New Civilization News: Social Software    
 Social Software10 comments
14 May 2003 @ 15:01, by Flemming Funch

There's a buzz about social software, software for better connecting people together, facilitating that they find like-minded people, work more closely together, etc. Ray Ozzie, the creator of Lotus Notes and now Groove, says:
"What's incredibly exciting to me is that a confluence of factors e.g. ubiquitous computing, networking, web and RAD technologies, the state of the job market - in essence, loosely coupled systems and loosely coupled minds - have created what amounts to a petri dish for experimentation in systems for social network formation, management and interpersonal interaction. An exciting time to be exploring what may happen to social structures, to organizations and to society when the friction between our minds can be reduced to zero ... to the point where we can truly have superconductive relationships."
Superconductive Relationships! Yeah, that's what I'm looking for. But, if you follow the link to Don Park's Blog to "Misgivings about Social Software", you'll see that there are also potentially negative sides to examine.
"Korea is emerging as one of the most advanced Internet nation in the world. Young Koreans, in particular, live and breath Internet, each belonging to large number of online communities. One would expect them to be well informed and objective, yet they are not. Their views are warped and often radical. While all the world's information is at their fingertip, they consume information subjectively and produce misinformation biased by their views. Adding highly effective social software to this is frightening to me.

When I was last in Korea, a close friend of mine told me he was thinking about sending his six-year old daughter to schools in the US. I was shocked. How could he think this way? He said he initially thought the idea ridiculous, but he changed his mind after talking with people he knew, people who are just as well-to-do as his family. Apparently, they are all thinking the same thing and this warped his common sense."
There's a point there. Sufficiently pervasive and effective social software might allow groups of people to walk around in a completely different reality, and have it be continuously reinforced by people you're connected with. I suppose we're for example talking about players of online multi-player virtual reality games. And I do notice that for my 16 year old son, his social relationships within Asheron's Call, or whatever he's playing right now, often are more real than then ones in this world. And if we make the software better and better? Hmmm.

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14 May 2003 @ 15:10 by quidnovi : And what if we make the software
better and better? Hmmm.

- Oh, I don't know, maybe we could call it..."Earth 2"?
(Or what is it they say about sequels? ---But it's not always true, what they say. There are some known instances of sequels which actually turned out to be better than the original/s :-)  

14 May 2003 @ 15:40 by quidnovi : Cultural Ecumenism
It is a good question though. Will technological progress free us from economical/cultural/political Ecumenism or will it reinforce our bondage instead?

I suppose that the matter of control is most certainly an issue, of course, (centralized control vs. free flow) as is the question of how people are/will be ultimately using such technologies (Libraries are full of books that people have never read) but what of “superconductive” communication? I don't know. It looks to me that if I had the means to cause you at all time to experience the world EXACTLY as I experience it---see what I see, hear what I hear, feel what I feel---it would just be a matter of time before you start seeing the world as I see it. And what then? What of diversity and pluralism?  

14 May 2003 @ 16:03 by quidnovi : What is a cluster?
OK, I just read Don Park's {link:|Blog}.

I quote:

"In a sense, social clusters form gravity wells which has its own local physical laws and is difficult to escape from..."
---Don Park

Hmmm...we are threading on rather murky territories here, Ming. What is a cluster? Though, this might seem like a new question, it has been asked before: {link:|what is a cult?} It does bring interesting (and highly controversial) questions about Mind control, Brainwahsing, and Deprogramming...  

14 May 2003 @ 16:17 by ming : Diversification
Maybe it is exactly what we need. That we're able to group together into drastically different realities. As opposed to us all arriving at some kind of uniform agreement about everything. I am pretty sure that we need lively, creative diversity, as opposed to bland uniformity.

But the fears that it brings up is if it enables people to walk around together in what might be perceived as more negative or dysfunctional realities. Such as violent, hate-based, mis-informed communities who start taking action based on their shared beliefs.

So, maybe better social software would allow the ku-klux klan to organize better, and to feed itself with self-supporting information. Maybe it will enable gangs of delusional teens who think the world is a dungeon where you shoot Nazi's with bigger and bigger guns. But I think I'll lean towards believing that the larger effects of better communication will more than balance out the potentially dangerous aspects.

Powerful social software might allow a small group of people to work closely together on some nefarious plot. But it might also allow millions of other people to work together on rendering such a plot useless.  

14 May 2003 @ 16:25 by ming : Cults
Groups tend to become cults when their members no longer are able to compare tenets with their alternatives. Many groups are based on some kind of model or map or set of shared beliefs and assumptions. If there's an atmosphere of healthy questioning of those assumptions, then it isn't a cult. But the moment those beliefs just become REALITY, and beyond questioning, that's when we're talking about cult behavior.

That of course ends up including a great many religious people, political views, fundamentalist materialist science. You know, where their adherents think that THIS IS JUST THE WAY IT IS, and there's no discussing it. And when you have to persecute or ridicule people who have other beliefs, because everybody else are just so plain WRONG.  

14 May 2003 @ 17:04 by quidnovi : Tea from an empty cup
On the positive side, because of its very nature, the illusory (virtual) world of cyberspace might help promote that old General Semantic notion that "the map is not the territory." While people hardly question "reality" (i.e. their perception of it, or the things around them---media, peers, etc.---that reinforce that perception) they know that virtual reality is "make-believe". The interesting thing is that some of that awareness has been making it from the virtual world into the "real" world. The awareness that virtual reality is an artificial construct is raising people consciousness of the fact that the world they live in, is too a cultural construct. It could be that the "Matrix generation" will be, as a result, less likely to take for granted the way things "just are."  

15 May 2003 @ 14:14 by Jon @ : First, we shape our structures......,
I think we can take it for granted that there will be better and better, smoother, easier software - there's no "master plan" by anyone deciding what will and what won't get built, other than VC's, the "market", and so on.

Can't we (already) consider electronic games as "social software" as well ? I'm guessing that the gaming "idiom" will eventually pervade much of what the average user will see in terms of the software he/she uses (aaat work, at home, when out - and so shall it be in other electronic media. Didn't a lot of the "war coverage" seem kinda like it belonged in some game or other ?

I think there's a good chance the game is over already - behaviours have and will continue to shift, the way we are in-formed (shaped by information) will continue to creep up on us until one day we lift our heads and find that "Holy Cow, how did this happen - new controls, things we can't do any more, splintered, fragmented, speed-up lives - the whole shooting match will have changed, as it were - just as Boomers start to retire in massive numbers, and the digital generations take over our "institutions".


17 May 2003 @ 14:01 by sharie : Greater Engagement in the Community
That was an interesting idea FreedomBuilder mentioned... that children interact with the community in a way to sustain their own livelihood, by encouraging their growth and development, nurturing their self-reliance, and utilizing their creativity. What a great concept. In some pacific island cultures, children are responsible for the spiritual development of their community - they lead the spiritual services - weddings, funerals, initiations, daily spiritual gatherings, and so on. This seems like a great place to start.

I'm the die-hard advocate for gift economy too, so I think this could transform the world in a wonderful way. In my town, there is berries, pears, apples, cherries, and other fruits that grow wild... and often goes to waste on the ground. Children could pick them, prepare them for freezing or dehydrate them, bag them, and offer them for free. Flowers too are abundant and could be given freely. This could start a whole new economy... parents wouldn't have to work so many hours to buy food and flowers for example. It would be just a start, but I can see this could have a great domino effect. If more people contributed freely, there would be so much more for everyone, we'd all feel enriched, and less stressed.

As the boomers retire in massive numbers and the digital generations take over... what a world that'll be. Any ideas on how that'll pan out? I'd like to see Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, and their friends retire ASAP. (Bush has been on an extended vacation and hasn't contributed an original thought... ever... so he needs to find a job.)  

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