Social or semantic connections? Tell me, infofriend!

Clive Thompson – undoubtedly a good journalist – has a piece, entitled Information Overlord in May Wired issue (not online yet, but already problematic) on his experience with semantic Web app Twine. Clive also formulates a provocative though about the value of information modulated social connections.

“But the truth is, sometimes social connections are less useful than semantic ones.
I’ve experienced this myself. My Facebook page attracts my friends, with whom I share social bonds. Meanwhile, my science blog attracts complete strangers, with whom I share a common interest in a topic – like a scientific study I’ve blogged about. It’s a semantic relationship, based on shared meaning. So those strangers tend to tell me things – and point me to links – that are more useful than the social stuff on my Facebook page. Information trumps friendship”

I am not sure whether the distinction behind: emotional, social friends vs rational, information only semantic cooperators is valid. I think of my good commenters as digital friends and many of my Facebook “friends” as not friends, just simple connections.

5 thoughts on “Social or semantic connections? Tell me, infofriend!

  1. I have not been successful pulling many of my current contacts (either social or semantic) into any sort of on-line intercourse. This means most of the people I have encountered through “Social Networking” and the science blogs are new and people I may not have met before.

    It’s all good.

  2. Seems to me like you need to consider context and suitability for a particular purpose. I wouldn’t expect Facebook contacts(if I were to have an account) to be useful in the same way that people who link to my blog or people listed as similar users on Connotea are useful. The difference really is that I don’t consider usefulness as a primary consideration of friendship in real life, whereas I don’t have any purely online acquaintances who aren’t useful in some fashion, because I’ve either sought them out or they have sought me out, or we’ve both sought out the same information. It’s information that connects people online absent a prior real-life connection, whereas real life connections can be made in a variety of ways having nothing to do with what you’re personally interested in.

    Sometimes there’s a nice synchronicity, though. I think I would have found you(perhaps via Deepak) even if you had not come to our lab.

  3. ‘Usefulness in friendship’: For me, the ability of somebody ‘ to introduce me new ‘worlds’ with new information (it’s good to be different) is a good marker of being a ‘friend candidate’, but I wouldn’t identify this property with pure ‘usefulness’ at all. It’s primarily about being interesting and entertaining, and that new information can be ‘utilized’ later and secondarily by chance. Small infotalk.

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