What is Social Technology?
Briefly, Social Technology is technology for social uses or technology with a social basis. Facebook is a conspicuous example.
This page is about Social Technology as that phrase has been used for three decades by the author of this page. I first made it public on a Social Technology Mailing List, which had several subscribers and hosted many interesting discussions. But that was before the Internet became popular and the Web made it almost universal, drowning those discussions in a vast pool of noise — misused bandwidth . When first discussed on the mailing list, in the 1990s, there was nothing like Facebook available, but I was already proposing pieces of Social Technology which would make it seem primitive. I am sorry to say that there is still nothing which approaches what I suggested at the time and our available technologies for social purposes seem rather medieval. Social Networking today involves what are basically handtools, but unlike the master craftsmen of the middle ages, nobody seems to do anything beautiful with the available tools.
As explained in many pages on this site, the important thing is to make the right social connections, to the best available people, job, and other aspects of a person’s Social Environment. It is the right connections which must be sought, not simply a large number of connections. Indeed, having a large number of connection is actually harmful — it decreases the signal to noise ratio. Much of current social technology is actually harmful , I believe, rather like surgery in the days before the mechanisms of disease were understood.
As the WWW has become almost a necessity in many people’s lives, it has also become part of the problem. As search engines like Google have become extremely popular they have also become part of the problem. They may increase the gross or total amount of communication in a person’s life, but often interfere with what can be called the net , meaning profitable, communication, the amount of information that is actually absorbed and used. It was actually easier to reach out and find people to discuss things with before there was more people than content on the net, so it was easier to catch people. Now a vast amount of the valuable information on the web pages are lost in a sea of information which is even beyond Google’s ability to index. I use the play on words Net Net Bandwidth as opposed to Gross Net Bandwidth to describe the continually shrinking signal to noise ratio on the Internet and more importantly on the Social Network.
Since the web begain there has usually been a social technology page somewhere on it, in one or the other of my registered domains. I have let some of these domains lapse because of lack of interest. It is only recently that people have started to understand the term Social Technology and what that technology can be used for. But it is just not understood. Even the self-proclaimed experts on the subject seem to miss some vital points. For example, I have estimated and feel strongly that one needs the best person from a pool of a million candidates to be a best friend or lover. It is just not possible to find someone like that with current social technology. Any attempt to do so seems to stand up against an impenetrable barrier , the mass of other individuals who might be the right person, seem to be the right person, or draw one away from the quest for the right person.
About the author: My name is is Doug Wilson, and I used to put up pages under the name of Douglas P. Wilson. Too many people have that version of the name too, so now I use my full legal name, which is Douglas Pardoe Wilson. I think that is a unique descriptor. For more information, or to contact me, see below.
I used to have SocialTechnology.Org, but lost it due to negligence. Nobody noticed it or cared enough to write me about it, so I just let it lapse without noticing that it was gone. I am renting webspace by the year now, instead of by the month, so that kind of accident should be more unlikely. Earlier, before the web, I had a mailing list (discussion group), called the Social Technology Mailing List. It is now obsolete, though some version may exist somewhere on the net, probably filled with spam. My last attempt to start a discussion on the topic was with a Social Technology group on Yahoo, but that proved futile. There are an enormous number of groups out there, which makes it difficult to attract people to any existing one. It has been especially difficult with an interdisciplinary subject such as Social Technology. Host sites usually insist on a group being shoved into one category or another. Social Technology belongs neither in the Computer Software, Information, Sociology or other available categories. Let us hope it might become a category itself.
When the old social technology mailing list existed there were no applications of social technology on the net, as far as I know. Now we have FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter and endless dating sites, not to mention all the groups and the big portals like Yahoo and MSN which support them. There has usually been at least one social technology group, somewhere, but they are mostly spamcatchers. Getting a serious discussion of social technology going seems very difficult these days, though there are many reasons for interest to be high, including commercial prospects. I have usually had at least one proposal for a new application of my version of social technology on a web page, somewhere, if only to attract the attention of people who might have no interest in projects without commercial potential.
Where are we with Social Technology? Is this the stone age or the space age?
Not later than neolithic, I am sorry to say. See Status of Social Technology . Like the technology of primitive man it is based largely on mythical beliefs and does more harm than good. Please disagree with me about this. I would be so glad to have someone to argue the point with.
How can we measure progress?
It is all about bandwidth, really, especially the spam-free bandwidth. How much useful information flows between people. I argue that it is much much much less than it could or should be.
Bandwidth has a great deal to do with compatibility, though that is not the only consideration. I believe that most people spend most of their time and effort communicating poorly with incompatible people. I have written a large amount about the harm this does to society and the benefits of doing something about it. I feel this should not require such extensive explanation, but even with it people do not seem to get the point.
Briefly, we can measure bandwidth in terms of ongoing conversations which are seen as meaningful by both parties — meaningful enough to reply to. Most e-mail that is written goes often into the void and is not answered or receives only the most token answers. Most web pages are rarely visited and the visits generate no e-mails, no conversations, nothing to show that the page was ever looked at. Hit counters are not reliable indications, it is the consequences of people reading a page which matter. There is no real technology for measuring all this yet, but clearly most net activity has nothing to do with meaningful information transfer — social bandwidth, the actual amount of information composed in person by people, then read and absorbed by others. But this could be measured, or approximately measured. That kind of measuring tool would itself be social technology.
For my own convenience I have an absurdly large list of all the files on this site.
Related Web Pages :
- Social Technology Pages
- Author’s Personal Pages
- Books to Read Online or Download
- Technological Fantasies Pages
- Finding Good Jobs, and Compatible People
- Descriptions or Summaries of These Pages and Their Contents
- Older Pages
- Utility Pages — for navigation and the author’s use in debugging this website
All of these pages relate around the central idea of Social Technology. I believe I was the first person on the Internet to use the phrase Social Technology — years before the Web existed.
Those were the good old days, when the number of people using the net exceeed the amount of content on it, so that it was easy to start a discussion about such an upopular topic. Now things are different. There are so many web pages that the chances of anyone finding this page are low, even with good search engines like Google. Oh, well.
By Social Technology I mean the technology for organizing and maintaining human society. The example I had most firmly in mind is the subject of what I consider to be the key pages related to Finding Good Jobs, and Compatible People , the ones with the real solution to all other problems explained.
As I explained on my early mailing lists and later webpages, I find that social technology has hardly improved at all over the years. We still use casual or accidental meetings to find friends and spouses, we still search for jobs in tedious and often humiliating way, and we still us representative democracy, almost exactly the same as it was used in the 18th century. By contrast, horse and buggy transporation has been replaced by automobiles and airplanes, enormous changes.
In the picture below you will see some 18th century technology, such as the ox-plow in the middle of the picture. How things have changed since then! But we still use chance encounters, convenient friendships, dubious social organizations, engagements and marriages to organize our social environment, including home life and the raising of children.
I claim that great advances in social technology are not only possible but inevitable. I have written three novels about this, one preposterously long, 5000 pages, another merely very very long, 1500 pages. The third is short enough at 340 pages to be published some day. Maybe. The topic is still not interesting to most people. For those who might be interested, the complete texts and some excerpts are given on my books page.
This site includes many pages dating from 1997 to 2008 which are quite out of date. They are included here partly to show the development of these ideas and partly to cover things the newer pages do not. There will be broken links where these pages referenced external sites. I’ve tried to fix up or maiintain all internal links, but some will probably have been missed. One may wish to look at an earlier version of the main Social Technology page , rather longer, and at an overview of most parts of what can be called a bigger project.
Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009, Douglas Pardoe Wilson