Sep Kamvar of MIT noted that the impact of social computing comes from it being the medium of physical communities. You’re giving physical communities a place online to “sit” (in reference to William Whyte’s ethnographic work).
The phenomena that emerges is that the internet becomes the tangible manifestation of our human condition. In the masses of data, derived from communication with systems and people, emerges the plights affecting various groups in society—especially with the increased accessibility to the internet that has been afforded by low-cost technologies.
There is a huge space in social computing that is being explored, about the nature of communities and the web. Researchers are examining the relationships between people internally on the web and with the physical communities it aims to represent online.
I just bring this up because of what emergent technologies reveal about our society. Such as the Darknet, a manifestation of human vice and sin that anonymity allows to be exposed (ie. the Silk Road). Or on Reddit, where offshoots of human society feel comfortable to raise their voice, giving ridiculous conspiracy theorists a “place to sit” and make heard their opinions and stories of what they think truly goes on in our physical world.
Obviously in the converse, we have the overly gushy Upworthy and, in appeal to our tween magazine reading selves, Buzzfeed.
I’m currently examining the presence of the homeless community on the web as well, to see in what ways this community is given a place to sit online.
Recently, there has emerged a trend of moving digital artifacts into our physical realities. The first one that comes to mind is Printstagr.am which lets you print your Instagrams. Exploring the reasons why we decide to make things physical will be an interesting exercise… now I’ve just thought of a possible research topic.
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