Social Studies in a Digital World

Filed Under All Posts, Cathy Fischer, Technology | 20 Comments

Cathy examines social interaction and social change in an ever-shifting landscape

Navigating the social graph is fraught with obstacles. If I were to draw a diagram, it would probably look something like a dream catcher with extra large holes. You’ve got your Real World Friends, and you’ve got your Facebook Friends: you’ve got your Facebook Friends who aren’t Real World Friends but work associates, your Facebook Friends who are old schoolmates, but not currently Real World Friends, and then you’ve got your Facebook Friends who are inspirational, famous or dead, who you wish could be your Real World Friends. It’s as exhausting as high school, navigating the world of cliques and mean girls. Read more

Friend Request

Filed Under All Posts, Group Posts, Prudence Baird, Relationships, Technology | 21 Comments


Prudence Baird reflects on midlife connections in the age of social media.

I know why baby boomers are joining Facebook faster than Bernie Madoff’s victims are moving in with their adult children.

We’re not done yet. We’re not done dominating popular culture as defined by our presence in the media, including the “social media” like Facebook and MySpace.

We’re not done with—even though we’ve long exceeded—our 15 minutes of fame. Each. We’re not done prancing in the spotlight—even if for some of us, it’s our first time. Read more

Sound Check

Filed Under All Posts, Cathy Fischer, Technology | 11 Comments


Cathy Fischer listens in on the sounds of yesterday and today.

The other day as I was driving down the street in North Berkeley, my reverie was interrupted by the all too familiar sound of a car alarm. As I got closer, I realized that the sound was coming from a classic yellow school bus. Honk, honk, honk… it repeated over and over again without breath or pause. Why, I wondered, did this particular alarm strike me as odd?

Okay, I sound a bit like Granny here, but stay with me. When I was young and rode the school bus, there was no such thing as a car alarm. The incessant alarm coming from that bus made me stop and wonder, what other modern noises have become a part of our surroundings? From the phone click of call-waiting to the bleeps of Tivoing through commercials, new conveniences have brought about new sounds. Read more

5 Reasons to Love White House-dot-Gov

Filed Under All Posts, Cathy Fischer, Politics, Technology | 7 Comments


My day job as a web content producer makes it natural, almost compulsory, for me to critique the new White House website.  While the site is not perfect, it’s a major improvement from its earlier incarnation which screamed bad design, stodginess and a “we could care less” attitude.

President Obama has been experiencing some rough speed bumps lately and pundits are saying the honeymoon is over, but not for me. Here are five reasons why I’m feelin’ the luv at White House-dot-Gov.

1)  Not just pixels, but people

The site launched on inauguration day; how did they pull it together so quickly? The stark contrast of “before and after” reminds me of the difference between McCain not using email and Obama holding on to his Blackberry for dear life.

The voice and intention behind the website is clear. A letter from the Director of New Media, Macon Phillips, lays it all out, “The White House’s new website…will serve as a place for the President and his administration to connect with the rest of the nation and the world.” Read more

Do the Write Thing

Filed Under All Posts, Prudence Baird, Technology | 12 Comments


“I can hardly remember the last time I received an actual letter let alone one I enjoyed as much as I did yours.

So begins a recent email I received last week. The writer wasn’t responding to a holiday form letter I sent, but a personal letter written only to her, telling of events transpired and thoughts I’ve had since my move to Vermont.

I sat down at my desk one wintry afternoon and wrote while a gentle snow tucked the world outside my window under a sparkling blanket of white. An email would have taken half that time, but would have given a quarter of the pleasure—to both writer and recipient.

Email replaces letter writing as our principal means of both casual and formal communication; it is, after all, so terribly convenient. But in bowing down to expediency, we are losing the detailed records of individual lives that inform the future about today. Read more

Technology: Blessing or Curse?

Filed Under All Posts, Cathy Fischer, Technology | 11 Comments

Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid. Human beings are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant. Together they are powerful beyond imagination.
—Attributed to Albert Einstein

At a conference last spring I learned that baby boomers have in fact embraced technology, however they are typically five years behind the curve. Early adopters? Not so much.

By day I’m an online producer. I work on websites. I don’t build them or make them function (the smart folks I work with do that) I’m all about content—what’s on the screen and how to get people to find, read, explore or interact with it—hoping it’s time well-spent. In the mid 1990s, I had a yellow handwritten Post-it Note on my computer. Like an affirmation it read, “Fear not the machine.” And soon, I got over it—the fear that is. Read more

And You Think You Got Change?

Filed Under All Posts, Connie Stetson, Reinvention, Technology | 7 Comments

Evolutionary art by Cristian René

Being in one’s fifties is a revelation and I am reveling in it. Though I never had as much energy in my life as I had in my thirties, I never looked as good in my life as I looked in my forties, I’ve never been smarter, more confident, more willing to say, “yes, I can” in my life than I am right now, and besides; my friends who love me and who wish to live long, tell me I look great! I am in the middle of C-H-A-N-G-E, change of career, change of habits, change of mind, change of life. The whole enchilada…the big megillah…seeing the larger picture…well, it’s all happening for me right now. Read more