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A blog post from Jeffrey Young on “Wired Campus” from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Sent by Dr. Reynolds. This is fascinating. Note that Professor Terry asks students to disconnect from Facebook so that they can begin to fathom its impact on their lives. THIS POST IS PROBABLY A COPYRIGHT VIOLATION, AND I WILL TAKE IT DOWN SHORTLY.

Professor’s ‘Enemies’ Plug-In for Facebook Goes Viral

March 30, 2012, 4:34 pm

By Jeffrey R. Young

A Texas professor asked for enemies on Facebook, and he got them.

Earlier this week, The Chronicle broke the story of a Facebook app called EnemyGraph, which lets users of the popular network declare enemies. The word is intended to be meant loosely, according to its creator, Dean Terry, who is director of the emerging-media program at the University of Texas at Dallas. He says he intended to spark discussion about how Facebook shapes social interactions, and it seems to have worked.

That discussion raged this week, as the story got picked up in dozens of blogs and newspapers across the globe. A week ago, only about 300 people had installed the app, but today that number stands at more than 20,000, said Mr. Terry in an e-mail interview. “The rapid growth of the user base has also been somewhat surprising, but we are excited about it,” he said.

The organizers had to move the service to more robust servers, and even then they could not keep up with traffic at some points. At times the service is still slow.

Some posts and comments have been critical of the service as a potentially dangerous tool for cyberbullies.

Mr. Terry argues that the app is not designed for personal attacks. “It’s much less about individuals than it is about expressing dislike for cultural objects,” he said. “Our aim was to see what happens when people were given an opportunity to express collective dissonance on a platform that normally only tolerates it, and we’ve learned a ton.”

One of Mr. Terry’s colleagues, Dave Parry, an assistant professor of emerging media at the University of Texas at Dallas, argued on his blog that the effort succeeded in making people rethink their use of social media. He called it: “Part art project, part performance, part critique, part technical object, part critique of technology, part network exploit, part strategic operation.” He said he tries to encourage the same kinds of discussions about Facebook in courses he teaches, in which he asks students to disconnect from the service to better reflect on the role it generally plays in their lives.

“This isn’t to say that professors ought to adopt the ‘stir [expletive] up’ model that Dean and I both prefer, or even that it is appropriate for every class, but certainly there is a pedagogical advantage to having students actively critique and create media objects that exist beyond the classroom,” Mr. Parry wrote.

Facebook does not appeared to have pulled the plug on the app, as both the professors had feared. The company has refused to comment on it.

We’ve asked Mr. Terry how many people have declared him an enemy on the system, but we’re still waiting to hear back from him with that detail. Update: So far Mr. Terry has 18 enemies through his app, most of which are people who he is also “friends” with on Facebook.

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