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What Google Could Learn from Goffman

This is one of the more insightful statements I’ve come across recently – What Google Could Learning From Goffman: “When we merge social groups together, we are challenged to manage our disclosures across these groups, which have different norms of propriety.”
The social software I use regularly – Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin – allows me to form different social groups. I have different interactions with different people in each. When Facebook challenges privacy with an experiment like Beacon, they essentially disclose my actions within that social group to a larger audience. Google, however, smashed together different social groups with Buzz, forcing information to flow between groups that were previously distinct. Buzz’s failure was not one of only disrespecting privacy, but rather one of dishonouring social clustering.


  1. darren wrote:

    Yes, it’s an interesting one isn’t it? You know how you sometimes get that strange discombobulated feeling when you bump into your student in a hamburger shop, or you catch your work colleague buying underwear? That’s what buzz has done…
    Would you say that most people use facebook for personal networks? I have some overlap, and there is nothing out there really shameful, but I would still like to choose what I allow professional contacts to see…

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Permalink
  2. gsiemens wrote:

    Hi Darren – Given facebook’s size, it obviously has many different uses. Most people that I interact with use it primarily for personal networks. Other services – like linkedin – are more professionally based. Twitter seems to have a mix of both business an professional presence.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Permalink
  3. darren wrote:

    Aside from the privacy aspect, it just gets confusing – twitter especially. The lists function is helpful for separating what comes in, but how can I manage what I put out – my primarily edu-contacts don’t want to read my tweets about zombies, photography, soccer or any of the other things that make up my whole personality. So, I don’t tweet about them (much). Buzz kind of blows that up…

    BTW, I’m presenting on PLN’s today and citing you a fair bit. I’ll post it on my blog over the weekend so feel free to drop by and correct my misrepresentations ; D

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Permalink
  4. SonnyB wrote:

    One of the interesting things I think Buzz causes us to consider is the self that we choose to hide.

    When we post for different audiences on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn- we are more or less making an admission that we have parts of ourselves we feel aren’t appropriate. Maybe these are parts of us we are ashamed of, embarassed of, etc. I realize that not all things are for all people, but all people have “those” things. Just as we do with media advertising, where is the social agreement that says we will accept that which is pertinent to us, and ignore the parts of the “ad” that don’t speak to us?

    I think Buzz asks to really think about how much of ourselves we are comfortable being how much of the time. If you are just you- be that and know that you are not a product for everyone.

    Just my thoughts.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

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