Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Assignment 4

Comparing a book and a journal showing how networking acts as a major connector to designers.

Social networking is something that many people are familiar with. These social networking "communities" provide different things for different people and are growing popular reasons for new social lives, happiness, sadness, depression, and addiction. To a designer, not only social networking but networking itself in a day to day basis with "real people" is very important as it links us with the rest of the world and can provide information on job interviews, other designers work, other people who specialise in different areas who could then link with other professionals and so on. The sources that I have chosen to analyse are Howard Rheingold's book "The Virtual World" and a journal called "The networking survival guide: get the success you want by tapping into the people you know" by Diane C. Darling. Both sources look into the subject of networking, the book discusses social networking in detail showing alot of evidence and experiences whereas the journal shows the reader how to make the most of networking in the "real world" without doing it through the use of a computer.

Howard Rheingold is a teacher, writer, and critic. He is very interested in the cultural, political and social implications of the internet and "virtual communities". He became a member of the "WELL"(Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link) in 1985 which is a computer conferencing system and is also a conscientiously experiment. After joining this site he then wrote "Tools for thought" and "The Virtual Community" in which he explores the implications of social networking. I chose this book to analyse because of the amount of evidence to back up Rheingold's argument, therefore I trust the information in it.

"The Virtual Community" is a book which tours the "virtual community" of online networking. Rheingold suggests that communication through computers has started a new type of social life. He tells moving stories about people who have received online support when going through major life crises and describes a community that is as real as our "real life" communities. In the book he also explores how people relate to each other online similarly to how they behave and interact with each other in physical communities. It is now as easy to talk to someone that's on the other side of the world as it is to talk to someone who is in the same building as you. People form relationships which affect their business life or personal life and this is where social networking is beneficial to designers. Keeping in touch and being involved in conversations with other people online who are from different backgrounds who have different opinions is a very important tool to be able to use in the actual world.

The main link of communication in cyber-space is e-mail. E-mail has made it possible for friendships and projects to be maintained over a long distance and has also enabled virtual communities to be able to be so strong and popular. It is far easier for someone to be able to jump onto their computer to send or retrieve a piece of information than it is to actually physically do it. From the very beginning of the book Rheingold gives evidence of this when he talks about his daughter picking up a tick and him and his wife not knowing what to do about it; "My wife, Judy, called the pediatrician. It was eleven o'clock in the evening. I logged onto the WELL. I got my answer online within minutes.I had removed the tick by the time Judy got the callback from the pediatrician's office." (pg 1) Showing that virtual worlds do relate to the actual world and social networking helps with everyday "real life" situations. After reading the book i became aware that many people use social networking as a form of escapism. One example is a man called Phil Catalfo who is opening a discussion about Leukemia after his young daughter being diagnosed with the disease. He used the forum to receive support and advice. "We are here and we are listening. We share your hope and a small part of your pain. Hang on." This proves that people do use these forums for support when going through major life crises and therefore this helps them in their "real life". Another reason that these sites are so popular is that there are constantly people there listening and ready to give advice at every hour on the clock, and these people are from different backgrounds and professions such as doctors, teachers, and authors.

Rheingold's book is mainly evidence based, helping to support his argument that "Virtual Communities" are not necessarily bad and help many real life situations. Rheingold talks about Larry Brilliant (pg 28) who became a doctor and an epidemiologist and ended up spearheading the World Health Organization's successful effort to eliminate smallpox. He was also involved in another health care effort the Seva Foundation. He found that Seva's volunteers, medical staff, and organizational directors could meet and solve problems through the use of computer conferencing. After realising this Brilliant became one of the principles of NETI, a business that created and licensed computer conferencing systems. Many people are under the illusion that modernisation and computers create a lazy society which is not properly educated but Rheingold shows that if used sensibly and properly, social network sites can build a stronger and more efficient community. Acting as a huge tool, social networking is essential to any designer.

I do not think that Rheingold has been biased in his argument that social networking sites do help society and physical communities as opposed to the idea that we should reject all technology theories as he backs up all his statements clearly with strong evidence. To conclude Rheingold successfully conveys his idea that social networking is not bad for society through his use of evidence-based sources.

Continuing on Rheingold's ideas of networking is Diane C. Darling who is an author, speaker, consultant and entrepreneur. She has conveyed her ideas of networking in her journal "The networking survival guide: get the success you want by tapping into the people you know". The journal explains how to make the most of everyday physical networking and gives tips on how to advance on one's own networking techniques. The journal is not evidence based and is "common knowledge". It is probably very useful to many people but in my opinion I don't think that I could trust the information because there is not enough evidence to support Darling's statements. The journal thoroughly takes the reader through each step of networking, showing how to network through work, flirting, telephone calls and email. Darling discusses "how to" do certain things, for example how to design a business card, how to talk properly when on the phone, how to host the perfect dinner party. She even talks about "what you should wear at a networking event". This might be helpful to some readers but without the facts and figures this is pretty much useless information. Obviously many people are going to take this information and advice on board but because it is "common knowledge I don't think that it should be trusted. "Today nearly 20 percent of Americans move each year". This is just a random fact and does not convey Darling's argument to the strength that it could if it was to be backed up with where these statements came from. Another random statement is "Networking is getting a job." In order to make this more powerful Darling could have stated where she got this information from. However the journal does argue that networking is important to everyone, and no matter where you are or who you are with you can network to benefit yourself and your knowledge. Although the journal does not discuss in detail social networking sites, it does mention that emailing is a good way of networking but does not go into the detail that Rheingold does to show that using your computer is a proved successful way of connecting with others to benefit your physical life.

Although this journal is not evidence based, it does make good research for anyone who is wanting to improve on their networking skills, therefore helping designers improve on their own networking skills which is beneficial for them.

Both "The Virtual World" and "The Networking Guide" have similar ideas about networking and how it helps designers in their careers. However Rheingold thoroughly explores the idea of a "virtual world" and gives primary source evidence to support this. Before I read the book I was rather cynical and I had a different opinion on social networking. I now understand the importance to be involved in social networking, and this is because of Rheingold's experience's and evidence that have been demonstrated throughout his book. In Interior Design, it is very important to be able to branch out and develop your networking skills because you never know when the day will come when you just happen to need that Architect or Surveyor that you met through social networking. Malcolm Gladwell's book "The Tipping Point" demonstrates how the act of one person can cause a word of mouth epidemic, and this relates to networking as you are passing on or retrieving which in no doubt will cause a world of mouth epidemic. Gladwell divides society into three groups, the Connectors, the Mavens and the Salesmen. Whether it is in actual life or "virtual communities" we all play a part in passing on information and helping to link ourselves up with the rest of the world.

To sum up, both sources agree that networking plays a very important role in society, however they agree in different ways, the first source's argument is that all networking can be done on-line whereas the second source's argument is that networking should be done physically, but however it is done, both agree that it is vital to any career.

In order to obtain further sources and information I would look at Diane C. Darlings journal "Networking for career success". This journal would further demonstrate the importance of networking, and help support her ideas in her journal that I looked at. I would also consider looking at "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell again as this book has quantities of information and evidence which would relate to and successfully support both author's arguments.


Darling, Diana C. (April 2003) The Networking Survival Guide:Get The Success You Want By Tapping Into The People You Know, The McGraw Hill Companies

Gladwell, Malcolm (2000) The Tipping Point, How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference, Little Brown

Rheingold, Howard (1994) The Virtual Community, Harper Collins

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