Tuesday, April 3, 2012

UMass Boston HGSA

Presented my research at UMass Boston's History graduate Student Association's first graduate history conference entitled "The Value of Historical Work" this past weekend.

As a result of the conference the various discussions and questions from the audience, many questions into the Human Flesh Search Engine have arisen. The most basic, where did the name originate? Why this literal meaning of the phrase? My answer is that what began as a human-run method of collaboration to uncover obscure information faster than accessing a database or offline medium has evolved into a human-run method of collaboration which targets humans.

Another topic that seemed to be of interest was comparisons to the internet in America, most notably the growth of online collaboration. I've recently been thinking about this area myself as I see echoes of the HFSE on websites such as Tumblr and Reddit, not to mention the recent controversy of potential employers insisting interviewees to turn over their Facebook passwords. However, what about the internet in America stops online collaboration from turning into a witch hunt?

Another current event to consider - how web groups aimed to target corrupt governments and incite protests thrive on internet anonymity - just look at the group Anonymous.

The conference also allowed me (with help from the audience) make deeper historical connections to the Cultural Revolution-era of Chinese history. On one sense, the HFSE is powered by young, college-aged students who are utilizing the internet and HFSE to enact justice. This is comparable to the Cultural Revolution which was powered by Red Guards of the same age-group who were mostly urban youth who left the cities to live among the peasants. 

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