Sunday, November 4, 2007

Social Networks - actually transformative?

There's no shortage of discussions about the value of social networks in contemporary society, ranging from "there is none" to "there's a lot." How's that for a summary? I tend to lean toward the "there is none" side, somewhere between "there's a middling amount" and "there's a teeny bit." But a Talk of the Town article in The New Yorker this week made me rethink. Particularly, this quote:

Hungry Upper East Siders were hovering over the table by the time Cohen returned to his themes of Middle Eastern youth: “You meet these young kids and you party with them, and they know the world has misperceptions of what they’re like. Every single young person is reachable. Ask them what dating is like in their country, ask them if they have a girlfriend, ask them what their type is. There’s nobody who’s too conservative to talk about that.”

The article is talking about Jared Cohen, a member of Condi Rice's Policy Planning Staff, who has had a lot of success with the new détente of going to raves with Iranians. Whether or not this is brilliant diplomacy, his comment raises interesting issues surrounding how Facebook, myspace, and the like could actually be positioned as tools for peace. For the first time, I looked at the growing universality of English as a common language as something other than a scourge - what if the younger generations could connect and create meaning within channels that their elders could never hope to understand?

People more connected than me will probably immediately say, "but it's happening! Look at!" and bless them for knowing this, and having spent more time with the ramifications. There's more to say, clearly, and I'll try to say it as we move forward.

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