Thursday, October 25, 2012

How social media can make history

Ok, so I have been relying on TED for more than a few of my posts. But I could resist this post by Clay Shirky. It's a bit dated, but of course, it's very relevant to the events of the recent Arab Spring.

Shirky shows how Facebook, Twitter and TXTs help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news, bypassing censors (however briefly). The end of top-down control of news is changing the nature of politics. He argues that the history of the modern world could be rendered as the history of ways of arguing, where changes in media change what sort of arguments are possible -- with deep social and political implications. 

Shirky's work focuses on the rising usefulness of networks -- using decentralized technologies such as peer-to-peer sharing, wireless, software for social creation, and open-source development. New technologies are enabling new kinds of cooperative structures to flourish as a way of getting things done in business, science, the arts and elsewhere, as an alternative to centralized and institutional structures, which he sees as self-limiting. In his writings and speeches he has argued that "a group is its own worst enemy."

Shirky is an adjunct professor in New York Universityʼs graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program, where he teaches a course named “Social Weather.” Heʼs the author of several books. This spring at the TED headquarters in New York, he gave an impassioned talk against SOPA/PIPA that saw 1 million views in 48 hours.

Source: Shirky, C. (Jun. 2009). How social media can make history. TED Conferences, LLC. Retrieved from

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The hidden influence of social networks

We're all embedded in vast social networks of friends, family, co-workers and more. Nicholas Christakis tracks how a wide variety of traits -- from happiness to obesity -- can spread from person to person, showing how your location in the network might impact your life in ways you don't even know.
Nicholas Christakis explores how the large-scale, face-to-face social networks in which we are embedded affect our lives, and what we can do to take advantage of this fact.
Why you might be interested in what Christakis has to say....
People aren't merely social animals in the usual sense, for we don't just live in groups. We live in networks -- and we have done so ever since we emerged from the African savannah. Via intricately branching paths tracing out cascading family connections, friendship ties, and work relationships, we are interconnected to hundreds or even thousands of specific people, most of whom we do not know. We affect them and they affect us.
Nicholas Christakis' work examines the biological, psychological, sociological, and mathematical rules that govern how we form these social networks, and the rules that govern how they shape our lives. His work shows how phenomena as diverse as obesity, smoking, emotions, ideas, germs, and altruism can spread through our social ties, and how genes can partially underlie our creation of social ties to begin with. His work also sheds light on how we might take advantage of an understanding of social networks to make the world a better place.
At Harvard, Christakis is a Professor of Medicine, Health Care Policy, and Sociology, and he directs a diverse research group investigating social networks. His popular undergraduate course (Life and Death in the US) is podcast [available on itunes]. His book, Connected, co-authored with James H. Fowler, appeared in 2009, and has been translated into nearly 20 languages. In 2009, he was named by Time magazine to its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and also byForeign Policy magazine to its list of 100 top global thinkers.
Source: Christakis, N. (Feb. 2010). The hidden influence of social networks. TED Conferences, LLC. Retrived from

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Brad Fruhauff, PhD to speak about the Christian Online Journal--Relief

On October 23 @ 3:30pm in Old Main, Ritz Auditorium, 
Dr. Brad Fruhauff will speak on his online journal, Relief

Here's a bit about his talk in his own words:

Getting Dirty, For Christ's Sake: The Challenges of Publishing "Gritty" Christian Literature in a Culture of Purity

"While mainstream culture has its rules of political and party correctness, Christian online and print culture has its own rules of doctrinal, attitudinal, and moral correctness. As we at Relief try to publish "edgy," "gritty," or otherwise substantial literature under the category of "Christian," then, we encounter some unique, often absurd challenges, such as how to talk seriously about abortion when your audience may flinch at the word damn. At the same time, the big Christian bookstores are successful because the money in Christian publishing is in literature marked "safe for the whole family." In this talk I describe some of the ways Relief: A Christian Literary Expression attempts to situate itself in print and online in a culture that is liable to label us crude, pornographic, or even demonic."

About Brad Fruhauff

Brad Fruhauff is Editor-in-Chief of Relief. He holds a PhD in English from Loyola University Chicago and teaches English at Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL. He lives in Evanston with his wife and 2-year old son. He has published fiction inThe Ankeny Briefcase, poetry in ReliefSalt, and *catapult, and reviews in Burnside Writers’ Collective and The Englewood Review of Books.

Second meeting of the Wilkin Chair reading Group

We will be meeting to discuss this semester's novel, The Diamond Age, at Dr. Fell's home today @ 3:05pm. This is our second meeting. We will have two more meetings this semester on the following dates:

Nov 7 @ 3:05pm
Dec 5 @ 3:05pm

Hope you can join us.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

One Billion and Counting

Facebook is reporting 1,000,000,000+ unique users without being allowed access to China and barely scraping the surface in India (these two countries represent another 2.5+ billion potential users.

So, is it still a fad or here to stay? Discuss.