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March 24, 2004
Interview with Ken Jordan
On the venerable nettime mailing list, Geert Lovink interviews Ken Jordan, one of the coauthors of the ambitious Augmented Social Network white paper. Jordan and collaborators have been thinking about the issue of self-representation online for a long time, and he highlights quite clearly many of the key issues in this area.
The ASN is a blue sky vision for the future of online community. It stakes out some conceptual territory, presenting a civil society vision of how the Internet could evolve — particularly addressing the issues of Identity and Trust (two packed terms that have a pretty specific meaning in this context). It provides a clear alternative to the dangerous direction the Internet may well be heading in — a corporate/government panopticon. But it’s not enough to stand against digital disempowerment and control; we need to stand for something. The ASN shows that by coordinating the writing of standards and protocols between several different, previously separate technical areas (persistent identity, interoperability between community infrastructures, matching technologies, and brokering) you could add a layer of functionality to the Internet that would be greatly in the public interest.
Jordan enumerates shortcomings of current social networking systems such as Friendster:
- They are non-interoperable walled gardens.
- Profile info is thin, not nuanced; it isn’t context sensitive (the boss and mother problem).
- The profile information is static, not effected by your actions elsewhere.
- You have limited control over your own profile information (“It calls for a new class of services: identity brokers”; you also want a “digital bill of rights” that enables you to exert control over access.)
- The sites are exclusive, invitation-only clubs. [Note: I believe this is the exception rather than the norm].
I can’t help but notice how close weblogs come to fitting the bill - apart from restricting you to a single context and making it difficult to control acess, everything is in there. (See Dina Mehta and Lilia Efimova on blogs as SNSes .)
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