March 12th, 2003

hat

adventures in social networking

So I finally got to play with the website I mentioned in my last entry today. It's basically a new version of sixdegrees.com, implemented slightly differently. They completely throw out the privacy aspect; you can browse exactly who your friends' friends are, and just what they think of them. In fact, part of the fun is writing these little "testimonials," and reading ones others have written. But the initial fun is in building your "personal network" -- tracking down people you know and getting them to add you as a friend. Every so often today my phone would buzz, and I'd get an email with the subjet: "Friendster: xxx is now your friend!" That's so self-affirming!

You are connected to 6850 people in your Personal Network, through 16 friends.

On a more serious note; I was listening to NPR yesterday on my way home, and they were talking about the Global World Crimes Court opening in the Hague. At first I felt supportive of the institution; I mean, it's an internationally sanctioned court, supported by the UN, dealing with human rights injustices. And it was opposed by the Bush administration, which, at least in the knee-jerk reaction part of my brain, gives it more value. But then I heard a quote from Kofi Annan, which I don't remember exactly, but went something like "by holding individuals criminally responsible for atrocities, we can diffuse the collective blame on an entire culture, which can cause hate of an entire people for generations and be an obstacle to peace."

On one hand, I understand what he's saying, and it makes some sense. On the other hand, it sort of sounds like finding someone to take the symbolic fall for the atrocities commited by the entire nation. And there's something morally upsetting about doing this. I admit, I don't know much of the history behind the Nuremberg trials, and perhaps this is an approach that has far reaching positive results, but it made me a little uncomfortable. Though perhaps I'm just mis-remebering or misinterpreting what the Secretary General said, and all of this is moot...

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