Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Riddle of the Sphinx

This weekend was the celebration for the 100th anniversary of the mock-Flemish castle of The Harvard Lampoon, which was designed by Edmund March Wheelwright. Yes, the Lampoon is, in a number of ways, a secret society, but access to digital cameras and Internet posting is changing its public face profoundly. For example, this Flickr set of the spectacle leading up to the party within the castle's walls, which was designed by my partner Mel Horan, represents just a small portion of the social media responses to the event. One of the musicians who performed on the Castle steps also recorded the event in her blog.

Not all digital citizens have warm feelings about the humor organization. A few years ago, Lampoon members participated in sending a fake e-mail that purported to announce that unpopular president Larry Summers would not be stepping down. The prank was derided by the magazine's publishing rival The Harvard Crimson. However, this coverage in Ivy Gate addresses the larger issues of Internet credibility raises that the stunt raises. (Apparently in excuting such pranks, Lampoon members have to resort to elaborate measures to avoid violating the university's computer use policies, such as typing in all e-mail addresses by hand.)

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