Monday, November 13, 2006

The Social Web

Picture from Yulis Room

It appears that Blogger liked my last post so much it posted it twice. I'm not sure why that happened, or how to delete the extra post because the extra post doesn't exist at my Blogger Dashboard. Perhaps it's a happy accident and those readers in the Pittsburgh area will see it and doubly consider attending. Tickets will not be sold at the door, so you have to plan a little in advance. More information at The Africa Project or contact me.

I love the picture taken from a Japanese blog, it depicts The Fool of the Tarot. I so often feel a fool. I feel a bit foolish for neglecting this blog. I handle that feeling with equanimity because I'm used to not doing stuff. But I'm less calm when it comes to feeling foolish about the optimism I have about the potential good that can come from social interaction on the Web.

Over the weekend I visited good friends for dinner. One of my dear friends, who is one of the kindest and most creative persons I know, has just gotten a computer. She had a Windows 95 machine she hardly used, and did her dissertation on a similar vintage machine. She has also had put to infrequent use her husband's Windows 98 machine on dial-up, but has never really explored the Internet. My friend was a classroom teacher for many years and in her work as a psychologist has created many valuable lesson plans for use in educational settings. Her knowledge and skills and a dozen or so projects we've talked about has made me pester her to get a computer and to get online.

Her husband, and my good friend, presented her with a gift of a new laptop computer. I'm delighted and excited at the prospect that we will find ways to collaborate together online. However, my effusiveness about the social nature of the Web prompted my friend's husband to exclaim:
You're freaking me out!
I knew he was quite sincere about his disquiet, alas, my attempts to assuage his concerns only made matters worse. He pointed to the use of Internet handles and anonymous posts and I cited some examples of times that it's appropriate to post anonymously. Each attempt to make him feel less anxious about the Internet only seemed to make him feel more so.

I enjoy very much the social Web. At a social networking site and online community where I participate, it's not too unusual for someone to link to one of the many "personality tests" online. Recently I linked to the Greek Mythology Personality Test. The results of my test was that I'm most like Dionysus. I'm not sure how valid or reliable any of these tests are, but I often noticed they peg my faults to a tee. Sure there's much good about a Dionysian view of things, but my thin veneer of self-image reveals patterns of Apollonian order and reason. It's disconcerting that my ecstatic disorder--will that make the next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders?--shows through. Being most like Dionysus makes me feel a little foolish. I did find a neat page to print out a Bible tract-like pamphlet Have You Heard The Good News...About Dionysus?

Yep, the Internet unruly, and my talking so ecstatically about it gave my friend the willies. And that seems to be a not too uncommon reaction. One of my friends recently said something like: "It's time to shut the Internet down!" My retort was that I like the Internet and spend a lot of time online, but only seems evidence of how sinister the Internet must be.

Recently, a very delightful young man from Ghana initiated a conversation online. I chuckled the next time we chatted when he asked if I would write to his school. It seems that I've been the subject of conversation. I told my contact I wasn't sure what to write, but would write something and and send it to him so he could tell me if what I wrote was appropriate. I wrote about wikis. Today I set up a wiki which I hope my contact and his school mates will use. I haven't heard back yet, and I'm not sure at all wikis are the sort of thing they'll find useful. But the students are online and are anxious to make connections with the wider world and all the knowledge they are trying so hard to piece together.

Emeka Okafor posted about Founder of, Derrick N Ashong knows that empowerment comes from knowing ones own worth, and that goes for an individual as well as society. Young college students the world over have a sense of their potential. I suppose I am flattered that a young Ghanaian would seek me out and think that I had something to offer. To repay the compliment what more could I do than to tell him to let his light shine? At least that's my intention in bringing wikis to his attention. I believe the new communications tools aid tremendously to our ability to create something good. I believe too that most of us want very much to create goodness.

Ah yes, seeing as how I most resemble Dionysus or The Tarot Fool, I'm well aware of the mischief people pursue online. But the Internet as a social Web doesn't seem so frightening to me as it seems to so many of my friends. The Greeks knew that Apollo and Dionysus are brothers, their qualities are complimentary. My more orderly friends who now shun the Internet are needed here. "The more the merrier" is what I say.

Update: My double post has disappeared.

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