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Naughts and Crosses, circles and plus signs

So, I don’t know how Google plus is making the circle metaphor work within their system for the hip kids, but I find the idea intriguing.

See, there’s this thing we have talked about here, this Better Together thing, about communities and joining and American politics. About the sense that Americans both do and don’t want to think of themselves as part of larger groups, about tribalism for good and bad, and most of all about the current inability of my Party or the Left to exploit the positives of community into a sense of membership in either the Party or the Movement, or even in society. This isn’t at the core of Mr. Putnam’s insight, but it’s there nonetheless.

And it occurred to me that with Facebook’s oh-so-facebooky user interface, there is a sense of connection without a sense of membership in anything other than FB itself. That is, I may make groups out of my FB friends, I may join actual Facebook groups, and I may like various things, but my experience of Facebook is almost entirely of individual connections, of one person saying one thing and my reading it—and while I am aware that there are dozens or hundreds or thousands of other people reading it as well, I am not in membership with them as they are doing it.

Now, the metaphor of friends (or that of followers) hasn’t borne any real fruit in other social network sites—well, I suppose that LiveJournal might have worked to make friends and even communities once upon a time—so there isn’t any reason to think that Google’s metaphors will change the way we really think. And yet.

One of the most powerful social motivators is the urge to get into the Inner Ring; as C.S. Lewis says in that essay (and if you haven’t read it and passed it along to such young persons of your acquaintance as will take it)

In the whole of your life as you now remember it, has the desire to be on the right side of that invisible line ever prompted you to any act or word on which, in the cold small hours of a wakeful night, you can look back with satisfaction? If so, your case is more fortunate than most.

I disagree with that, actually. Many of us have given to charity or to a political campaign, attended a rally, volunteered, achieved at sports, recorded an It Gets Better video or otherwise done something positive as a result of that pie pressure to gain admittance to an Inner Ring. And, of course, many of us keep informed as citizens mostly out of an attempt to know what the insiders know, so that when somebody mentions some news item, we can say the real trouble is that Representative Ryan and Representative Cantor are each planning to become the next Speaker. And while that might not be a source of satisfaction in the cold small hours of a wakeful night, it part of the information we need to be free and self-governing, so there’s that.

But the point is that the desire to be included rather than excluded from that elusive Inner Ring can lead us to actions either good or bad—but the metaphors of our experience with Social Media, of followers and subscribers and klout and even of friends, of liking a thing or sharing it or digging it, are not metaphors that exploit the Inner Circle idea but circumvent it. The metaphor of the circle seems primed to exploit it. Unless, as is likely, the circle is just another list like all the others. Metaphors don’t always provide that extra layer of meaning, even if they are supposed to.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Is Google Plus still invite-only? If so, and if you aren't there yet, and if you'd like to be, let me know.

Sure, why not--do you need a gmail addy, or can you invite me on my kith one?


My vague impression is that a Gmail address is better, especially if you already have a Google login that you use for other purposes, but I don't entirely understand the intricacies, so if that's a pain, I'm happy to just try whatever. :^)

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