Social versus Antisocial Software
I appreciate Paul Dourish's take about social software. A the SCS 2005 conference about social software, he came with this statement:
It is time for the notion of “social software” to go away. It’s a cute coinage, but conceptually it’s at best vacuous and at worst downright dangerous. I have two particular beefs with “social software.” The first is that, despite an avowed acknowledgement of the social, most software developed and marketed under this rubric has a very impoverished or partial notion of the social. It draws on a highly positivist interpretation of social phenomena—a sort of social science, perhaps, uniquely attractive to engineers. Phenomenological and interpretivist approaches to social science (the sort that, curiously, underwrite ethnographic methods and related analytic positions) emphasize that social phenomena are interactionally constituted, being products, rather than shapers, of concerted action. Social software advocates often seem to miss the fact that many social scientists would question whether social networks exist or have any sort of analytic validity.
The second is that the notion of “social software” perpetuates an artificial separation between “social” and “non-social” software. In many ways, the development of CSCW as an intellectual area distinct from HCI was an unfortunate move, since it erected a wall between notionally collaborative and individual software systems. This wall is problematic, because it inherently relegates social software to a niche position. It blinds us to the ways in which individual activities (e.g. with ‘single-user’ software) are socially organized and socially oriented. For instance, in writing this position, I am (1) oriented towards an audience, (2) working within established genres, (3) drawing on the work of others, and (4) embedding my narrative within a particular disciplinary position. All while using Word. If that’s not social software, then what is? The social—by which I mean not simply some set of representations of others, but the ways in which actions and objects take on meaning through their use within systems of collective practice—is an inherent aspect of human activity. We can no more separate ourselves from the social than we can separate ourselves from the passage of time; we are irremediably enmeshed in social and cultural settings. As a community, then, we need to stop thinking of “social software” as something new, different, and separate. Our goal should be to understand all software as social, and to dissolve the category of social software entirely.
Why do I blog this? well I have to admit that I fully agree with this positions. The 'social' aspect in social software very poor. Is it because you can know who knows who and who likes what that it's 'social'? Hum...perhaps SoSo need another term, besides one of the best social software (according to me) is Flickr and it does not refer to itself as a 'social software'.