Radio Iowa 08-03-06 Researchers say technology can divide, not bring people together by Stella Shaffer A study shows Americans have fewer closer personal friends than they used to. A media specialist thinks there's a link between that study and another showing the website "MySpace" is now the number-one website in the country. Iowa State University journalism professor Michael Bugeja says technology can divide us, instead of bringing people together. Bugeja says if you look at the way we use technology and "consume media," there's little time in the day for personal relationships. He says Iowa and this part of the country has been known for good manners, civility and "genuineness." He says technology "kind of homogenizes that culture and gives us a new media culture," rather than the "culture of place," which he says is more authentic. The great challenge for leadership in this age, for academics, lawmakers and businesspeople in big cities as well as Iowa is knowing when to send a memo and when to have a meeting in person, instead. "When do we have a telephone call? When do we send an e-mail?" He says technology has lots of useful applications, but it's a trick to balance those with the importance of in-person contact. He says we can't let computers and digital devices take the place of physical encounters. "They are there to supplement, not supplant, face-to-face contact, and not only among friends or peer groups but in our community." He calls it interpersonal intelligence, and says we should teach kids in school when technology is appropriate and when it's not, including when they need real teachers and not just teaching programs. Bugeja is in California, where he moderated a panel last (Wednesday) night titled "Facing the FaceBook" at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.