Facilitating Serendipity or Encouraging Homogeneity

The following paper supports a claim that always struck me as pertinent and curious to think about: the fact that most (mobile) social software designed for serendipity "create a more homogeneous representation of the city by encouraging users to socialize more exclusively with those they already know and by privileging a type of urban experience based on consumption and entertainment". Thom-Santelli, J. (2007). Mobile Social Software: Facilitating Serendipity or Encouraging Homogeneity?, IEEE Pervasive Computing, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 46-51.

The author gives examples, of interest for people into multi-users location-based applications:

"When users announce their location using Dodgeball or arrange a meetup using Mixd [9], the selective aspects of the chosen recipients of these broadcasts encourages homophily to the point that serendipitous interactions are only really possible with those who probably have similar interests as you, at locations that have been pre-approved by those who are just like you."

Interesting enough, the paper suggests design strategies aimed at widening the "representations of the urban experience" promoted by mobile social software, through arts-inspired practices. IN order to leave space for alternative interactions, the point is to focus on the "Recognition of the non-user" (interesting for 80/20 David!). For example:

"In another case, Dodgeball and Mixd highlight venues for consumption of food, drink and entertainment, but they are defined in these systems solely by reviews of the venues’ customers. There is almost no recognition of the first-hand experience of those who work at these places as any depiction of the staff within the design of the system involves the mobile social software user’s view of the service that he or she was provided. Disenchanted waitstaff have begun to use the Internet to keep track of badly behaved customers who leave inadequate gratuities so one could imagine a mobile social system serving a similar function"

Why do I blog this? some good elements here, the idea that social software are designed for serendipity has often lead me to think how, instead of creating new connections, it reinforced communities... leaving the "non-users" behind. Applying this to mobile applications is very relevant and promising in terms of possible user experiences. Of course, the paper has much more to offer, I only limited my notes here to what I found close to my research about mobile social software.