Six Degrees of Kevin Driscoll

This is a blog post that Liz Losh wrote about me this week. She posted a big photo of me from Facebook and slapped it up on her site with a few terrific comments about our virtual hand-shaking moments. We share a lot of mutual friends in various social networking sites and have relatively similar academic experiences.

I’m now getting all meta on Liz by posting on my blog about her post on her blog. It’s hot.

Yes, she’s right. There are all kinds of cool network theories about things like this. And I think that whatever the theories are, it’s true that many of us know many others of us for all kinds of weird reasons.

The “Six Degrees of Separation” game? phenom? and its numerous mods are not so strange to us because we know them to be somewhat true. In fact, in doing some research on Wikipedia recently, I was able to watch a cut of a video interview that a guy named Kevin Driscoll gave during last year’s Wikimania conference here in Cambridge. In the video, Kevin talks about a game that Wikipedians sometimes play whereby two people name two seemingly-unrelated topics and they challenge each other to find the quickest routes through Wikipedia. The person who can find the least number of links between the two topics wins.

One of the interesting things about me telling you this story is that I’ve never actually met Kevin Driscoll, but I do consider him a friend. Kevin and I have often been in the same place at the same time but never actually saw each other or came in close presence with one another. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of Kevin Driscoll’s name until this past January when he applied to be a graduate student in the Comparative Media Studies program here at MIT. I was blown away by his application and was thrilled when he was admitted to the program. When he was admitted, I found out that he was a friend of a good friend and former student of mine, Matt Boch.

kevin driscoll

Turns out, Matt Boch and Kevin Driscoll have known one each other for years. Matt Boch once said to me, “there’s not a lot I don’t know about Kevin Driscoll.” Kevin Driscoll suddenly began appearing everywhere. I found his blog and discovered we knew several people in-common, which is a little strange considering I just moved to Cambridge about 10 months ago. I heard from a student of mine that Kevin presented a fantastic session at a conference I happened to miss because I was out of town. I heard from my friend Anna that they were using this video clip of Kevin in a piece we were working on for the New Media Literacies project here. I heard from Matt Boch that Kevin was sad that his girlfriend was moving away. I added Kevin on Facebook, on Flickr, and linked to his blog from mine. Kevin started a listserv of all the incoming CMS grad students and included me on the list. By all accounts, Kevin and I should have met by now. We live in the same city. We have many of the same friends. We are both members of the same academic program. We still have not met.

I am confident that when I do meet Kevin Driscoll it will be either really cool or really lame. Dunno which. But though we’ve only given each other virtual handshakes, I know that Kevin Driscoll is awesome, especially because he knows Matt Boch. As many folks in Cambridge have already come to realize, anyone who’s cool enough to know Matt Boch is pretty much awesome.

4 responses to “Six Degrees of Kevin Driscoll

  1. you’re awesome! i’m writing from a funny hotel in downtown baltimore. my dad and brother are watching nature shows on tv.

    do you find that this redefinition of friendship causes friction with less online-oriented pals? some people close to me feel slighted by my willingness to confer “friend” status to people with whom I have shared very little one-to-one communcation.

    also, can you post a link to these wikimania articles?

  2. yeah, i’ve noticed that sometimes friends of mine who aren’t online (or who “as a rule” don’t join online social networking sites) think that these kinds of friendships are somehow less meaningful. but those are usually the kinds of people who tend to think that ALL online relationships are shallow.

    nature shows on t.v. are surprisingly interesting. and i never watch them at home. only in weird downtown baltimore hotels. what a coincidence!

    the wikimania stuff i was referring to is the video we’re making about wikipedia as part of the NML project. holler at me when you’re back in town and i’ll show you. maybe we can even meet f2f then. ha.

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