17 Sep

New Tools, Same Rules

mobile phoneMyspace and Facebook have gone mobile. And new companies are cropping up each day to get in on the new mobile socializing. An article in the Boston Globe this morning featured two companies seemingly making a dent in this field – Utterz and MocoSpace each offer phone-based services for the never-disconnected set. So, with all these services to enable connection-on-the-go, one has to wonder how users are going to cope. The inundation of services and features on phones might just create a conservative backlash where people start using their phones to call people. But I don’t want to be hysterical here.

Social media can assist in maintaining connections – the successful type rationalizes the everyday tasks of social management (consider Facebook’s feed feature). What is not needed is anything that makes social management more complex. The business of Web 2.0 is all about constructing needs – creating the impression that the tool accommodates a problem or a project. So, complexity is a matter of construction. What might seem terribly complex today – using Flickr, Facebook, Myspace, etc. to communicate with friends – is in fact framed as simple. Even the most complicated technologies promise to simplify.

Mobile social media promises to simplify. It used to be that you had to take a break from your day to manage social relations. Now, it can be integrated seamlessly into your routine. Users can be immersed in their networks – making it redundant to externalize the process of connection. For instance, having to stop what you’re doing to call a friend on the phone to make plans. Those connections (excluding extremely strong ties such as family) that require disengagement with the network are more likely to be ignored. I have a friend who never checks his email. As a result, I see him less.

Most importantly, as social life is “simplified” through mobile media, it is re-connected to social space. The fortitude of social networks is not isolated, but it follows us wherever we go and is, as a result, more strongly associated with location. This is what I’ve been calling net-locality – when networks that require no physical proximity are re-instantiated in physical space.

One thought on “New Tools, Same Rules

  1. Today I needed to use a Zipcar but left my Zipcard at home. I started daydreaming about the day when cell phones will finally replace all of those cards (security, credit, or whatever).

    Cell phones are already a more useful verifier of identity than fingerprints.

    The thing about a cell phone is that, at least in the developed world, not just the entry-point into a network but also uniquely attached to a single person. So it makes sense that cell phones should also serve as entree into the network.

    Identity is one of the most vital and basic building-blocks of social relations. Many commentators have noted that Facebook’s value rests, fundamentally, on its effectiveness as an identity-verification platform.

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