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May 11, 2006

Call Your Mom!

Aaron at the Technology and You blog touches on the concept of synthetic transparency in his discussion of connections between people within social media communities. Dr. Walter Carl commented on the article describing his definition of synthetic transparency, Walter coined the phrase Synthetic Transparency.

I thought Aaron's post was interesting because he suggested that an illusion of personal connection exists in online communities, people might connect with friends over the Internet across the globe, but that virtual connection is not the same as meeting in person. Virtual connection has limits to the level of interaction; you cannot see a person's face in an email.

I recently read a study that described how people stay connected with more people by using the Internet. But that email, IM and blogs are not substitutes for phone calls and personal visits. The study suggested that reliance on virtual communication does allow you to stay more connected. In fact such virtual connections might degrade your existing strong personal connections with close friends, colleagues and family.

After reading that study, I thought I'd make a bigger effort to follow up with calls and personal visits to close friends, family and colleagues as a way of maintaining close connections.

Sorry, I've forgotten the reference to the study, I will post later when I find it.

Update: My thanks to Craig Lefebvre for the reminder about the report I had forgotten. The report was from the Pew Internet and American Life Project and its called, "The Strength of Internet Ties."

Posted by johncass at May 11, 2006 9:10 AM

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You may be thinking about the report that I also blogged on at;

I haven't looked at your links yet, but the word 'illusion' may not be the appropriate one for many social transactions on the net. Lacking in certain contextual characteristics, yes. Serving some purposes better than others, of course. Pointing out that depth and quality also count on our relationship ...priceless?

Posted by: Craig Lefebvre at May 11, 2006 11:28 AM

Thanks Craig, that was the report I was thinking about when I wrote the post. "The Strength of Internet Ties" by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Aaron did you use the word illusion in his entry:

"Blogs are simulacra as well, though they build themselves on a slightly different premise. Blogs get their power in what Norman Fairclough, in Language and Power, calls "synthetic personalization." Synthetic personalization allows a user to send out a single message and yet still give the impression that he/she is speaking to each individual separately. This form of mass address is not confined the virtual community. It can also be seen in public arenas (airplanes: "have a nice flight;" television: "see you after the break;" restaurants: "welcome to Wendy's"). The second person pronoun "you," which often is merely implied in the sentences above, creates the illusion of relationship through its potential to be either plural or singual audience at any given time. Blogs take this illusion to a new level through synthetic transparency, which, in the same way MySpace and AIM help avoid direct contact, gives the public a fake sense of honesty, connection, and openness through the ambiguity of "you." The larger the constituency, the easier it is for its head to be guilt of this transparency. Corporate blogs and newsletters are sent out and mechanically signed. A little bit of information is given and the clientele is satisfied. The "you" keeps the letter personal in feeling yet detached enough the sender to maintain control of information disclosed. It is much easier to send out a mass e-mail than to pull together all the employees or subscribers into a seminar or conference; but, it also makes these same employees and subscribers that much more detached from their lead figure."

Posted by: John Cass at May 12, 2006 8:59 AM

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