Friday, August 3, 2007

I am a "third back-up"

No, I'm not talking about computers. A friend's wife is expecting a baby and they already have a little girl who is about 18 months old, so when the baby comes, I am 3rd in line to watch the little girl. --of the three of us on the list, my own kids are youngest, so I guess that makes me least eligible, or something like that. My own require the most attention, this actually means, which I hope is a function of age. Anyway, my friend is quite anxious because if his wife needs a C-section, she won't be able to lift either baby for about 10 days, my friend works full-time, and their families are far away. He asked "what will we do?" And I said, "you call me, and M, and S, and T, (other friends) and you ask for help, of course." Parents know that you have to help other parents because you have to be able to trust others will help you, and it's the right thing anyway.

--I'm also thinking about how no one ever flames parents for asking newbie questions, which we all have done, in spite of reading all the manuals and guides obsessively. The first thing parents learn is that infants are full of buggy software, installing new apps never goes as planned, predicting up or down-time is impossible, and the documentation never seems to cover your exact problem, the error messages are well nigh unintelligible (voice recognition training takes forever). Even input and output are pretty unreliable.

Really, after kids, computers are an f-ing cakewalk.

I bring all this up because it occurred to me that in all the discussion of how communities work, and why some people will help others with computer stuff for free, or put effort into communities for free, this is one model I've never heard mentioned. That is, I think just about anyone who has had children understands that sometimes you have to just ask for help without knowing if you'll ever be able to repay it, and sometimes you offer help without worrying about being repaid. Both cases require swallowing your pride, I'd say. Maybe that's why it's not discussed, because people are so firm in believing that net culture is all about reputation. (I assume it's not lack of experience, because net/computer/whatever scholars can't all be childless!) And people think the web is all about impatience; but regardless of anything else, parenting requires incredible patience for years on end, with consistently insufficient sleep.

Also, thinking about intellectual property, our children represent perhaps the only group to whom most of us will give money, time, energy, and maybe most important, ideas, without the least concern about who gets the credit. Maybe this last sounds silly, but it's rather novel for an academic who lives and prospers on the strength of her ideas (or doesn't).

Well, I think the failure to consider parenting as a useful behavioral model might represent a blindspot in the research. Not sure yet; now that I've thought of the possibility, I have to watch and see if it seems to be borne out. (so to speak. *g*)

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