Design for emergent communities…

Vorige week had ik een interessante en leuke avond met twee oud studiegenoten van de Universiteit van Amsterdam. Een van hen heeft nu een leesbaar verslag online gezet. Het plan is dit idee uit te laten groeien tot een publicatie die inzicht geeft in een nog ongecultiveerd gebied: een sociale theorie onder social software… Ik moet het overigens eerst even laten bezinken, voordat ik er zelf op reageer.

Schroom je niet om je in de duscussie te mengen (hier of  daar).

Paraphrasing Wenger: Sociality can not be designed, it can only be designed for. However in order to design for sociality, we need to take into account the dualities that Wenger (1998) notes. One of the most appealing is the duality between designed and emergent. There is a constant duality between wanting to steer outcomes, and by the same time creating a certain vividness.

Currently, most design literature on social software focuses on design parameters to enable the emergent, which could be for instance sociality, communities or meaning. The overemphasis on design, keeps the aspect of emergence relatively dormant. However, we state that the actual power of social software, or more popularly denoted as web2.0, is actually to enable the emergence itself. Thus we want start at the other side of the spectrum, which is emergence, and try to uncover the mechanisms that underlie emergence, and not to start of with (rather functional) design aspects. And by triggering emergence, social software should actually trigger processes of Luhmann’s autopoiesis, or self-organization, (Luhmann, 1985), which requires the recognition of Alexanders being alive. This actually appeals to the the timeless way of building, by actualizing the “quality without a name.” (Alexander, 1979) . We believe that emergence is actually a disturbance of an equilibrium between natural intentions that individuals have and corresponding signals from the environment in which they act. Or, to state it more concrete, every deviation that an individual notices from its environment, that doesn’t fit their primitive intentions enables emergence. A biological metaphor are braces: The jawbone’s intention is to create a solid foundation for the teeth. By artificially creating an inflammation (by means of braces), the jaw bone emerges a reshape, to reestablish its equilibrium.

In this treatise we take on an individual perspective, because we hold that people are ego-centric of origin, and therefore its important to state the social, or inner, mechanisms that trigger an individual to act. Therefore we want to argue how the perspective of emergence can contribute to the design of social software, in the most richest meaning of its social wording. In this article we endeavor the challenging objective to retain the mechanisms of emergence that can guide the design of social software….

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