Social social software

My friend and colleague John Naughton gave his inaugural lecture yesterday. Afterwards a few of us were invited to the Vice Chancellor’s house for dinner. There I met some people who I hadn’t seen for a while (such as Quentin Stafford-Fraser), and some I hadn’t met before. What struck me was that because I subscribe to John’s Blog I feel that I know a lot of these people already, or have maintained contact with them through their blogs or Flickr photostreams.

This reminded me that when I was in Como last week, I often found myself thinking about the situation in terms of a prospective blog post, or taking photos with Flickr in mind. I think this social life of social software, ie the social impact it has in actuall face to face situations, as opposed to the more obvious online community, is less appreciated. It is also an antidote to the grumpy old men/women who claim that the internet is ruining real social skills. On the contrary, I had an interesting conversation last night based on having viewed someone’s Flickr photostream, which wouldn’t have been possible had it not been public. Similarly, I think that many people take up, or increase their interest in photography because of the presence of Flickr, far more than any photographic exhibition. There is a direct push back in to the real world from the virtual one that makes people more engaged with it, not less.

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