Category Archives: Identity and community

What’s in a name?


The other day a baby boy was born. Two days later, he was named George. Not a terribly exciting name, except that this baby, because of his parents, was already plugged into a whole range of social, cultural, traditional and ultimately highly privileged contexts, and this one word, George, managed to summarise them all. For George is the name of English kings, and it was this inheritance that this baby boy plugs into, and his name represents.

Some people never have to network.

Most of us don’t have names like ‘Prince George’ that instantly establish not only who we are, but our cultural exchange value.

Nevertheless, we unPrince Georges still have a name. It might not be so instantly recognisable. It might not so easily communicate who we are. It might have cultural resonances that a lot of people won’t recognise – resonances that were important to our namers, but no one else. It may never become hugely famous, but it’s all ours. We can insert it into networks, and hopefully someone somewhere will remember it.

About two weeks ago, in the Indian Ocean, a 10-month-old baby boy died. He drowned, after the leaky boat that was haphazardly transporting him to Australia sunk. They found his little limp body floating in the sea and they fished it out. Maybe they cradled him for a moment, wet, dead, on the deck.

But his name had been gobbled by the cold hungry sea, and they left it to sink.

I heard John Stanhope, the Administrator of Christmas Island, lamenting the nameless baby boy on the radio: how they had his body in the morgue with no name. Worse: even if they had his name, it could not be released, because publicly naming asylum seekers is a dangerous move. That’s the power of names. Cattle don’t get names. If you name your favourite cow, it’s probably not going to the slaughter house.

Into the unmarked grave you go.
In you go, in you go,
where your family will never know.

I guess it’s a lullaby of sorts. Lullabies often have a dark underbelly. Someone, find it a tune.

I’d like to make a guess that they have lullabies in Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka and Burma. Singing to young children is hardwired; even queue-jumpers do it. And they name their evil, foolish, queue-jumping babies.

done and dusted

My documentary, Cyclists versus Motorists, has gone live. As usual, I never thought it would take so long. My problem with projects is that I can’t stand doing what I know how to do. I have to try something new. Well, the new thing was the focus on video — I’m not really a video person. Or that used to be the case. But then the new thing about the new thing was I thought I should look into interactive video. Hence, the use of korsakow. I also looked at Popcorn and Klynt. What I wanted to do was combine Twitter with video. You can sort-of do it with Popcorn, but it doesn’t seem to me that it is much better than sticking the vid and the Twitter widget in ordinary old HTML. Now Popcorn is just developing, and combining vids and social media isn’t its only trick, but I do feel there’s a little bit on inventing a new circle going on (and calling it HTML 5). But hey, I’m old.

Other principles that I’ve tried to put into practice are

  • the use of domestic technology — all the imagery and some of the audio was created using my mobile phone, I used free of very cheap editing software, and the only semi-professional thing I used was a zoom audio recorder.
  • use of social media – both to recruit talent, disseminate the doco, and encourage participation
  • A focus on the community. Apart from above, I tried not to editorialise. I wanted the interviewees to speak for themselves.

You can read more about these principles, and how to make your own participatory documentary.

To broadcast or narrowcast on social networks?

What do you want from your network? Marketing or intimate? keeping in touch with acquaintances, or broadcasting to strangers? Do you have a specific interest group, or are you engaging more broadly?

Maybe you need different networks for different you’s. Or maybe you can have one network then filter it for different you’s, like Google + circles. Tom Cortese argues Why Niche Social Networks Encourage More Meaningful Interaction.

Tweet tweet?

my tweetsA word map of my tweets (not that I tweet that much, read on) generated by the Tweet Topic Explorer by Jeff Clark.

Twitter has 100M active members… But dig down a bit, and we find that half of Twitter accounts are inactive. Some words of warning for those new to Twitter, or those hoping to attract followers from Mark Trammell & Jesse James Garrett.

I figure that’s about right for most social media. I put a straw poll on my FB page, asking ppl to ‘like’ it if they like the Rugby World Cup (which, for me, is incomprehensible). Nobody has liked. This means one of two things:

1. none of my FBookies likes the rugby World Cup
2. few of my FBookies have read FB since I did it.

As usual, I reel in definitiveness (now there’s a word in search of abbreviation).

The nextweb reports that:

Your Twitter stream is being flooded by that tweet-happy friend who posts entirely too often for your tastes. They aren’t quite so annoying that it warrants an “unfollow”, but their updates definitely do soak up a bit of your feed and not always with stuff you want to see. Fortunately, there’s an app for that.

[Oh yes! #mpesce u r soooo close to gone!]

It’s called Shuush, a service that shrinks the font size of tweets from users who post too much down to absolute unreadability, then enlarges the updates from Twitter users who only post every so often.

Shuush is a prototype web based Twitter reader that ranks your followers on frequency of tweets. It aims to amplify the people that don’t usually get heard, and scale back those with frequent updates.

I’m a 1 out of 11 tweeter. #mpesce, u r 11/11. Not all publicity is good publicity!

[Don't you hate it when ppl put specific comments directed to other ppl in their tweets/blog posts...]

Here’s a social demographic inforgraphic of FB and Twitter users from (click on to get the whole):

Either people are using social media more and more or less and less

According to new data from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, Half of U.S. Adults Use Social Networking Sites - and climbing. 61% of under-30′s use FB on a daily basis,  which has 750 million users worldwide and recently surpassed 1 trillion pageviews in a single month. The trend is plotted on a graph here.

However, according to Gartner, which polled 6,295 people aged 13 to 74 years old in 11 markets:

…the social media sector appears to be reaching “maturity” in certain countries.

Overall, 24% of respondents now use their favourite social network less often than when they first joined, with members of this group typically exhibiting a more “practical” view of technology.

This includes the US, site of aforementioned Pew survey, where ’40% of consumers access the[ir preferred] site less frequently than they used to’.

I think we can safely conclude that nobody knows nothin’ about nothin’.

changing my identity, the cloud way

Recently I decided to renovate myself. I’ve dumped my old blog, my old email, my old contact list and my old calendar. In one way or another, these things were all supplied by my job at RMIT University.
Now I’m freelance (at least in attitude), and I’m radically on the cloud. A lot of it is Google, but some of it, like this blog, aren’t. I’m doing more twittering, more LinkedIn, more Facebook. And because I’ve uploaded myself to Google, a lot of it is now interoperable.
Even the content of my blog has changed – it’s more personal, without being deeply private. It used to be strictly about my teaching, but that’s only a part of it now. I’ve changed my attitude to what I do online, and with that, it would seem I’ve changed myself.
I think it’s good. But who knows? Can I keep up the momentum? But I like it. I like this more poetic me, it seems more honest.
Doing this seems to validate this new me, even if nobody reads it, or nobody knows. All this stuff, all this publishing … on the surface it seems to be about communicating to other people, but maybe that’s not really important.
Oh, did I mention? I’ve got a new business card. It doesn’t say RMIT. The business card is also trying to be interoperable.
Interoperably yours, geniwate.

tight jeans or baggy trousers?

the aggressive rollerblading community goes for tight stretch jeans (see Nisa Halim’s doco), while the Melbourne Shufflers like it loose (see Mei’s doco). Seem to me, either way would work for either community, but they’ve got their look and they stick tightly to it, as both doco makers point out.

Both are great examples of what Anthony Cohen calls the Symbolic Construction of Community, which Nisa summarises:

Anthony Cohen states that the community is symbolically constructed, as a system of values, norms, and moral codes which provides a sense of identity within a bounded whole to its members. He states that community implies and creates a boundary between us and them by use of symbolism. There are many types of symbol which mark the boundaries of community – flags, badges, dances. Languages and so on. This is because symbols always carry a range of meaning whose differences can be glossed over.

Note to self: this book is on Google books