Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Embarassing Social Messages

This post reports on unintendedly embarrassing social messages, illuminated by Kay Ryan, Poet Laureate, and Virginia Heffernan, NYTimes, The Medium Commentator.

I realized this week that my social network sent notice of my birthday to distant acquaintances, casual friends, clients, and business colleagues. Mortifying.

A reading by the Poet Laureate Kay Ryan on Tuesday provided solace.


Connections lie in wait--
something that in
the ordinary line of offenses
makes offense more great.
They entrap, they solicit
under false pretenses,
they premeditate.
They tie one of
your shoelaces
to one of a stranger,
they tie strings to purses
and snatch as
you lean down, eager
for a little something gratis.

And last month, Virginia Heffernan’s piece in the NYTimes took a new, for me, slant on the whole idea of being connected, an excerpt below

Only the poor — defined broadly as those without better options — are obsessed with their connections. Anyone with a strong soul or a fat wallet turns his ringer off for good and cultivates private gardens that keep the hectic Web far away. The man of leisure, Sterling suggested, savors solitude, or intimacy with friends, presumably surrounded by books and film and paintings and wine and vinyl — original things that stay where they are and cannot be copied and corrupted and shot around the globe with a few clicks of a keyboard.
Let Them Eat Tweets: NYTimes Magazine,
Virginia Heffernan, Sunday, 04/19/2009

And I learned that May 22, 2009 – the date in question -- is the release date for the movie Night at the Museum II: Battle at the Smithsonian. The first in this series was so, so bad in every way. However, I was thinking that we could all take ourselves out for some pre-summer-silly/stupid in honor of my birthday and our love of museums. And in praise of museum guards, who never get the props they deserve.
Please don't send an cyper-card to celebrate my milestone, but if you want to share ways to disconnect or to control your cyber life (I am not doing email in the morning), feel free to post them here.


Betty Brewer said...


Thanks for the new insights on social networking. Now I'm thinking I should delve back in to Facebook, Plaxo, & Linked-in to remove my birth date. (I think that's all I'm on; I don't keep up with them.)

However, celebrating your birthday with some grand silliness sounds like a great idea. I, too, took issue with the portrayal of the director in the first movie. However, I was able to suspend my disbelief that the director would be so foolish and enjoy the film anyway.

Have a great birthday!


Betty Brewer
President & CEO

Justin said...

linkedin is whack

tschoch said...

I wish I could join you for some silliness to celebrate life. I will think of you with a glass of ale and some silliness Friday night.

I loved the poem because I love all the good and bad of my many connections. Though I'm old enough to appreciate the face-to-face connections most, I love the technology that allows me to stay in touch with people that I once felt I had lost.

My facebook account allows me to gently tap them on the "shoulder" and remind them that I'm still here without buying a ticket.

Daryl said...

I came back from AAM, my head spinning with ideas for how we can use social networks more effectively. So thanks, Mary, for keeping me scratching my head about this. The idea of needing personal assistants to help us keep up with our Tweeting suggests just how far this has come (or gone, as the case may be!)

Dan Spock said...

I've been musing for some time about the portrayal of museums in popular culture which, I think, carry a lot of valuable information for us about just how the public perceives us.

For instance, the persnickety curator is a durable figure that ranges from Cary Grant (opposite Katherine Hepburn) in "Bringing Up Baby" to David Schwimmer's Ross character in the TV show Friends.

The museum as a stuffy place ripe for trangressive actions is seen in Jean Luc Godard's "Band a part" and then is echoed in Antonioni's recent film "The Dreamers" as visitors try to run through the Louvre in record time, all the while being pursued by guards intent on enforcing appropriate museum behavior. (Guards have a pretty durable rap as being severe scolds. I was a guard once early in my career and, based on my training and experience, I have to sadly say that this is a well-deserved reputation even today.)On the other hand, museum security may have benefited overall from an inflated perception of the incredibly sophisticated systems museums are supposed to use to protect their priceless assets(Thanks in part to the 1960's Roger Moore vehicle The Saint.)

The museum as an inherently creepy (and dusty) place is seen in dozens of films ranging from the "The Mummy" to "The Omen III".

In "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark" Harrison Ford crowns one of the most hair-raising episodes with the triumphant cry "This belongs in a museum!" When I saw this scene in 1981, everybody in the theater laughed because the idea of risking one's life for a museum artifact was immediately understood to be absurd.

One of the interesting things about "Night at the Museum" is the plot device of the museum in financial distress, a relatively new cultural meme that has cropped up in the recent animated "Curious George" feature as well. This suggests, perhaps omiously, that the public is starting to associate museums with budget cutbacks and a trend of resorting to blockbuster exhibits to drive admissions receipts. In a recent episode of The Simpsons, Bart and Homer balk at visiting the Springfield Museum because it features a special exhibit on women quilters (Marge and Lisa are the drivers for the visit.) Suddenly a new banner drops down over the door announcing a blockbuster exhibit on the history of weapons and the boys instantly change their minds. The exhibit features an interactive in which visitors can shoot themselves while wearing a bullet proof vest, an activity that reduces Homer to giggle fits with each shot.

Dan Spock said...

In a recent episode of South Park, a school field trip to a living history frontier fort goes horribly awry when, at gunpoint, the authentically costumed staff refuse to break 1860's character. (It's sobering to ponder this with the additional fact being that the creators of South Park actually attended Columbine High School in suburban Denver.) In a warped reversal of this, a scene cut from the film Borat which appeared on Da Ali G Show depicts actual costumed interpreters trying unsuccessfully to explain to a willfully dense Borat that, no, he cannot purchase a slave at the living history plantation.

Among my daughter's Wii video games is one called Animal Crossing in which her avatar traipses over a virtual landscape that includes a museum to which she has progressively added her own collections discovered in her virtual world. In another computer game, Zoo Tycoon, she can play director of her own zoo. Interestingly, the explicit message in both title and game is that zoos make a lot of money for "tycoons". The decisions my daughter makes involve investments in new animal exhibits, but also placement of these exhibits and various concessions along the visitor pathways. The message? Good choices equal more visitors and more revenue (hint, some animals are more charismatic than others.) Revenues can then be invested in more exhibits and concessions. Problems can result from all sorts of things ranging from lapsed care of the animals to food poisoning at the hot dog stand. No, the zoo tycoon does not do fundraising capital campaigns or conservation programs.

However you may feel about it, these pop culture manifestations tell us pretty interesting things about the people we're trying to serve.

Dan Spock said...

They also hold up a kind of mirror to ourselves in a way.

Maggie said...

1. Happy Birthday. I hope you do get to do something silly/stupid! I will certainly do my part.

2. I loved reading this! You, of course, have great insight about the museum happenings. As a knowledge mongrel, I love visiting museums and learning more about them.

3. http://twistori.com/ This was in the Virginia Heffernan article. NEAT!

4. I still enjoy the connectivity but I feel I have a lot to accomplish. I have used it on numerous occasions as a tool to meet people with similar interests. I suspect that if I were surrounded by perfect people, interesting books and had accomplished all there is to accomplish in the world, I'd delete my Facebook, twitter and Linked-in accounts. Then again, we have space to explore. So, I revoke that statement.

:) Have a nice weekend!

Amalia said...

Hey, Mary:

Speaking as someone who is on Facebook, Plaxo, Artist Hybrid Career Site, Linkedin, who tweets and has a myspace page, I must confess that digital connectivity has its downside along with its privileges. It is still difficult to beat the memory-building impact of a special card with a handwritten note that comes via snail-mail, a phone call from a loved-one or close friend, or the unexpected gift of flowers or a package delivered to your door that says, simply and sincerely, Happy Birthday!

This message comes with the same intent...


Your friend,

Anonymous said...

Maybe as an owner of this blog, I should start another post, but I'm not really up on the protocol, so I'd rather add from some of the emails I've received: Charlier Walter left this great quote:

"....personally, I think cyberspace means the end of our species.....Because it means the end of innovation...This idea that the whole world is wired together is mass death. Every biologist knows that small groups working in isolation evolve fastest.....In a mass-media world, there's less of everything except the top ten books, records, movies, ideas. People worry about losing species diversity in the rain forest. But what about intellectual diversity - our most necessary resource? That's disappearing faster than the trees. But we haven't figured that out, so now we are planning to put five billion people together in cyberspace. And it'll freeze the entire species. Everything will stop dead in its tracks. Everyone will think the same thing at the same time. Global uniformity. Oh, that hurts."

Ian Malcolm speaking in The Lost World (fiction) by Michael Crichton, 311-312.

Mary Case