Thursday, January 24, 2008

Today on Facebook

I'm teaching a class called "Writing Web 2.0" this semester, and I'm beginning the class with a tiny little ethnographic assignment. Take a close, curious look at Facebook, as if you hadn't encountered it before. What do you see people doing with Facebook? To what use is it being put?

This, then, is a record of some of my observations.

Facebook is clearly a place to connect with people. Each member of Facebook has a profile, where he or she usually posts a photograph and has some information about him or herself (including birthdate, interest in men or women, relationship status, political affiliation, etc.).

It also seems to be a place for a kind of ritualized, low stakes competition. For example, I have received several notifications over the past few days, telling me that someone has fed a friend to my vampire, that someone has challenged my movie knowledge, that someone is playing a game of Scrabulous with me. As the last example suggests, this ritualized competition is a kind of play. So, in addition to connecting with people, Facebook offers a space to have fun without leaving your chair.

Facebook also allows people to join groups. One of my Facebook friends, for example, is a member of the following groups: Kill Beacon Now ▪ Computers and Composition Online ▪ Graphic Design and Adobe Photoshop ▪ 4Cs: Conference on College Composition and Communication ▪ H-DigiRhet ▪ Rhetoric ▪ Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, Pedagogy ▪ Laurie Anderson has it all figured out! ▪ Equality California (EQCA) ▪ What the Foucault ▪ Composition Community. Some of these groups are professional (4Cs, Kairos), some are political (Equality California, Kill Beacon Now), and some are "fan" groups or just for fun (Laurie Anderson has it all figured out). What they have in common is the goal of connecting people with similar interests. These groups also allow the people who join them to "brand" themselves as a certain kind of person. Facebook, then, is also a place to "build" and circulate an identity (or maybe identities).

And, lest I seem over serious here, let me add a link to "Crackbook," which I found via my Facebook (and f2f) friend Zac. Crackbook is a spoof of Facebook, claiming the mere illusion of connection.


Chad Simpson said...

Hey, Donna--

I've been wanting to invent a class that seems pretty similar to the one you're teaching. What texts are you using? Or: Do you have any suggestions about books I should check out?

I should probably send you a proper email at some point, as I'd like to hear how your class goes.

I hope all's well over there.

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