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Archive for December, 2009

Lately my friends and I seem to fall into two camps – those who don’t see issues with Facebook’s new privacy policies, and those who do.

I am way more freaked out by the privacy issues linked to always-on location services than I am by Google search results. Surveillance, anyone? (But that could be because I don’t understand the tech all that well.)

Everyone has their own lines, their own boundaries, when it comes to being online.

I learned my lessons on what not to say a long time ago, the hard way.

There is the embracing side of me, that sees the web as a unique place to express myself as well as an expression of the global consciousness. A place to share and be shared with. A place to connect. In all reality I have nothing to hide about my life and I understand that most of what I’ve done with or in my life is really easy to find out about online – that’s where the understanding how the web works thing comes into play.

There is a transparency to our lives we don’t control any more. Our data is owned and spliced every day. Our emails indexed, supposedly for the purposes of delivering relevant ads. That’s… kinda scary. The way I look at it is something like this: it’s a karmic thing. The whole world is communicating about private things, every day, using this medium. It’s a mutually assured destruction scenario on a global personal scale. So the lid will likely remain on pretty tight for the foreseeable future – my lifetime, maybe?

For example, public records. You can easily discover that I was married in 1996. You can find that I have no outstanding liens or a criminal record, and maybe you can find out that I’ve gotten two speeding tickets in my lifetime, but you wouldn’t be able to know – because you weren’t there and it happened in my real life and I reserve the stories for cocktail parties – that I have gotten out of 5 or 6 tickets just by being respectful and nice to the officer in question (though others in the car called it “flirting”). So there it is – I’ve told that story – and now it’s out there, forever. But that’s ok. I’m ok with that story.

My rule of thumb online is this – say my kids are going over my digital records all Bridges of Madison County -like one day. And they find a blog posting. Will they fall over dead about my secret life? Or will they say, mom thought about and did some interesting things before and after we came along?

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Information Flow

When I really get to thinking about information and technology, it ends up being visual to me. I can see myself standing in a Tron-like vector-based grid with information flowing around me. I can reach up and select the pieces I want. Magnify them. Consider them. Make them part of my own consciousness, my own flow of information. Share them with others, contribute my perspective. Or reject them and move on – let them slide into the flow of someone else’s grid.

In those moments I view the web and its attendant offshoots as a thing that works much like the human mind. It’s kind of … lovely, in its own way. A system that reflects its creator. A mind map of the universe. A beautiful, multilayered, multicultural, multilingual, multipurpose mind map.

It’s my purist way of viewing technology as something that can help all of us.

Crash into reality, though, and it’s a little different. I don’t interact with it as this pure system. I have to pick and choose, manage my flow.

To that end, I have always been one of those people who is entirely utilitarian in my use of any and all technology. I have to be. I will download just about anything and play with it, but if I can’t use it, sayonara, hasta la vista.

My life is too busy to sit and play with Twitter all day. If it were my job to play with Twitter all day, if I had a strategic, beneficial-to-my-life reason to use it, that would be one thing.

But right now, that technology would be mostly personal in its use, and I can’t live in this overly communicative space, this place where I tell people what I’m doing all day long instead of doing it. I like having a life, not talking about having a life, not telling the same ten people all day long about what I’m thinking.

Same thing with LinkedIn. In a phone conversation I had yesterday I was questioned – why do I only have 43 contacts? Why am I not more active in network building? Well, because frankly, LinkedIn is kind of… anachronistic, because it’s all about “only” professional interaction and that’s a myth in the social media world (she says, knowing this post will go to the LinkedIn flow). I’m there because I have to be, but most of the action for me happens on Facebook. Professionally and personally. It also does not escape my notice that some of my best friends from before I became a professional anything are very into the same tech I am.

It may be the way people who work in technology interact with it and each other. We truly connect — we share content, thoughts, emails, status updates, photos, and we are comfortable using technology to do it. In the background, even as we use it, we are thinking about the tech itself — it runs like a subroutine through my consciousness. So technology, in its way, is part of all the threads that make me, me. As a result, when I’m there, I know that I genuinely connect with others on Facebook.

In connecting with your own network you connect with the whole collective, and Facebook is brilliant for contributing to the collective. The flow is so fast that people have to choose what to pay attention to, and I am always watching the flow pretty closely. I notice what people pay attention to, what they comment on, how they use the information I add to the flow. My mother is on there, and probably ignores my posts about augmented reality while my former boss thanks me for the link. My former boss is also a friend, and she probably ignores my posts about my kids’ last report card. But my mom picks that thread up and runs with it. An old colleague posts something about her baby teething – and I help out with a tip or remark of my own. Yesterday I posted something simple about a facial I was about to get, and people from across the spectrum of my network had things to say — 10 things, as it turned out. All I did was put it out there, into the stream. A tiny blip.

It’s beautiful, really. And while it does blur the lines between the professional and the personal, social media does that whether we acknowledge it or not.

Facebook is where my information flows. That’s where I select what I want to add to my consciousness, how I communicate with people in the online space. It’s where my network is. It’s where I invest time in growing that network. It’s my grid.

My friend Sarah and I, we have a lot of information flowing between us on Facebook and elsewhere. She inspired this post with one of her own.

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Last night I went to the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago to see Caravan of Thieves and Works Progress Administration.

First, a bit about the venue. The School’s theater is cozy and intimate. It allows performers to see the audience. The ambiance is relaxed. The bands were relaxed and the whole show had the feel of hanging out with friends and jamming. Some really excellent musician friends who outstrip me in skill by miles and miles, but still.

I hadn’t heard of Caravan until seeing them perform and they were amazing – the musical style is called “acoustic swing” — this music is complex and unpredictable, the lyrics are dark and wonderful. Two acoustic guitars, one upright bass and a violin performed Bohemian Rhapsody – no joke, and they did it really well. They have a theatrical bent to their performance that makes the music feel even more adventurous – to really appreciate the music’s twists and turns, see them live as I did.

The stories told in the songs have a little twist to them. One song, Bar Isole, is about a bar and a wife and a bartender. It starts out with French cafe music, you know, when the guys come up to your table and start playing so you can’t even hear yourself think, but with a twist – it was in a minor key. They called the song a “modern love story” because it’s about a wife who flirts with a bartender, only to find that the bartender and her husband are sleeping together.

If I had to recommend one or two songs that simply must be downloaded, I’d say Bouquet and Bar Isole. If you like those, definitely finish the album.

Works Progress Administration is made up of guys from other bands. Glen Phillips from Toad the Wet Sprocket is easily recognized by most of us – he sings on many of the tracks. Luke Bulla from Lyle Lovett’s band and Sean Watkins from Nickel Creek play too, but the band itself flexes in its members based on the song being played. The first and second tracks of of their August release, Always Have My Love and Good As Ever, are being played on the radio station I listen to (Sirius XM’s The Loft, channels 29 and 50).

All of the songs they played last night are pretty different but a dominating factor is what I will call the warmth of the music. Yeah. Warmth. Like a fire you want to sit by. You’d expect a bluegrass domination thing to be happening but it doesn’t, which is nice. There’s an indie rock feel to some of the stuff, but there’s some nice blues stuff happening mixed in with the bluegrass, and you can tell that these guys are all buddies having a great time. That’s how the band came together – they were just playing together for fun and decided to work on some songs they had written… decided the songs sounded pretty good… so they formed WPA.

On their site they say: “We are an independent band. We have no label, no corporate pockets to pick, no millions to splatter our name across the mediascape.” You can decide how much you want to pay to download their album. They want me to embed their player to spread the word. So here it is in, totally worth playing during a workday:

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