The JALT CALL Journal
Vol. 3, No. 3, December 2007
Networkingcnetplaying: From a New York
minute to a Mixi second
Aoyama Gakuin University, Japan
All of us are part of networks. Our immediate and extended families, our neighborhoods, our circles of friends, and the clubs or churches that some of us belong to are all considered networks of the human sort. Itfs odd that we so naturally refer to communication among these groups as gnetworking,h since, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the use of this term began in about 1967 in reference to gthe action or process of networking a number of computers.h Only about a decade later—just as I was graduating from high school—did the term come to refer to gthecprocess of making use of a network of people for the exchange of information.h The readiness and frequency that this term glides off our tongues belies its recent coinage.
These days, many people spend more time in their virtual networks than with the flesh and blood variety. When I hold class in a computer classroom, inevitably, I find students checking their Mixi (social networking) site for new messages or looking to see whofs been perusing their postings. It makes me a little sad when I think about how they may be missing the chance to network in the ghere and nowh with classmates sitting around them, but, for all I know, their classmates may be fellow members of their Mixi group and I may be the odd man out.
Perhaps it is the fear of being left out thatfs driving so many people to join networks such as MySpace, FaceBook, and Mixi. Ironically, being able to stay in contact with more people (friends of friends of friendsc) may just be making us more lonely because if we fail to connect with anyone at a heart to heart level we may blame ourselves for coming up empty-handed in a land of plenty. Itfs as though we are in a desert with what look like oases of sociability all around us, not realizing theyfre merely mirages of virtual connectiveness.
Are we approaching a world in which the so-called seven degrees of separation are narrowing to the point where no divisions whatsoever remain between us; where each of us will gknowh everyone else, but only for a fraction of a second, exchanging no more than a virtual wave or blown kiss? We will have come from Andy Warholfs universal 15 minutes of fame to a quarter of a second of anonymous shoulder jostling in chat rooms where people come and go, talking of DiCaprio.
Or maybe wefll get tired of our virtual networks and set them ablaze in bonfires on Second Life, wake up the next morning, look into the eyes of our partner, and say gBoy, did you have the same dream that I had? Letfs get a life.h