ASIS&T 2008 – My So-Called Life on the Web

ASIS&T 2008 – My So-Called Life on the Web


William Jones (moderator), University of Washington
Fred Stutzman, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Catherine Marshall, Microsoft Research
Gary Marchionini, University of North Carolina
Allison Brueckner, cAliCo Information Consulting

I really enjoyed this session, except for the fact that the presentations were rushed through, although all were excellent.  This session was purposely set up this way with a 30 minute "introduction" and then an audience participation component for the rest.  Ok, conference confession… once people start asking questions I tune out.  I want to see presentations by smart people who know lots on a topic.  There were 5 people, and a total of 30 minutes to speak, so 6 minutes per presentation, and almost every presenter went over, and every presenter had great slides they had to skip or leave out!  This was still a good session, but it’s too bad on the format.

William Jones – The Web to Change the Real World

William is the author of the book, Keeping Found Things Found:  The Study and Practice of Personal Information Management, one I keeping meaning to buy and read!  The topic of personal information management does interest me, I think regular readers of my blog might see that not only is it an interest, but a struggle for me at times, and I almost feel an obligation to address it as somebody who is interested in information management.

This quick introduction really started with a series of questions and thoughts.  Here are a few that I wrote down (interlaced with some of my personal thoughts):

    • The web making the real world more real. 
      • As a side note I want to express my dislike of using "real world" as a label for the "offline" world, to me online is just as real as offline.
    • Wed to replace the real world?
      • I know this was phrased as a question, and again, "real world" as label, which I dislike, but my personal answer… no.
    • The Good and Bad of the Web
      • "It’s all on the web?"
      • "It’s all gone?"
      • "I’m so glad to find more people like me here."

These are kind of vague statements, but this was just an introduction… some of these were addressed more with the other presenters.

Fred Stutzman – Old People, Facebook Disasters

What an awesome title for a presentation!  I’m glad I got to talk to Fred more at his poster the next day, I think he has some interesting research on Facebook and privacy online.  He talked about how people disclose their information and some self-reporting studies on privacy.  Some notable comments include the fact that "Facebook isn’t new anymore" and that people do care about privacy, but they still put their information online anyway.

Then he asked, "Do you change your Facebook privacy?" and commented that Facebook doesn’t come with an owners manual.  I did some research into this topic myself with another classmate here at Wayne State so I’m well aware of Facebook’s hidden, but granular privacy settings.  So to answer the question, yes I change my Facebook privacy, but sometimes this is very time consuming, so I can see the incentive to not doing it too.

Then to the topic of the presentation, "Old People Facebook Disaster", which is a statement that older people are now being faced with the problems that undergrads are dealing with, but in our professional lives.  He mentioned’s Facebook Privacy petition, and a people search engine Spokeo, which is designed to find the "juicy" tidbits about your co-workers or job candidates (I just signed in now, and it is amazing how much it pulled up from my gmail contacts… there’s networks I didn’t even know some of them were on).

My favorite quote from the whole conference, and maybe the best takeaway from this presentation was this though:

"In the future everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes."

I think this quote came from a photo… didn’t catch the source, or where, but it’s brillant.

Catherine Marshall – Personal Digital Archiving

Catherine’s presentation was one that I really wished we had more time for.  She had a great topic, and many of her points were skipped and missed.  She had several "myths" of personal archiving, five, I think, but only barely got through three.  I’ll just go through what I do have though.

Myth #1, "Storage is Cheap, we should keep everything".  But, she added, human attention is not.  It is not emotionally, or intellectually viable to keep everything.  It is easier to lose stuff than it is to maintain it.  One interesting statistic is that there are 3 billion personal photos on Flickr, and Facebook has 5 billion (that was 6 months ago), this is bigger than the nation debt!  What do we/should we keep?  If you look to scholarly work we see that we normally just keep the final drafts and the datasets.  I personally believe this is good advice when dealing with digital photos… I spend just as much time deleting ones I don’t want to keep than I do editing the ones I do want to keep, but for many, it’s easier to keep everything.

Myth #2 "Today’s kids are digital and they all know what to do…"  She said that kids are fearless but they are still likely to rely on a family member to take control of non-digital archiving (kind of makes me wonder how this will change the personal archiving landscape as these kids grow up and have their own kids!)  Young people are better at capturing, creating, shaping, and sharing, but they are no better at keeping things around.  She did talk about the "suddenly it was just gone" aspect… how any one of these services we use to keep our personal archives could pull the plug at any minute, and that’s it, our stuff is gone.

Myth #3, "Digital stuff is not just distributed over multiple stores"… unfortunately this is where my notes end.  I think she flipped to Myth #5, and was over time anyway, it was all just a flurry of me trying to copy everything down.  It’s a bummer, some excellent stuff in this presentation, like I said, I wanted more.

Gary Marchionini – Multimedia surrogates and Self-representation on the Web

This discussion focused on the many identities we keep online and the challenges of this.  Gary discussed what is known (the perception we portray) and unknown (the perception others give us that we might not know exists).


  • Real life photographs
  • Avatars that we represent
  • Web pages/online presences
  • When we ask the question, "What do I want people to know about me?"


  • Reflections by other people via blogs or social networks
  • Photos posted by others of us, we may not be aware of some, like photos of us at events and conferences.
  • Is this interesting and troubling?
  • Ambient reflections done by machines should be more troubling.

Allison Brueckner – Second Life

Allison really is the resident Second Life expert in ASIS&T, and I think that’s awesome.  She has a business in Second Life and one of the members who have made the ASIS&T Island in SL possible (which I still need to carve some time to look around).  For this presentation she talked about the different Visions of Second Life and how some of this is perceived both in and out of the world:

  • Utopian Vision
    • Ubiquitous web accessibility
      • But the reality is that the technology is a barrier to access
    • Wireless & Broadband for all
    • Technology for all
    • Keeping and open mind and open spirit
    • Everybody can dance!
    • No judgements, and no bias
  • Dystopian Vision
    • There is terrorism, famine, and hatred
    • In Real Life and Second Life there are:
      • Grievers
      • Copyright issues

So what is reality?  She said we should take the good with the bad in Second Life and in Real Life.  We have choices in both.  Then she also posed the question, "What about life be like without any form of Information Community Technology?" 

I’ll answer, probably not very fun or interesting.