’s still nice to see more buttons, boxes to tick, and other means for greater specificity, finesse, and freedom of expression.


☞ for more on PhD a.k.a. Piled Higher and Deeper, see here; for the neophyte, reading it from the very beginning is recommended.

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