November 06, 2007

Stowe Boyd: We build our tools, and they shape us


Marshall McLuhan – wrote about the way that mass-media was affecting society, and coined the term “global village” in the 60s to describe the way that society would change with the advent of worldwide communication networks.

Social Tools – as much of a revolution as email was 10 years ago

Lifestreaming tools – twitter, jaiku, facebook mini-feed. Hard to rationalise why these are appealing technologies; the only way is to try it.

Social == Me First. Social tools are primarily organised around self-interest, not altruistic participation in a community. Community, where it emerges, is a side-effect of the tools.

The Dunbar Constant (Robin Dunbar). An individual can only keep up with at most ~150 other people. Can technology increase that number?

In the US, since the 50s people have spending less and less time in social activities; the primary driver for this has been television. The internet has, to an extent, reversed this trend; as people switch from TV to social networking.

Lots and lots of skills are only learnable by spending time doing them, and can’t easily be achived by simply concentrating really hard. Stowe asserts that life-streaming apps, and immersion in the flow of social data, leads to a gradual change in outlook and capabilities, becoming better at socializing on the web.

Continuous Partial Attention: lack of personal productivity may be outweighed by the increase in productivity of the network as a whole.

Every time a new medium comes along, workplace management see it as an impact on productivity and resist it. This happened with phones, email, internet access, IM,... but eventually they give in and realise that people are smart, and will use the new tools to their advantage.

People will increasingly turn away from mass media and towards social networks as the primary mechanism for learning about the world; the media will move into social-scale applications to try to resolve this

Workstreaming – impact of social networking on the world of work. 2008 will be the year that stream-based apps move into business.

The War on Flow – there are lots of people who will argue against pervasive social networks; arguing that they’re less productive or less reliable (in information terms). Stowe believes that the rise of social networks, and the associated societal change (which will be every bit as disruptive as the effects of television, but much more positive), is inevitable however

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