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'Stanford Open Office Hours' comes to Facebook

L.A. Cicero Phil Zimbardo

Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus of psychology, in seminar.

BY CYNTHIA HAVEN

Stanford University is bringing office hours to Facebook by spotlighting world-class faculty on its Stanford University Facebook profile (http://facebook.com/stanford).

At most universities, instructors set aside a few hours each week for students to drop by for conversation. Stanford Open Office Hours is a public version of that tradition, an experiment that will bring conversations with some of Stanford's most interesting people to Facebook.

Anyone is welcome to watch the videos online for free. To comment or ask questions, however, viewers must have a Facebook registration and be logged in.

To receive new videos in Facebook newsfeeds, users should become a Fan of Stanford on Facebook by clicking on "Become a Fan" in the upper lefthand corner at http://facebook.com/stanford.

The Stanford Open Office Hours begins with an introductory video from a faculty member on the Facebook page, inviting questions from participants, who post questions and comments. In subsequent weeks, the professor will answer questions on video.

On Thursday, the latest session will feature psychology Professor Emeritus Philip Zimbardo, who came to international fame with the Stanford Prison Experiment, a classic demonstration of how power distorts personal values, personal identity and individual morality, both in the power-holders and the victims. However, the last chapter in his 2007 book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, introduced the newest direction in Zimbardo's research: What makes ordinary people act heroically, even as those around them succumb to evil? He is also the founder of the Stanford Shyness Clinic, and the author of last year's The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life.

Zimbardo's Facebook appearance follows last month's conversation with Dr. Abraham Verghese of the School of Medicine. Verghese, known for his deep experience with terminal patients and advocacy of bedside medicine and compassionate doctor care, is author of My Own Country and Cutting for Stone.

B.J. Fogg, founder and director of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab and author of Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do, hosted the first Stanford Open Office Hours on Facebook in March.

"It shrank the world dramatically and brought people outside Stanford to my ideas," he said. "There was this sudden sense of 'Wow! There's somebody from Turkey!'

"It was super-reinforcing," he said, noting Facebook's power to bring a new audience to his work.

Fogg had the experience both as a host and as a guest when he participated in Verghese's office hours. "When you are watching someone explain his or her ideas, there's a personal connection that's hard to do in the text.

"I really got a feel for him, beyond reading his words. It adds a layer of insight on top of the words. It's a different way to understand."

Stanford hopes to bring a varied and interesting collection of Stanford thinkers to Facebook on an ongoing basis.

Facebook has about 200 million users; half of them log in every day, making it a convenient way for learners worldwide to incorporate thought-provoking and interesting educational content in their day-to-day lives, since videos appear in the newsfeed of Stanford Fans.

According to Ian Hsu, Stanford's director of Internet media outreach, "In a way, this is a natural evolution of the university's existing efforts to make its discoveries and knowledge easily and widely accessible online via Stanford on YouTube, Stanford on iTunes U and Stanford Engineering Everywhere."