Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

danah has a good rant in response to Cory's thoughts on technologists that create technologies which cause awkward social situations.
danah boyd
So, in fleshing out Cory's call to technologists, i'd ask all technologists to consider not only what problems a technology solves, but what new ones could emerge. Start thinking like a writer or an abuser of technology. Imagine how people could misuse a technology to hurt others. Consider who gains and loses power from such technology. It's a fascinating exercise and far more fulfilling than just thinking about who benefits from something. And besides, then you won't always be thinking "but the users shouldn't do THAT with this technology."
I commented on her blog.
Joi Ito
I agree with your point danah. On the other hand, a lot of the consequences of technology are not predictable and emerge as the technology develops and is adopted widely. I think that in addition to trying to have a vision about the negative effects of technology (which I agree is important) and trying to design around the issues, I think that identifying tensions as they arise and providing feedback to the toolbuilders is important. One of the problem of commercial enterprise is that technologists are often forced to sweep these tensions or problems under the carpet for the better good of profits or commercial interests. Also the cost of changing a design or an architecture often makes such change difficult. I think designing systems to assume they will need to be changed is important. This does get difficult as technologies mature. This is why I think the social software / blog space is interesting. We can still change a lot of the basic architecture of this space. So although I agree it is important to call our to technologists to think, I think that the dialog between technologists and people like you and Cory is more important.
In response to my thoughts on people inadvertently collapsing context because of a lack of understanding of the technology, Wendy Seltzer blogs about Technology and Norms of Publicity.
Wendy Seltzer
I wondered at first if privacy tensions would ease as more people became more technically sophisticated, but I'm inclined to think that gaps in understanding will just move with the tech, and social norms will follow still further behind.
When I am posting a photo album, I think about the situation, the people and decide whether to post a picture, ask permission or not even bother. I'm making a very deliberate decision based on my understanding of the technology and the social norms. The technology and the norms are evolving and the understanding of both is spotty. We WILL have tensions. I guess the key is to identify the critical irreversible risks and work just as hard in developing social norms as we are in developing technical solutions.


Hi Joi... Joe here (met you briefly at the (cc) party)... I tend to think along the lines of your last paragraph. That is, I publish what I think I can given the character of the technology... However, there will always be a limit to how familiar even the tech-conscious will be with the interworkings of their own technology. This will result in frequently making such decisions based on an incomplete model.

For example, I consider myself to be pretty tech-savy... but I recently was struck by a technological misunderstanding that caught me off-gaurd. Specifically, I had been retouching and cropping JPEG images and didn't realize that the embedded "preview" images in the JPEG headers -- small thumbnail images useful for browsing -- were not updated by the software I was using. Even though I had taken into account what I thought the technology was doing, I could't anticipate what I didn't know... that is, if I post a picture I took of a car held together by duct tape[1] with it's license plate blurred out, the preview image would not be blurred and the license plate would be visible; this would have, of course, changed my decision to publish it.

This kind of a privacy vulnerability -- stemming from an un-anticipated consequence of the architecture and interaction of our technology -- seems as if it will only increase in frequency...


Hi Joi,

thanks for this interesting post and powerful title.

Your wordst ("building norms together with the technologies") is an invitation for me to remind everyone that "norms" technologies can leverage to design and market better tools are there for us to take and to give more attention to.

It is many times our own responsibility in favouring companies that develop "standards" and tools that serve mainly vested commercial interestes while wiping out any possible alternatives that stifle our ability to see much better and more reliable tools come out of great individuals and small companies.

Let's ask ourselves some questions.

Here is a starting point:

Cheers and best wishes to you all over there in Japan!

Peace from sunny Rome ;-)

Robin Good
What Communication Experts Need To Know

Collect call from the wild

As physician en observant: thoughtful reputation in the era of e-commerce confronts the old fashion word of mouth that docs develope from hard work and community service: currently, professor Mann up in Toronto conveyed to me a concern regarding human liberties and Macro Media: the issue of a flash mob coordinated with persons holding thier camera in a comparametric manner to develope a virtual view orbit requires persons organizing themselves in a phalnx/spartan position. Other logistical issues from Tolsoy's War and Peace discriptions of LaPlace placing of persons on the Europoean battlefeild come to mind:

with all this said, I called some old village poets and nuts (the Unbearables, Steve Cannon, Bob Holeman, Ismael Reed, and yes, Amiri Baraka (who will be reading at the Boweery Poets Bar at 7:30 pm...he is always late) but in the era of spam and viruses, old contacts have since changed email addresses and those who could vouch for my reputation as an activist are no longer available. So back to the issue of reputation, word of mouth as an MD who has concerns about digital images on licences as well as programed segregation and racism: planning a coordinated group of persons who know how to stand to acheive the subtle Mannian (Steve Mann) quantum effects of parrellel processing of informatics to expose the truth, requires reputation as a post: now my email address is on contact list only to prevent theft of patient information so I have quarentined myself and only Knuth, Mann, and other chosen few can get in, but in the process, my attemt to start someting in the lower east side is underminded by my own paranoia and hence, even if I have established an ereputation, I am lost and disconnected,

Another area where technology is moving faster than norms--the growth of bot traffic at websites. Google, Inktomi, and Feedster use bots with their names on them--but many bots are hard to track to their source if something goes wrong--e.g. what happened to Dave Winer the other day.

Referring back to Joe, his anecdote is quite suscint to the topic. Since we, as humans, have automatic expectations, then if tech marketing does not steer our own expectations otherwise, they will be a fusion of our own experience. Joe naturally expected the thumbnails to update automatically. Seems reasonable that at some point, e.g., closing or saving the file, that the thumbnail would be genereated.

So stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, social norms and behaviors with respect to a new technology can only be rooted from two sources: our extrapolation from former like-experiences, and the social norms which are installed by the marketing. The first is much more powerful, because we will always return to our intuition when determining appropriate behavior. The second requires a level of sophistication equivalent to the introduced technology itself. And thorough training for product sales/delivery itself becomes the fulcrum for creating the new culture to adopt the product. E.g., Palm had the Giraffe game. Automatic user training on delivery. E.g., Beaming. Nobody beams untill a colleague introduces the concept, because it is not part of sales delivery.

So my point is that it is really the responsibility of marketing and product sales stratey to create the social framework for the new technology, and this includes the ethic of device utilization.