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Wednesday, 23 April 2003


word search
Perhaps your conferences have showed me something I haven't seen yet...I'm looking for a word.

There's kind of a symbiosis between a tool and a tool user. It started with a guy banging stuff with a rock. As the guy got more sophisticated with his needs, he looked for better rocks and tied them to sticks. As the class of rocks went up, the guy figured out still more needs. And so on.

So now the rock is the internet, and the guy is the worldwide online community. Each is now developed enough to have its own field of study; as I say on my website I'm trying to develop a degree program for the symbiosis between the two.

Problem is, I don't think "symbiosis" is gonna work in the name of a combined IT/Sociology degree. So has anyone in these conferences had a term for the rock/guy interaction?

Social Software?
It's a pretty general term, but there were a lot of panels that used the term "social software" to mean "software that supports group interaction". The emphasis is that the social effects can't be separated from the technology. Without software, there would be no social interaction, and without social interaction there would be no software.

In my opinion, it's just the current buzzword for online communities, but I think it emphasizes the point that there's a magic element that comes about when you combine a human (or a group of humans) with a tool. Something comes into being that neither has alone.

Is that what you're looking for?

Perhaps, though it de-emphasizes the sociology side. It's still possible to have social interaction without information technology; people managed it for thousands of years, and (more importantly in this context) segments of the population that interact through technology are interlaced with segments of the population that don't. Hence, various aspects of the "digital divide", that are related in various ways to economic status, race, age, geographic location, etc. Internet-using society is a significant demographic, yes, but it's still a subset of society overall, and society overall is affected by information technology whether it uses it or not.

So I need a word or a phrase that keeps the two sides -- information technology and sociology -- in balance, recognizing that they're both independent and tied to one another.

Perhaps this helps say where I'm coming from...?


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