“Autistic Social Software” :: Supernova 2004

Just like their creators, computers are notorious for being pretty socially inept. Yet, with sociable media, computers take on a social role or become a mediators between people engaged in social interaction. Their position in social life does not inherently make technology any more sociable; their functions are intimately entwined with what people enable them to do. Thus, the onus is on the programmers to empower technology to operate in social life.

From “Autistic Social Software” :: Supernova 2004

This is a link to a crib from a talk given in 2004 by Danah Boyd. In it, she frames a relationship between the social networks of that time – Friendster, Orkut, Tribe – and the social stuntedness, perhaps even disorders, of the people who create them. Basically, it proposes that these networks are built the way that they are because ordering social interaction is the only way the creators of such can have it.

This is one of the things that struck me about the film The Social Network. Even if one assumes it was largely fictionalized, it was clear in many instances that the filmmakers went out of their way to point out Mark Zuckerburg’s likely Asperger’s Syndrome. For instance, his cringing and look of sheer terror when Sean Parker goes to give him a celebratory hug. Also, his extremely singleminded, programatic, and ordered approach to acceptance in social clubs. His motivation not for friendship but as a means to a specific end.

I think there is something to this for sure. I think the general approach towards most social networks not understanding the very case by case specific and nuanced approach most of us have towards privacy in our daily life is a key indicator. It’s an idea that has been resonating with me for days since it was presented to me by my friend Garrick. It’s also something that will be at the forefront of my having online interactions going forward.

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