Yesterday in our Social Networks class, Kate Milberry raised the issue of ‘personalization’ by sites like Facebook and shared an article from Tech Crunch that revealed the way that Facebook had censored a comment by prominent blogger Robert Scoble.

I tweeted it to my friend Jodine Chase, who is passionate about promoting breastfeeding and has been at the vanguard of the battle to stop Facebook from censoring photos of moms breastfeeding their babies.

Here’s what she had to say this morning on Facebook:

“For every Robert Scoble, Roger Ebert, (or Emma Kwasnica [the Vancouver woman who first raised the issue of breastfeeding censorship]) with a high profile, lots of supporters and the ability to get mainstream or social media coverage, there are thousands of others who are harmed by Facebook’s actions and have no recourse. If the rest of us want to live in Facebook’s world without sanction we find increasingly we need to modify *our* behaviour. And that means less sharing, less commenting, less liking… less of the things Facebook WANTS and NEEDS us to do to sell advertising.”

She went on to blog about the issue today, pointing out that Facebook risks the support it counts on through its flawed algorithms – mathematical models that aren’t as discerning as they need to be to read the nuances of our lives . Users will – and are – self censoring and sharing less on the Facebook platform for fear of being blocked because of “Facebook’s sloppy follow-through and arbitrary sanctions”. She and others are asking Facebook to put a human interface between its algorithms and its users. You can read more at

Jodine’s concerns relate to the issues of privacy on the web and the need for us to be vigilant about what I think of as privacy creep and what we allow our social media tools to do in our lives. While I tend toward the belief that nothing is truly private anymore other than what we do not share, we do need to question how many sites we allow access to our online information and how they can use our information.

It also raises the need to be unafraid to take on an activist role and more than ever, question authority when it is, as Jodine says, arbitrary and unfair. Perhaps it’s a good thing that the barriers to group formation have been radically lowered by the web, as Shirky points out in “Here Comes Everybody”. Because with the concomitant power of social media sites to regulate discourse, we will need to be ready to organize and protest, even in person, as women around the world did on February 6 this year

Jodine and I are two nodes in our social networks. We are connected through children, through issues, through cooking, through love of family and at the bottom of it all, a passion for communications, which is what first brought us together. We have a lot of connections in common and so can be characterized as sharing the same social circle, but we also are bridges for each other, providing access to networks we otherwise wouldn’t be able to access.

For another inspiring story about how women are using web tools to change their world, check out to see how women are using social media to share breast milk.

P.S. If you haven’t done so yet, you should check your account settings on Facebook (downward arrow beside ‘Home’ on the upper right hand corner). In particular, take a look at the Apps connected to your Facebook account.  Facebook Privacy Controls You might be as amazed as I was at what organizations and sites had permission to access me on Facebook. It’s relatively easy to delete those with which you don’t really want an ongoing relationship.

Shock-corded tent pole

Although network theory identifies formal and informal networks as two different entities, they can in fact be both, depending on circumstances. This is apparent in the network that I work within. I’ve been an independent consultant since 1998. I have no employees. However, I work within a rich network of other consultants, some on their own like me and others working within a formal consulting practice.

Much of the time the network is informal. Some of the ties within it are weak, bridging structural holes and my contact with them is intermittent and only activated for specific jobs or information sharing. Other ties are very thick, with many connections forged over the years.

This informal network can become highly formalized when we are awarded a contract that we’ve come together to tackle because of the need for a range of skills and greater numbers of people. At that point we need more accountability and we likely will formalize roles, establish a legal contract or contracts with the organization hiring us, and may even sign agreements between ourselves. You can hear the informal connections snapping into formal shape like shock-corded tent poles.

Kadushin also talks about mentor relationships in an either/or fashion – either someone who bridges structural holes or someone who is well embedded within a cohesive network (2012, p. 104). The member of my network whom I consider a mentor (and dear friend) is actually both and provides me with “diverse resources” and shares a rich network with me.

Relationships are complex and situational; network theory may not always describe this real world richness. My rich, flexing network provides me with what I need for happy camping.

Self as Brand



Farmville. Pesky strawberry crops were always dying on me, so I moved away. Somewhere in WebLand there is a sad little abandoned homestead with my name on it.

Tending my blog feels a bit like working the fields in Farmville . However, the reward for tending my blog is far greater than any amount of coins on Farmville could be. Keep your gifts of sheep; give me links and mentions and comments any old day.

As I think about the first assignment for Comm506, I’m reminded about other times when I’ve written about my networking experiences: the assignment about my online ah ha moment for Comm503, the podcast for Comm597, postings for Comm504 where I talked about the impact of social media on my relationship with my sister. In class, Kate Milberry (@KateinAlberta) talks about curating your online presence and being a public person and I’m going to explore this in assignment one, including an examination of my own network experiences through the lens of my previous postings and assignments in MACT. Continue reading ‘Self as Brand’

Yochai Benkler

The Benkler article ( was a favorite reading last year and in subsequent courses, I’ve come back to it again and again (have to love that cut and paste when doing the reference).  I think he nails key concepts about the internet, our interactions with the web, how and why people use the web as they do in their relationships and how it affects our ties with one another.

So here are my top 10 reasons for loving Benkler and his usefulness as a guide and reference in communications studies: Continue reading ‘Why I Love Benkler: My Top 10 List’

Are we human?


Berners-Lee reminds us that the purpose of the web is to enhance our humanity; as Dr. Milberry underscored, he and other web heroes are altruistic at their very core and do what they do because they believe that the web and the opportunities it presents for collaboration and interface and interaction are humanity’s best hope for a better future. I love the goodness that seems to radiate; it has a brilliant innocence mixed with practicality and a belief in our human potential.

There is a psychological imperative the underscores our human need to network – the need to feel safe and the need to share (Kadushin, C., Understanding Social Networks, 2011). Social networks are not new and may even be very old and perhaps integral to our humanness (New study of hunter-gatherers suggests social networks sparked evolution of cooperation).

What the web has done, however, is lower the transaction cost of our interactions. For those of us fortunate to have access, we can be more altruistic, donate more easily, and care more often (if less deeply). While Malcolm Gladwell says that the revolution will not be tweeted ( Small change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted), quieter and more thoughtful acts of kindness and caring may result, even if they are less noticeable. However, if they do grow in an internet mediated world, they may yet result in a more profound revolution than we could imagine.

In 2003, Shirky said “We have historically overestimated the value of network access to computers, and underestimated the value of network access to other people, so we have spent much more time on the technical rather than social problems of software used by groups” ( We seem to have gotten beyond that now – we are coming to understand that it’s about people accessing people and ideas and information.

Or maybe that’s only where the money lies.

Nah. I choose to believe that the glass is half full.


The following posting provides an overview and assessment of the article entitled “Interview with the Web’s Creator”, Tim Berners-Lee (now Sir Tim Berners-Lee). The article was written by Chris Oakes, who was a staff writer at the time and is now a freelance business writer based in the Paris, France area (LinkedIn, n.d.).

The interview appeared in Wired magazine on October 23, 1999, shortly after Berners-Lee (1999) released his book, Weaving the Web. The timing of the book is interesting: it appeared ten years after Berners-Lee introduced the concept of what the article calls a “global hypertext project” in the course of his work at the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland.


The following is a brief timeline of the beginning of the web summarized from A Little History of the World Wide Web (, n.d.) and information in the Wired article. Note that it wasn’t until 1993 that Berners-Lee seems to have breathed a sigh of relief that the Web wouldn’t fragment and not become the integrated and accessible tool he envisioned – although tool seems an inadequate word for something so powerful. Continue reading ‘Tim Berners-Lee on “Weaving the Web”’

Hello world!


One of the challenges and benefits of being a student within the Master’s program in Communication and Technology at the UofA is the nudge it gives to those of us who haven’t fully exercised our transliteracy skills. So cheers! Another course, another new social media site.

Last term, as part of Comm 597 New Media Narratives, we posted on a Blogspot site, created a podcast, fulfilled the requirements for another assignment through Delicious and otherwise explored different tools as part of larger narrative on transliteracy.

It was an eye-opener in that it brought home the richness that these skills add to the art and skills of communicating. It is learning a new language. However, it’s easy to quickly run into the limits of one’s literacy. Does anyone remember the scene in A Fish Called Wanda where Kevin Kline pretends he speaks Italian by uttering words like mozzarella and parmesana to get Jamie Lee Curtis all hot? Yep, kind of like that. It’s fun, but only works for a while. Practicing the skills and becoming fluent takes time. So it’s going to be frustrating, I’m sure, but worthwhile further honing skills as part of Comm 506.

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