January 3, 2008
The problems with social networks is that it’s full of young people – and young people don’t die frequently – not like old people.
You see, networks are only strong when they rely on the ability to collapse between nodes. The Internet works this way – it’s always looking to optimise when failure in the system occurs. That’s what ARPANET required. The public internet took this resilience as a good thing. It’s good for uptime, but not good, for human meaning.
Frail Nets are the key to sustainability. Look at the human species – we continue to exist and evolve (slowly) because of the lifespan that the DNA has clocked us for. Evolution, and thus, social relations would be impossible if we all lived for 200 years – our societal habits would not require the cramming of knowledge – time would appear differently – frequency would be lower for communication needs.
I was pulled into a non-work conversation about establishing a Social Network for retired executives – you know, money and time rich, lonely, and devoid of the powers when they had an office. The plan was more a subscription service than a free social network (I pointed out this flaw, especially after being asked to invest in the idea – with cash, mind you!) but I didn’t receive a great piece of insight.
When you retired, say 55, you lose your daily contact with people – colleagues, dining friends, commuters etc. This is psychologically breaking, especially if you have maintained DEO status for many years.
What someone of this this stature, and probably, anyone of this age, retired, needs is a minimum of 16 ‘friends’. These people should be your regular contact with the world at large, your source of deep personal emotion – people you can confide in.
But at this age, natural death, looms. Your 16 will not be here forever, thus you get a rotation, a refresh of your 16, making the network stronger, richer, more meaningful. For humans, Networks need invigoration. Likethe current play of Facebook – it’s interest is begining to dry up because it’s possibilities are becoming exhausted – to poke or not to poke is a dumb ass question because poking meant nothing in the first place.
Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks is a hefty read, an introduction to Network Values, and is free to download here. But the book is a much easier thing to handle – the page count is enormous. (
He should have done it on a wiki. He has!) But as far as I can find – I’ve not read the whole thing – he doesn’t mention the strength of Network failure, nor the curse of Network Fatigue – the staleness that occurs when the network has no needs.
VC money is dependant on locking in users, at least, retaining them with editorial – may this been peer appreciation or media files – but regardless, the funding model – namely – an exit strategy from critical mass and acquistion from a needy/threatened business (Google/Microsoft/Yahoo!) – corrupts the Networks modal intent – that is – failure is good for the system.
Failing Faster is a good motif for agile productions, but an agile network produces huge amounts of value as different people use the system for different reasons, and thus old uses die, new uses are born. That’s why protocols are interesting. HTTP and TCP/IP are good examples – they are passing new formats of data collections because developers are creating, evolving new needs from the affordance of the design.
Humans are, basically, data packets, on social networks – producing vectors of relationship, and inturn, momentarily becoming themselves On-Line nodes. This means that an identity is constructed, which we believe to be representational of out On-Land identities. The fact that Facebook hates fictional characterson their Platforms is based upon non-inertial nodes that collapse the data exchanges that stablise their network.
But lets take this another way. Let’s look at old age as a form of data encryption. Time encodes our feelings, thoughts and knowledge by folding in influences. The theory that you are not the same molecular person you were when you were a 5 year old is chilling to most people. Over a 20 year period, most, if not all, of your molecules have been replaced with new ones. You are being cooked by time.
This syncronisty between us all is damaging to social networks, there becomes very little in the point of difference at a human level. Our thoughts and interests may give shades of difference, but there is no real value between avatars. But, it is this micro variation that is of value to technologists, because this smallness can be measured, valued and predicted, creating a baseline of prediction, which can be bet against.
Mark Wallinger, winner of the 2007 Turner Prize, tackled Nationality, Regality and Identity in the mid 90’s using the theme of horse racing. His interest in the populations interest in thorough breds drives home the uneasiness of our own self’s ability not to fundamentally change, just wither.
Whilst the value of social nets are speculated in the arena of web2.0, the techno-regal-proprietors are looking at which individual will be the next horse into the Knacker’s yard. Technologists look for the point of failure on everything they do; with social nets, the user is the weakest link.
Wallinger’s work, Sleeper, submitted for the Turner Prize persists with the themes, but curiously, close to the problem with have with social networks, namely, the evolution of identity through storytelling.
A film of a performance in which, over a period of 10 nights, he dressed in a bear suit and wandered aimlessly around an art gallery in Berlin, startling unsuspecting passers-by.
The video of him talking about it is here.
And here’s Bowie in 2003 aged 57 talking to Parkinson (with Posh Spice and Clive Anderson) about the years galloping away with him.
Compare Rock n Roll to Social Networks. You’ll begin to ask what is staged and what is the stage.
And here’s young Bowie trying to get a social group together. If only he had Facebook back then…
Social Networks requires, no, demands, the participants have to be actors in the widest sense. It’s the basis to software modeling. I think this is the basis for the next generation of media production – social networks will become the foundation of storytelling – not with peoples lives, but with the roles that people wish to experience. Age will be a huge informer to the roles, and thus, our human timescales become in-sync with how we model the (software) tools we need to remain connected, entertained and perform within our lives.
You have to perform to live. Now tell me about User Generated Content.