Friday, December 5, 2008


THIS WEEK’S AUTHOR: Ramak Siadatan

My friend, and former boss, Rick mentioned that he was interested in my “youthful perspective.” I have since learned that there are at least a couple of you no more than two or three years older than me. This tells me youthful isn’t a reference to my age, but my state of mind. And Rick, I’ll take that as a compliment! For this week, I wanted to find something youthful to discuss.

Well, I think I’ve got a good one here. Virtual socializing. It’s all the rage! In fact, we’re doing it right now. Because of Rick, I am sharing my personal thoughts and views of myself, my past, life, the world, laughing, crying... all with 9 people I have never met. Pretty remarkable right?
I can find anything I want to buy. I can locate old friends. I can read about great new discoveries happening across the world moments after they happen. I can probably see videos of elephants chasing deer in the Amazon. And, as we know, I can also find out very personal information about people who don’t want me to see it. I can encourage other people to do stupid, dangerous and illegal things just for my own amusement. I can research a prospective employee without them ever knowing. I can tell complete falsehoods and convince possibly thousands or even millions of people to believe me. All from the comforts of my own home, my car, an airport, a coffee stand or at the top of a mountain. Two sides to every coin, right?

That is what I am hoping you will all explore with me this week. The good, the bad and the ugly of virtual socializing and information sharing. We’ll tackle YouTube, Myspace, Facebook, Wikipedia and even Blogging. Sound like fun? Here we go!

1) YouTube.
Here’s something fun:
Here’s something horrifying (and you don’t need to watch more than a minute or so, really):
Here’s something inspiring:

People are entertaining one another, getting attention through horrible actions, and finding new found celebrity for their talents, all in a matter of minutes on the web. What you think about this medium for adults? What about for kids? Do the positives outweigh the negatives?

2) MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn. These are great spaces for social, academic and professional networking. You can catch up with friends you haven’t seen in fifteen years, talk homework, help a friend find a job and share pictures of your life. I’ve done all of these things. I also know that if I’m going on vacation, and don’t want anyone to know, there is still the chance that one of my friends will leave a comment on my page saying “have fun in Hawaii!” Or if I’m not even a member of Facebook, one of my friends can send another one of my friends a comment saying, “Hey, give Ramak a call. Here’s his phone number.”

So are these websites good or bad for us? Do you have a story to share where your privacy was invaded before you had a chance to react? Does it matter that complete strangers can learn so much about you?

3) Wikipedia. Great encyclopedia, right? Get answers to any question. In fact, a friend of mine encouraged her fifth grade students to go there to research facts for their science fair projects. Here’s what Wikipedia says about itself:

“Wikipedia is written collaboratively by volunteers from all around the world; anyone can edit it... Visitors do not need specialized qualifications to contribute, since their primary role is to write articles that cover existing knowledge.”

Does it scare you that “unqualified people” (whatever that means) are creating their own version of reality for others to follow, or do you think society is perfecting its information retention through open free market data sharing (much like the concept of a free market economy)?

4) Blogging. Hey, I’m doing it right now. And, I have to admit, it’s my very first time. A very cool experience (thanks Rick!). When you blog, are you worried about piracy, or idea stealing? Or do you think it’s worth the risk to have the exposure and be able to share information freely and allow, say, scientists from around the world tackle the fight against some disease with real time online communication (you know, Scientific Journals on steroids!)?

5) On the general state of the internet. Is it positive for our youth? In the middle of the 20th century, rock and roll was apparently poisoning the minds of our youth. In the 1980’s, television was frying our kids brains. Is the internet nothing more than this generation’s temptation that really isn’t as bad as people make it? Or, is it accelerating certain behaviors and/or awareness of the “real world” at too fast a rate for their level of maturity?

Discuss! :-)

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