Intro to Networked Collaboration

Ambient Awareness

Illustration by Peter Cho

There’s an article in the Times Sunday Magazine by Clive Thompson titled “I’m So Totally, Digitally Close To You.” This idea of “ambient awareness,” this constant stream of information we receive via social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook very relevant to what we just read so I thought I’d share it with you guys. I honestly haven’t gotten to read more than half of it yet because I’m but what I did get to read on the train this morning, particularly about Facebook and Twitter, was pretty interesting. All this minutiae we get via the Facebook news feed or Twitter updates have a cumulative effect of a new, specific type of awareness of one’s fellows. Anyway, I’d be interested to hear what people think about it.

September 8, 2008 - Posted by | social networking, tools and methodologies | , , ,


  1. I also saw the article and that it was very apropos for our class. I am interested in seeing the little things that my Facebook “friends” (there are a number of them that went to my high school but i would not call friends) document using the “what are you doing right now” status update feature. Some of it is very trivial but it does give me new insight into their lives. I recently learned about the political beliefs of a few of my friends that were not in my “close” circle through the comments left on their status updates on the convention speeches.

    It also forces you to think about what you want to share about yourself using these same features and how you can shape an online persona that represents you or actually how you want to be perceived by your network. If you felt very strongly using the political example about the “left” or the “right” and did not want to offend a friend that did not see it the same way, a posted comment could damage a relationship or start a very rewarding dialogue. I’ll be interested to see the effects on my relationships once more of my “close” friends begin using Facebook more actively.

    Comment by unoq | September 8, 2008 | Reply

  2. I took a look at the article you posted. I find all of this really fascinating, especially because I can relate to it so much. I’ve been actively taking part in these facebook changes. I remember when the “news feed” was brand new. I too was one of those who was shocked and appalled by this new way of giving out information. Why do people I don’t even talk to need to know every detail about my life?

    But, when I saw that you can adjust the privacy settings, I didn’t care as much. I remember there being groups on facebook for those who were against the news feeds. However, it was forgotten not long after and people use it now for entertainment purposes. I am informed through facebook of when my friend breaks up with her boyfriend before she even tells me herself! Is this really what people want? I say “I’m sorry, do you need to talk?” because facebook has already updated me on what was going on. It blows my mind when my friend asks me how the club was the other night because he/she saw that I attended the event on facebook. I will admit that I’m a perfect example of the “facebook nerd.” I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I’ve fallen into the trap! Even my mom has a facebook now! She puts photos up, I tag her in mine, and she loves it. Many of my cousins have facebooks as well and a bunch of my friends from ISRAEL! A few of my friends parents have it and a good amount of my teachers from AMDA have their own. I have to admit that it’s a great networking tool. But, how far are we going to go with this? The internet is a dangerous place and it always has been. If it weren’t for all the privacy settings, I probably wouldn’t display all the information that I have on there. I have about 1,200 friends and I know/met most of them. My friends ask me how I have so many and I don’t even know myself. I’ve had facebook for a few years now and the number of friends keeps growing. It’s how I keep in touch with people. I meet someone and then I add them on facebook. Of course I can’t keep track of all of these people. It’s impossible! I was just discussing this with my fellow cast members and my friend Dan doesn’t understand why you would need to keep in touch with so many people. Why do you need to friend someone who you knew in 3rd grade and haven’t seen since? To be honest, I have NO idea. But I will say that it’s really interesting to see what people are up to since you’ve last seen or talked to them. It sucks you in and takes hold of you. But, how long will all of this last???

    Comment by isrellyrel | September 9, 2008 | Reply

  3. Great article! Clive Thompson wrote an earlier article on Twitter, called “Clive Thompson on How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense” in which he describes this “ambient awareness” as “social proprioception” – and that through these granular updates, he begins to develop “an almost telepathic awareness” of the people most important to him.

    I think that this more recent article is a much more comprehensive and developed analysis of this. It really captures the experiential and informative nature of following people’s lifestreams. Like he says, friends don’t need to ask “What have you been up to?” because they already know. It’s a way of staying connected sans the effort:

    “when they do socialize face to face, it feels oddly as if they’ve never actually been apart. They don’t need to ask, “So, what have you been up to?” because they already know. Instead, they’ll begin discussing something that one of the friends Twittered that afternoon, as if picking up a conversation in the middle.”

    I’ve even met new friends and business colleagues through Twitter. For example, I’ve met other skydivers by tracking the word “skydiving” on Twitter, and I’ve met up with colleagues when they’ve tweeted things like “Having dinner at Sammy’s Roumanain Steakhouse. Drop by if you’re around.”

    The ambient awareness that stems from aggregated 140-character Twitter haiku and Facebook news feeds gives us the opportunity for reflection and a continuous sense of connection.

    Comment by funksoup | September 11, 2008 | Reply

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