I don’t know if “The Social Network”, the movie about the founding of Facebook, is going to be any good. I liked Ben Mezrich’s book Bringing Down the House and he wrote the book that the movie is based on, so that makes me hopeful. I will have to go and see it for myself, but in the meantime here is the The New Yorker review of the movie.
The release of the movie on October 1 reminded me of another book about Facebook called The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick. As I posted somewhere (I thought it was on Facebook.com), I thought the book had three primary themes.
- A Venture Capitalist Soap Opera. Yes, it is an interesting story of how “kids” conceived of and implemented such an amazingly relevant product in their dorm rooms. Then it’s also interesting how they navigated the venture capitalist social world without losing control of the organization. Actually, while good, this was the least interesting part of the book to me.
- A Character Study. In another light, the book is a character study of Mark Zuckerberg. Obviously Mark is a smart guy who has always had a guiding vision for Facebook. It is interesting to watch that play out throughout the story. Without giving too much away, the scene were Zuckerberg has to wrestle with his conscience about a verbal agreement he made with Washington Post chief Donald Graham was the emotional crux of the story.
- Reflections on Transparency and Identity. Zuckerberg has made it clear that part of Facebook’s mission is to encourage transparency (personal, social, institutional and governmental) in order to make the world a better place. Kirkpatrick does a fair-handed job of exploring the idea and implications of this guiding principle of Facebook. Kirkpatrick doesn’t blindly endorse it, nor does he cast it aside. Personally, I think that understanding and coming-to-terms with the meaning and implications of transparency and identity in our network-mediated society are exactly what we need to be doing. We should be doing this as citizens and as educators.
As a side note, I have recently read two “science fiction” novels that explore dystopic visions of radically transparent societies: 1) Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart and 2) the “young adult” novel Feed by M.T. Anderson.
We live in interesting times.