corante ssa: david weinberger opening remarks

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Today I'm at the Corante Symposium on Social Architecture (hereafter referred to as "SSA"), which is an interesting collection of both "the usual suspects" and some faces that are new to me. Stowe Boyd from Corante did some welcoming remarks, and then turned things over to David Weinberger.

David breaks the shit and fuck barriers in the first two minutes of his talk. His powerpoint is for shit, he's fucked because he dropped his laptop and it won't work now. (And by transcribing that, I've probably just guaranteed that this blog post will be filtered by most library computers...)

David starts by saying that we're all probably tired of explaining blogs at conferences (most of us never expected that we'd be using the term "reverse chronological order" quite so often, he says). This symposium assumes that everyone here is past the point of needing to have the technology carefully explained to them.

He says that social software is in some sense the fulfillment of the hope that the Internet could fundamentally change relationships in business contexts.

References Eleanor Rosch, and says we need to start by defining what we include within the umbrella term of social software. Tosses out a list of tools (wikis, weblogs, email, IM, etc), then asks what these things have in common?

  • they connect people to people
  • they tend to be relatively low-tech, small, bottom-up, inexpensive
  • very human, suffused with human voice

He talks about the publishers' responses to Google Print, and says the stupidity of the arguments is an indication of the fear of cultural change--"both sides are getting stupider," he says, which is the indicator of significant change. The battle he sees is between centralized, controlled information and a "wide-open" model of information that the web represents.

(My unspoken question: isn't Google Print just another form of centralized, controlled information?)

We're moving from pyramidal to hyperlinked organizations™. Social software lets us route around the hierarchy of the organization.

What does David worry about? Three things:

  1. Social software (and the net in general) has a tendency to blow apart the old ways of connecting; how are we going to reconnect?
  2. Social software allows us to localize, and form smaller and often transient groups. How do we get the knowledge out of the small group? How do we avoid getting too comfortable in our small groups? (The world isn't flat, he says, it's "lumpy," filled with clusters that form and dissolve...)
  3. Are we now forming a "new boys' network"? New groups form, and then exclude others (for the best of reasons...). Will existing patterns of exclusion persist, or will we create new ones? (e.g. those who can use IRC vs those who can't)

Criticizes the "echo chamber" label, because it turns the very basis of conversation into something negative. If you look at only one site, you'll see only one conversation, true--but most people choose to look at a variety of sites. (This is a huge challenge in building the tools--how do you avoid the Memeorandum effect on conversational spaces?)

You need some degree of sameness to enable conversation, but you need some degree of difference to even be able to approximate the truth.

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The filter at the school where my wife works prevented her from getting to the ALA mission statement page the other day. Makes you wonder doesn't it? :-) So if you are blocked you are in good company.

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on November 15, 2005 3:48 AM.

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