Thursday, February 09, 2006

Nothing Ever Dies on the Internet

Anyone who has done or said much on the Internet, or anymore even just in the public sphere, is probably aware of leaving "footprints" on the Internet. Such footprints can be found by simply Googling your own name. I know that a Google search of my name turns up a fairly rounded picture of me, including links on my politics, hobbies, and professional career. Some of that goes back pretty far, back to the days of Usenet, a loose collection of "newsgroups" (topic-oriented bulletin boards) that preceded the Internet as we know it today, and that only older geeks will remember. I'm somewhat surprised that near the top of the hits list in Googling me, one finds several references to things that I once wrote on a newsgroup called soc.motss (a gay social bulletin board) in the early 1990s. Things that I wrote 12 or 14 years ago have been squirreled away by somebody somewhere and have been discovered by Google over a decade later.

We used to talk about many things on soc.motss, but one "thread" (conversation) that I had long forgotten was about a book called "Love and Limerence" by Dorothy Tennov, a psychologist whose project was to apply the rigors of social science to an analysis of falling and being in love. I never read the book, but merely responded at some point, to someone's summary of it. I was rather sceptical, thinking that being in love was more a proper topic for poetry and literature than social science. Describing lovers as "limerent objects" and trying to analyze and measure romance seemed as ridiculous as trying to touch a mirage. Well, anyway, I guess something that I said about it got quoted by someone else, and that quote got squirreled away by someone else, and that footprint is still out there. I guess I wrote that some 14 years ago or so, but I'd certainly forgotten all about it. That is, until yesterday, when I received a petulant email from none other than Dorothy Tennov herself, who wrote:
From: Dorothy Tennov
To: Tom Chatt
Subject: your comment about me was wrong

Totally wrong: The whole project [the sociologist Tennov's theory of "limerence"] depends on the belief that vector mathematics is meaningfully analogous to human emotions. Sorry. I just don't buy it.-- Tom Chatt

I'm not a sociologist, I'm an independent scholar. And I never said anything about vector math. Look me up.

Dorothy Tennov
I just shook my head in amazement. Some things never die on the Internet. I guess Dorothy Tennov was Googling herself and somehow came across that snippet of a newsgroup thread circa 1992. Poor Dorothy needs to get a life. I did look her up. The first thing on her website, after her nebulous grand mission statement, is her rebuttal to a 1994 critical review of her book. Talk about defensive. I'm guessing that "independent scholar" really means "I couldn't even find a social sciences faculty who would take me seriously". Even her rebuttal to my quote shows pretty poor reading comprehension. I thought of replying to her email, but it seems more appropriate to just let it surface in some Internet search. Maybe in 2018.


Hal Stern said...

As long as I've known you, Tom,
you've separated the scientific
side from the social side. And
rather successfully, I should add,
making you the fun and well-balanced
good guy that you are. Perhaps the
only social science experiement that
proves otherwise is also something
that the Internet can't forget:
Google on "Nude Olympics" and you'll
discover a photograph circa 1982
in which I'm quite certain it's my
butt that's been airbrushed and you're the smart one wearing ski

Bernadette said...

Tom, I think Dorothy Tennov was entitled to comment on your comment as passed down.... I find your tone aggressive and a bit nasty she perhaps did also! You could at least read the book!

Anonymous said...

I think you're a real prick, Tom. Dorothy's dead now and you're still kicking around the internet, defacing her work. In the mean time, some one needs to remind you how much you suck. Your writing is useless and boring.

You're a leech that needs to be peeled off of Dorothy Tennov's name. You sure didn't deserve my page view.