Why can’t we just be married?

Wed November 9, 2011 5:39 pm

Pinboard’s Maciej Ceglowski has written a a razor sharp rantabout the “social graph”.

I like social networks (half a billion people cant be wrong, right?). I like social networking. I’m working on a project or two to make meaningful use of the “social graph” – essentially giving people more of what they probably like in more convenient ways- taken in the right spirit it adds more than it takes away. See it as just another communications channel and one which the participants can and very well may decline to partake in if it bores or irritates.

But the underlying question of privacy are moot and the risk of hubris in looking to the “graph” as the future of media, and believing human relationships are just an engineering problem to solve, is high.


“Imagine the U.S. Census as conducted by direct marketers – that’s the social graph…

…Because their collection methods are kind of primitive, these sites have to coax you into doing as much of your social interaction as possible while logged in, so they can see it. It’s as if an ad agency built a nationwide chain of pubs and night clubs in the hopes that people would spend all their time there, rigging the place with microphones and cameras to keep abreast of the latest trends (and staffing it, of course, with that Mormon bartender).

We’re used to talking about how disturbing this in the context of privacy, but it’s worth pointing out how weirdly unsocial it is, too. How are you supposed to feel at home when you know a place is full of one-way mirrors?

We have a name for the kind of person who collects a detailed, permanent dossier on everyone they interact with, with the intent of using it to manipulate others for personal advantage – we call that person a sociopath. And both Google and Facebook have gone deep into stalker territory with their attempts to track our every action. Even if you have faith in their good intentions, you feel misgivings about stepping into the elaborate shrine they’ve built to document your entire online life.

Open data advocates tell us the answer is to reclaim this obsessive dossier for ourselves, so we can decide where to store it. But this misses the point of how stifling it is to have such a permanent record in the first place. Who does that kind of thing and calls it social?”

The wonderful Kim Plowright made me aware of this which I’ll consider as a sister piece a wonderful insight into the impossible complexity of graphing human behaviour, in this case attempting to map a relationship as apparently simple as marriage…


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