I. Warming up
1. How do you communicate electronically with friends and family? Do you use social networks for this purpose?
2. Which social network do you favour?
3. Which social networks are popular in our country and which ones are more popular abroad?
4. Can social networks provide authentic communication?
5. How do you envisage the future of social networking?
Read the text and consider the questions below.
The new social network’s selective “circles” actually reflect the complexities of real connections
By S. Rosenberg
Way back when I joined Facebook I was under the impression that it was the social network where people play themselves. On Facebook, you were supposed to be “real.” So I figured: OK, this is where I don’t friend everyone indiscriminately; this is where I only connect with people I really know.
I stuck with that for a little while. But there were two big problems.
First, I was bombarded with friend requests from people I barely knew or didn’t know at all. Why? It soon became clear that large numbers of people weren’t approaching Facebook with the reality principle in mind. They were playing the usual online game of racking up big numbers to feel important. “Friend count” was the new “unique visitors.”
Then Facebook started to get massive. And consultants and authors started giving us advice about how to use Facebook to brand ourselves. And marketing people began advocating that we use Facebook to sell stuff and, in fact, sell ourselves.
So which was Facebook: a new space for authentic communication between real people – or a new arena for self-promotion?
I could probably have handled this existential dilemma. And I know it’s one that a lot of people simply don’t care about. It bugged me, but it was the other Facebook problem that made me not want to use the service at all.
Facebook flattens our social relationships into one undifferentiated blob. It’s almost impossible to organize friends into discrete groups like “family” and “work” and “school friends” and so forth. Facebook’s just not built that way. (This critique is hardly original to me. But it’s worth repeating.)
In theory Facebook advocates a strict “one person, one account” policy, because each account’s supposed to correlate to a “real” individual. But then sometimes Facebook recommends that we keep a personal profile for our private life and a “page” for our professional life. Which seems an awful lot like “one person, two accounts.”
In truth, Facebook started out with an oversimplified conception of social life, modeled on the artificial hothouse community of a college campus, and it has never succeeded in providing a usable or convenient method for dividing or organizing your life into its different contexts. This is a massive, ongoing failure. And it is precisely where Facebook’s competitors at Google have built the strength of their new service for networking and sharing, Google+.
Google+ opened a limited trial on Tuesday, and last night it hit some sort of critical mass in the land of tech-and-media early adopters. Invitations were flying, in an eerie and amusing echo of what happened in 2004, when Google opened its very first social network, Orkut, to the public, and the Silicon Valley elite flocked to it with glee.
Google+ represents Google’s fourth big bite at building a social network. Orkut never took off because Google stopped building it out; once you found your friends there was nothing to do there. Wave was a fascinating experiment in advanced technology that was incomprehensible to the average user, and Google abandoned it. Buzz was (and is) a Twitter-like effort that botched its launch by invading your Gmail in box and raiding your contact list.
So far Google+ seems to be getting things right: It’s easy to figure out, it explains itself elegantly as you delve into its features, it’s fast (for now, at least, under a trial-size population) and it’s even a bit fun.
By far the most interesting and valuable feature of Google+ is the idea of “circles” that it’s built upon. You choose friends and organize them into different “circles,” or groups, based on any criteria you like – the obvious ones being “family,” “friends,” “work” and so on.
The most important thing to know is that you use these circles to decide who you’ll share what with. So, if you don’t want your friends to be bugged by some tidbit from your workplace, you just share with your workplace circle. Google has conceived and executed this feature beautifully; it takes little time to be up and running.
The other key choice is that you see the composition of your circles but your friends don’t: It’s as if you’re organizing them on your desktop. Your contacts never see how you’re labeling them, but your labeling choices govern what they see of what you share.
I’m sure problems will surface with this model but so far it seems sound and useful, and it’s a cinch to get started with it. Of course, if you’re already living inside Facebook, Google has a tough sell to make. You’ve invested in one network, you’re connected there; why should you bother? But if, like me, you resisted Facebook, Google+ offers a useful alternative that’s worth exploring.
The ideal future of social networking is one that isn’t controlled by any single company. But social networks depend on scale, and right now it’s big companies that are providing that.
Lord knows Google’s record isn’t perfect. But in this realm I view it as the least of evils. Look at the competition: Facebook is being built by young engineers who don’t have lives, and I don’t trust it to understand the complexity of our lives. It’s also about to go public and faces enormous pressure to cash in on the vast network it’s built. Twitter is a great service for real-time public conversation but it’s no better at nuanced social interaction than Facebook. Apple is forging the One Ring to rule all media and technology, and it’s a beaut, but I’ll keep my personal relationships out of its hands as long as I can. Microsoft? Don’t even bother.
Of the technology giants, Google – despite its missteps – has the best record of helping build and expand the Web in useful ways. It’s full of brilliant engineers who have had a very hard time figuring out how to transfer their expertise from the realm of code to the world of human interaction. But it’s learning.
So I’ll embrace the open-source, distributed, nobody-owns-it social network when it arrives, as it inevitably will, whether we get it from the likes of Diaspora and Status.net or somebody else. In the meantime, Google+ is looking pretty good. (Except for that awful punctuation-mark-laden name.)
1. Do people really “play themselves” on Facebook?
2. Can Facebook be of any use in helping people to brand themselves and sell stuff?
3. What is the essence of the concept of “circles” that Google+ is built upon?
Read the text and consider the questions below.
Making History One Tweet at a Time
By Buzzle Staff and Agencies
On July 6, 2011, President Obama made history with the very first Presidential Twitter Town Hall. People were able to tweet questions, and the President answered on live television .
Town Hall meetings are a popular way for politicians to hear questions from citizens and respond to issues they raise. These meetings are a great way for policy makers to hear how voters feel about an issue and address their concerns on the spot. Many of these Town Halls are publicly broadcast, allowing viewers with the same questions to hear the responses, even if they were unable to participate. On July 6, 2011, President Obama opened his audience to a wider pool – all the users on Twitter – and hosted the very first Twitter Town Hall. This has been touted by the media as a wonderful way to include everyone in the discussion. While the event did make an important stride in the direction of an all-inclusive discussion, is using Twitter really a way to include everyone?
President Obama has been known to use varying forms of technology to reach a generation of voters who live their lives online. From YouTube to Facebook to, now, Twitter, Obama’s use of the technology we hold near and dear to us has helped him create an image of being a younger president who cares about reaching out to voters aged 18–30. Just as the Twitter Town Hall started, he sent out the first ever Presidential Tweet and made history, setting the stage for future presidents to utilize technology in new and innovative ways. This is important in our culture, as many people have access to the very technology President Obama is using and prefer these media over a traditional newspaper as a method to get their news. By using Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, politicians are certainly reaching a broader audience, but to say the use of this technology reaches everyone is a dangerous statement.
Access to Technology
These days, it seems like everyone has a Twitter, Facebook, and Google account, but do they really? You might be able to see all of your friends’ YouTube videos, post on your family’s Facebook walls, and tweet at your favorite celebrities and their mothers, so it might seem like literally everyone has some sort of attachment to social networking. However, there are still many, many people living under the poverty level with no access to technology at all. Having access to social networking means you have access to many other things: a computer or cell phone with the correct software capabilities, access to the internet, and time to spend on the sites. You also need to have the basic ability to read, write, and type. Last but not least, you need to understand the lingo for the social network you are using. Obama asked people to tweet with the hash tag AskObama. If you don’t know what a hash tag is, you’re already at a loss. If you lack basic literacy skills or cannot afford a computer, phone, and/or the internet, you can’t participate in the Twitter Town Hall. While public access to computers and the internet are widespread, and most social networking sites are free to use, it is still plausible that a Twitter Town Hall has eliminated the voices of thousands of people in the United States.
Just because many people don’t have access to the technology being used for these technological town halls doesn’t mean we should stop using them as forums for political persuasion. It is important for all politicians to reach out to citizens using several different techniques. Technology is an important tool to use for any campaign, and with today’s generation of technological enthusiasts, social networking cannot be ignored. We just need to be sure that this technology isn’t the only tool in our political tool belts and continue to find ways to reach more and more people.
1. Do you agree that Twitter provides the general public with more opportunities?
2. Do you agree that Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube can help politicians to reach a broader audience?
3. Do you believe that the majority of people have the basic literacy skills?
III. Focus on the language
Enumerate the benefits of social networks and their drawbacks using the following expressions.
Verb phrases : to friend everyone indiscriminately, to bombard with friend requests, to rack up big numbers, to reach out to voters, to reach a broader audience, to have some sort of attachment to social networking.
Noun phrases : a new space for authentic communication, a new arena for self-promotion, an oversimplified conception of social life, nuanced social interaction, an all-inclusive discussion.
IV. Problem solving
1. Agree or disagree: a) Everyone has a Twitter, Facebook, and Google account these days; b) You can hardly imagine a sphere of activity where Twitter is not popular.
2. Dwell on the problem: How do you personally rank Facebook? Is it a new space for authentic communication between real people or a new arena for self-promotion?
3. Support the idea or prove the opposite: Facebook presents an oversimplified conception of social life.
4. Express your opinion about the following: The technology should not be used as forums for political persuasion.
5. Make a list of advantages and disadvantages of Google+ as compared to Facebook. Which social network would you rather join?
V. Useful tips for your presentations
To successfully conduct a panel discussion, consider the following tips.
A panel discussion is a public exchange of ideas with a goal of informing audience members about a particular subject or issue. In most cases, 3 or more panelists share their knowledge and expertise after being asked questions in a format that allows some discussion. Panel discussions are used to delve into politics, science and community topics, as well as many other issues. Use these tips to conduct a panel discussion for your group, organization or company.
1. Identify the goal and purpose of your panel discussion. Establish what you want to achieve by conducting the discussion, and what general questions will be answered. Focus on 1 or 2 main topics to direct the panel discussion in an organized way.
2. Invite experts to become panelists. Choose knowledgeable, well-educated experts or individuals involved in the focus of your panel discussion. Invite local coordinators and community partners to participate in panel discussions that involve projects within your community. A panelist does not have to have an impressive degree or years of experience to offer insightful discussion during the presentation. Invite panelists at least 3 or 3 weeks prior to the discussion to allow them time to prepare.
3. Select and invite a moderator. Choose a moderator who does not have a conflict of interest with the subject matter of the panel discussion. Pick a moderator who will keep the conversation moving, adhere to and enforce the guidelines and rules of the panel discussion, and can act as an emcee for the event.
4. Determine the rules for the panel discussion. Establish the guidelines for open discussion, if that’s how you wish the panel discussion to proceed. Open discussion panel forums usually begin with a question and conversation ensues between panelists based on their comments. Guidelines often include a time limit for each discussion item.
Create time limits for limited discussion methods. Many times each panelist will be allowed a certain amount of time to answer each question as asked by the moderator. Discussion between panelists does not occur in this type of format.
Determine how questions from the audience will be handled. Some formats allow questions during the panel discussion. Others provide time after the panel discussion for audience members to ask questions of the panelists.
Distribute the rules of the panel discussion to the invited panelists.
5. Write questions for the panelists. Questions should be open-ended and require more than “yes” or “no” answers. Create more questions than you think you will need in case the panel discussion proceeds more quickly than anticipated.
6. Arrange for the panel discussion to be recorded. Recording the discussion in a digital format will allow it to be posted to the Internet without having to adjust its format.
7. Present and introduce the panelists at the beginning of the panel discussion. Introduce the moderator, and he should inform the audience of the purpose of the discussion and provide a brief summary of the discussion format and rules. The moderator should give a short biographical introduction of the panelists before leading into the panel discussion.
8. Conduct the discussion as planned, following the established rules. The moderator should ask questions and coordinate the discussion as planned.
9. Conclude the panel discussion with a summary and closing remarks. The moderator should thank the audience and panelists, and give any pertinent information for follow-up activities or events.
10. Send thank you notes to the panelists and moderator for their participation.
VI. Working on the project
Conduct a panel discussion on the topic: It will never become possible to create a “nobody-owns-it” social network. Follow the useful tips above.