Man killed wife in Facebook row

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A woman who changed her status to ‘single’ days after her husband moved out was stabbed to death as a result.

I am intrigued about how our public (or semi-public) faces are becoming increasingly significant and meaningful in social software environments. Would the husband have reacted the same if she had removed her wedding ring? Would he even have known? And would we shout the things we shout in our profiles and mood messages if we were in a room with the same group of people as those who read them?

The thing that bugs me about most current social sites is that I am the same thing to all people. In real life, I show different faces in different contexts with different people. In social space, I am just one thing (or at least no more than two or three). We need much finer grained control over what we reveal, to whom, when and in what circumstances. Elgg ( is heading in the right direction but it is still very coarse grained and insensitive to context.

Would more variegated and richer permissions on her profile have saved the life of the woman in this case? Perhaps not: It is highly possible that she was deliberately sending a signal to her husband, and (perhaps) deliberately telling all their friends at the same time. But maybe she did not think of it as direct communication at all. Maybe she was just saying something about herself with no particular thought of an audience, maybe just asserting her new-found freedom. Perhaps if FaceBook had given her more shades of grey to play with she might still be alive. OK, maybe that’s stretching it a bit. But, if we are to really use these things effectively in education, we must get these issues sorted out.
Created:Fri, 17 Oct 2008 20:37:13 GMT

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor and Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment, at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems. I am a proud Canadian, though I was born in the UK. I am married, with two grown-up children, and three growing-up grandchildren. We all live in beautiful Vancouver.

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