My other place
Please feel free to drop by and offer words of encouragement.
(photo link via ashleyb)
It's no surprise that I think it's all good to think about the social bits!
I'm really looking forward to this - and the next time we see each other, we'll have to discuss post-structural ways of looking at social interaction... it's not all power laws and sunshine, you know ;)
Now that I think about it, when focus shifted from "online community" to "social software," associated methods and theories shifted too. The (quantitative) structural and systems approaches of social software leave little room for (qualitative) processual approaches to community or cultural interaction. But more on that some other time...
Update (29/01/04) - Two things:
1. Many thanks to those who recently invited me to join Orkut. Of course I signed up and played around, and then sent an email to the admin folks asking them to delete my account (don't get me started on how I feel about not being able to delete my own account). I'm not trying to be difficult or anti-social, but I just don't see the point of sites like these. They remind me too much of high school - and I hated high school. I do, however, enjoy all sorts of other types of social interaction (including email) so if you'd like to talk to me please feel free to write me directly :-)
2. Interesting post on the failure of the social network sites. "So why don't they work? Because they are not social networks." Exactly. And they sure as hell aren't communities either. Why did it take someone so long to say this?! (via m2m)
But I'll stop here, before I become indistinguishable from a curmudgeonly old man.
Update (30/01/04) - Michael has an excellent post about why social software doesn't work. "What designers of systems like Friendster and Tribe think are social networks is different from what social networks actually are. What TeledyN [linked in #2 above] misses is that his definition of social networks isn’t social networks either ... Real social network software looks a lot more like Echelon or CAPPS than it looks like any variant of Friendster, Tribe, or Orkut. In fact, it looks a lot like Big Brother. And that’s never going to sell." Heh heh.
Update (31/01/04) - Hmm. Michael claims that with sites like Orkut, "You don’t build networks; you play the network game." Seems he's right ;) I just received this message:
Hi Anne. At your request, your orkut.com account has been deleted. Thanks for playing.
Nope. Makes perfect sense to me. Not every fight is a good fight, and learning to fight the right battles may be tricky, but it's pretty important. It also helps to understand what sort of change you are trying to affect. If you're looking for points of intervention, you should probably understand the differences between points of decision, production, consumption, destruction and, my personal favourite, points of assumption.
And today Adam posted on something I have also noticed recently: what happens when the fringe goes mainstream? He uses porn as an example, and I have often wondered what will happen to notions of intimacy in a porn-saturated world? How will it change the ways we understand gender, sex and sexuality? How we view our own bodies and desires? Or how we react to the desires and bodies of others? And what about when all of this is directly - and for some, exclusively - tied to mass production and consumption? And then I wonder what is considered fringe sexuality when porn/BDSM/whatever is mainstream? What does it mean to be on the sexual edge these days? But then again, I'm not sure I really want to know ;)
On the more techical side, in Blending digital and physical spaces for ubiquitous community participation, Elizabeth Churchill, Andreas Girgensohn, Les Nelson and Alison Lee write:
The paper discusses the use of FX PAL's Plasma Poster Network at two professional conferences, and in order to evaluate its applicability outside contexts where there is a high knowledge of, and interest in, experimental technologies, they have recently "installed a digital community bulletin board in a café/gallery in San Francisco, linking it to an online community space where content about café activities is posted."
It should be interesting to see how that works out, and it reminded me of Eric Laurier's current research project, The Cappuccino Community : cafés and civic life in the contemporary city.
For more on everyday life in the caffeinated city, see also: A café as it happens; having breakfast out (Eric Laurier) and An ethnography of a neighbourhood café: informality, table arrangements and background noise (Eric Laurier, Angus Whyte, Kathy Buckner).
If you like more political perspectives, you might enjoy Raoul Vaneigem on The Space-Time Of Lived Experience (1967).
Difference is good. (via v-2)
Because skating interferes with the "normal" and "acceptable" use of public space, our attention is shifted to the relations between public action and silence. In other words, we can do what we want in public space, so long as we don't make any noise while doing it. Skateboarding challenges those limitations on public performance; it acts as social critique.
Both tunA and Sonic City may be understood as critical technologies, in the tradition of conceptual design, but their inability to disrupt public space prevents them from also being powerful types of social critique.
On the other hand, Glitch - part of the Tejp project and another of my case studies - is a good example of a critical technology capable of social critique:
Glitch draws our attention to the use of private technologies in public spaces, as well as amplifying less visible or audible signals, and consequently serves as a critique of some of the social and environmental aspects of mobile phones.
When we still focus so much on visual technologies and representation, as well as usability, sounding devices offer unique opportunities for abusability and technological and social critique - especially when used to challenge our understandings of public and private, local and global interaction.
In an article I wrote last year, I suggested that "moving through the city, and through public spaces, has always been a performative practice where the citizen is relatively able to use the material world for her own purposes and enjoyment, and engage in critiques of everyday life. Where ubiquitous technologies might fail is if they prevent or inhibit the ability of a person to experience the city on his own terms; if they start from a premise of what the city is rather than allowing it to emerge through the movements of its people."
In the same paper, I wrote that "...ubiquitous computing is the archetypal hybrid and mobile technology at work within a society of control ... Despite the appearance of novelty, ubiquitous computing draws on a long and complex history of relations between materials and ideas, industry and business, government and law, individuals and groups, to name but a few. All of these processes have been mobilised - and will continue to be mobilised - to shape Ubicomp as we know it ... For example, the technology that allows someone on the street to record their thoughts at a particular location and share it with others ... also mobilises local and global procedures and policies surrounding the use of city architecture and public space, the manufacture, implementation and ownership of computer hardware, and socio-technical assemblages for the acquisition and administration of data."
In other words, an 'open' technological system can be rendered impotent if it is embroiled in broader (social, political, economic, ethical etc.) systems that are 'closed'. Part of the struggles experienced by open-source initiatives and P2P networks is the very reality of their interconnection with contradictory practices.
But I'm also concerned that Howard may be following Bill Mitchell's utopian optimism a bit. He writes:
I'm afraid I don't see things working so smoothly - or equitably.
Steve Graham's work is much better prepared than Mitchell's to discuss the politics of mobility. Author, with Simon Marvin, of the excellent Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition (Chapter 1 here, notes here), he most recently edited the very interesting and useful Cybercities Reader.
Graham also leads the Urban Technology Design and Development research group of the Global Urban Research Unit at the University of Newcastle. And David Wood and Steve Graham recently presented a paper (doc) at the Alternative Mobility Futures Conference at Lancaster University, in which they persuasively argue that there is "a tendency towards technological lock-in which threatens to divide contemporary societies into high-speed, high-mobility, connected and low-speed, low-mobility, disconnected, classes."
In addition to the politics of mobility, networked cities also raise issues of network failure. (Many researchers at UbiComp 2003 commented on Mitchell's keynote assumption that this technology will actually function, let alone function well all the time.) In April, the Global Urban Research Unit will be organising the Urban Vulnerability and Network Failure: Constructions and Experiences of Emergencies, Crises and Collapse conference to address these very concerns.
Please forgive my utter lack of enthusiasm.
(via wood s lot)
Today I will pay attention to what I normally take for granted, and I'd love to hear what you notice if you do the same.
More [grid::rituals] here. Thanks for reminding me Andie!
The Sociological Department, under the leadership of the Reverend Samuel S. Marquis, was put in charge of administering the programme and investigating the home lives of workers: "investigators from the Sociological Department visited workers' homes and suggested ways to achieve the company's standards for 'better morals,' sanitary living conditions, and 'habits of thrift and saving'."
Ford workers would come to redefine what was meant by quality of life in the era of mass-production.
Inspired by welfare capitalism, Ford's "philosophy adopted a paternalistic attitude toward workers that, in Ford's case, was rooted in the Protestant work ethic. Ford believed in it and wanted his employees to adopt it..." And Ford's social standards reached far beyond the confines of work-life. The PBS film Demon Rum documents the Sociological Department's efforts to "end the working man's drinking habit" and how the "success of the small program led to a national prohibition campaign."
Apparently, many workers felt the wage - and social benefits - outweighed the intrusions into their personal lives. And many people found ways around the rules.
But, damn, that's creepy sociology! (And not just because our cultural mosaic approach to ethnic relations makes more sense to me, despite its own multicultural high weirdness.)