Saturday, October 1, 2011

Social Network as Horse-Drawn Automobile - Part 1 of New Nymwars Series

After a three week break from posting on the Nymwars, I'm returning to the issue this month in a series of posts on social networks and pseudonymous identity.
One day at the dawn of humanity, a distant ancestor figured out that she could use a stick to dig up insects. That early tool was the first in a long line of technological innovations extending our biological capabilities. The bug-grubbing stick extended the hand and arm. The wheel extended our legs. Written language extended our memory and speech. In each case, the emerging technology allowed us to actualize human potential in ways that were never before possible.

Over time, new technologies have transformed human identity and culture in radical ways that couldn’t be imagined when they were first introduced. For instance, early drivers didn’t have a clue about the dramatic social, political and economic changes that cars would spark over the next 100 years. Women’s liberation, rural depopulation, racial integration, wars in the Middle East and fast-food chains were all hastened or instigated by the automobile. But at first, we thought of them as merely “horseless carriages”.

Today, social networks are in their infancy and we are still seeing them as just a "faster horse". To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, we're looking ahead through the rear view mirror.

In part two of this series, I'll discuss how pseudonymous identity fits into the picture .

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