June 18, 2012

SFU Woodward’s Cultural Unit, University of Victoria, the French Consulate in Vancouver and the Or Gallery present a public debate:

Are we witnessing a friendship inflation? And the subsequent devaluation of the very word “friend” due to its ubiquitous use on social networks and other forms of public participation?

The noun has become a verb: ‘to friend’ and seems to cover new ways of relating to virtual and real communities. Many have emphasized the change in habits and vocabulary brought by recent technologies allowing numerous and diverse groups to meet on line through organizations such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Nevertheless, the novelty of technology may well refer to an old chicken and egg debate: if these networking technologies have been developed and if they met success, surely they were answering needs and desires from numbers of people and, even if they helped fashion these needs into the forms of wall-pages or chats, they cannot be the ultimate cause for the social networking frenzy of the last decade.

Rather than to watch from close our current practices, the debate proposes a detour by bygone ways of networking for thinking our present times: “friend” has been a buzzword for a very long time in Western culture, especially during the periods of redefinition of nations, frontiers, and social roles such as the Renaissance or the Enlightenment.

The success of public declarations of friendship is not new either. On the contrary, it seems that friendship, positioned on the threshold of public and private spheres, has been a way of proposing alternative structures for political or institutional rigidness. In particular, in times of war, exile, or, more recently, globalization and growing powerlessness, friendship can be perceived as a reinvention of citizenship.

Moderated by Colin Browne, SFU Film Professor

This event is free and open to all. Please RSVP here:


Participant Bios

Françoise Waquet, a team leader and director of Research on History of Knowledge at the CNRS (Paris), has written and directed numerous books, journal issues, and over 120 articles on the learned networks of Early Modern Europe. Notably, she has authored La République des Lettres, 1997; Les Enfants de Socrate, 2008 and Respublica academica, 2010 . She has edited, among many other titles Forms of Communication in the Republic of Letters, 1600-1750, 1994, and Mapping the World of Learning. The Polyhistory of Daniel Georg Morhof, 2000. She is the guest-lecturer invited by the French Consulate in Vancouver.

Theresa Lalonde started working for CBC Radio when she was a teenager, hosting CBC North’s Saturday Night Request show. She’s also been a reporter and producer in Ontario and Nova Scotia before joining the Vancouver newsroom in 2000. She’s worked for national radio programs and local news, now producing for radio, TV and the web. She’s been a key player in CBC Vancouver’s social media training and strategy and has covered social media’s impact in the city extensively. Currently she works for Radio 2 on the weekend Opera and Classical programs.

James D. Fleming is Associate Professor of English at Simon Fraser University, where he teaches Renaissance literature and hermeneutic theory. He is the author of a monograph, Milton’s Secrecy (2008), and editor of an essay collection, The Invention of Discovery, 1500-1700 (2011). He recently co-hosted, at SFU Harbour Centre, the international conference Scientiae: Disciplines of Knowing in the Early-Modern World.

Hélène Cazes is Associate Professor in French and Medieval Studies at the University of Victoria. She studies humanism, defined as an art of asking questions and questioning answers: a scholar of Renaissance texts and networks, she spent the last years working on public declarations of friendship in 16th c. war-stricken Europe. For more information, visit