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How Social is Social Software?

Socialsoftware Hello.  My name is Josh Levy and I'm a new blogger at iDC.  Like the other writers here, I'm interested in "social software" -- a phrase that writers and technophiles casually use to describe a host of different web applications.  My work at Hunter College, where I'm in the Integrated Media Arts MFA program, centers on using technology to facilitate community-building and social awareness.  "Social software" can potentially play a role in this and my work is an investigation into how this might happen; however, it's hard to read about technologies like blogs, wikis, and social bookmarking and tagging services without getting stuck in the business-oriented hype surrounding them.  I'm wondering if, because of their emphasis on social contexts and reliance on community input, these technologies can be put to use to help build communities, much in the way that community newspapers have functioned for the last 150 years.

A common criticism (one that I share) of personal networking software like Friendster, MySpace, or Facebook is that it contributes to "iPod culture," a culture that's becoming more and more atomized and insular and encourages consumers to tailor everything in their world to their own tastes, dispensing with the unpredictable world outside their earbuds.  Although they're "socially" oriented, these sites are often geared towards helping individuals to congratulate themselves for their collections of friends, hobbies, and interests.  They don't always facilitate social relationships outside of pre-existing ones.

I think there's a way to harness the networking strength of those sites and add the strengths of blogs, wikis, VoiP, tagging, etc., to make them help people build communities based on mutual interest and need, both within and without academia.  While the business world debates the staying power of the Web 2.0, the non-profit world and academia can benefit from the truly remarkable potential these technologies represent.

10:05 AM | Permalink

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Hi Josh,

I often wonder about the lack of theory and artwork in the area that you delineate. And I wholeheartedly agree that the business-emphasis dominates certainly most of writing on cooperation-enhancing technologies. Perhaps it's the critics who have to feed families who are prone to go in that direction (i.e. get paid $10.000/per month to blog on Microsoft's weblog).

On this blog it'd be interesting to share and discuss examples of artworks and other projects that use social software tools to aid activist groups.


Posted by: Trebor Scholz | Mar 1, 2006 10:17:27 AM

I don't have a problem with the world being more connected

Posted by: Jack | Mar 21, 2008 2:16:32 PM

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