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On Jan 16, 2008, at 10:42 PM, Edward Vielmetti wrote:
>> 5) parents at home because they can't really go and hang out with
>> their friends because babysitting costs too bloody much
> The right online parents group will spawn dozens of in-person small
> group meetings per week, and none of it will have to be centrally
> managed or even organized - the simple fact that you have a
> functioning way to communicate with people like you brings you
> closer together. The real awesome network applications for parents
> at home is the babysitting exchange
Based on my fieldwork, I would have to disagree with you. Consider
for example this exchange:
danah: Do you do sleepovers at all?
Anindita: I’m not allowed to.
danah: Why is that?
Anindita: ‘Cause my dad doesn’t trust the dads or the brothers. He’s
like, “her Dad can get drunk and you don’t know...”
I find that many US parents don't trust other parents. The reasons
are fascinating. Many US families move when they start having
children and move again when they "need more space." They often do not
know their neighbors or kids' friends' parents. When I ask them why,
they uniformly tell me that they don't have time. Families are quite
insular and the kids are expected to be at home because the outside
world is dangerous. Likewise, the parents are also always home and
wouldn't feel comfortable leaving their child in the house to gather
with other parents. There's no hanging out on the stoops, even in
communities that have them, so there's no natural meeting of other
parents. At best, you get PTAs which in the middle/upper classes have
turned quite competitive.
Exceptions are interesting... Cousins (and aunties) play a critical
role in the lives of immigrant families and many working class
families of color, where nearby family is common and trusted and
sitting duties are regularly exchanged. These family-driven networks
form powerful subcommunities when they're present. The other bigtime
noticeable exception is any community where the average family lives
there for 20 or so years. Old school suburbia is a good example of
this (examples: Lawrence KS, Salem MA), but it's also present in urban
settings, especially poorer neighborhoods. New suburbia is the
Painting broad strokes, I've found that regular F2F socialization
approaches zero as people in the U.S. marry and spawn, especially in
the middle/upper classes. [Not surprisingly, this is where helicopter
parenting comes from... if you don't have a social life, might as well
invade your child's.]
So I agree that babysitting exchange would rock, but you need to
overcome the trust issue first.
On Jan 16, 2008, at 8:57 PM, Scott Allen wrote:
> Of course, there are those of us in the #7 category, who work almost
> entirely virtually and really do build strong relationships with
> people we meet online.
Actually, you're right... you get added to the tech fetishists and
bloggers category, which should probably be expanded to "geeks of all
What we've found in our research is that there are two organizing
principles of online socializing practices: interest-driven and friend-
driven. People who are interest-driven (lovingly called "geeks") seek
out people who share their passions, regardless of location, and
thrive on access to the technologies that connect them more broadly to
others of their stripe. As much as we'd love for this to be everyone,
it's not... Most people are not primarily interest-driven in their
social practices, although many have a portion of their social
practices that fit into this category.
The majority of people and the majority of practices are friend-
driven. This means that interests are derived through friends, not
the other way around. This is why most people go online to connect to
people that they already know to reinforce relationships that they
already have. At best, this cohort will leverage the technology to
meet a friend of a friend (just like at a good dinner party).
The largest exception is quite obvious: sex. By and large, when
people leverage the technology for sex, they don't want to engage with
people that they already know. The second notable exception is more
intriguing: health issues. Interestingly, even the most friend-driven
people seem to switch to interest-driven practices when it comes to
needing support for an illness or help in gaining information around
said illness. It should be noted that these are not common amongst
teens and interest-driven practices are almost exclusively the domain
of geeks and other socially marginalized and ostracized teens.
So, Scott, on one hand, I'm totally with you and we're both birds of
the same ilk. But we're also rare, which is why social technologies
appear to get very very strange when they are adopted en masse.
Mainstream sociable practices almost never look like early adopter
practices. Think Usenet pre/post 95, Zephyr/ICQ->AIM, blogging pre/
post 04, Friendster->MySpace (although funnily enough we twist back
with a world collision on Facebook which is a complete mess). More
generally, social tech is moving from primarily interest-driven to
primarily friend-driven (Usenet, BBSs, mailing lists, boards | IM,
blogging, SNS). We're old skool. <grin>
Although we geeks are very visible, it's best not to extrapolate from
what we do if you want to get an accurate picture of what's really
happening. Besides, it's much more fun to run around the country/
world talking to everyday people about their lives. Also, very
humbling. And sometimes, very depressing.
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