Social Computing 2008

Elan Lee's Trust Game: look, no seats!...

I recently attended this year’s annual Social Computing Symposium sponsored by Microsoft Research’s Social Computing Group [photos]. Well over half the participants were from industry, so a slightly different feel to the usual academic gigs I inhabit. This year’s was hosted by Lili Cheng (Microsoft Research), Tom Coates (Yahoo!), Liz Lawley (RIT), Elan Lee (Fourth Wall), and Brady Forrest (O’Reilly). Those names speak for themselves.

The event website was architected by Pathable, which took on the interesting challenge of helping us network and spot relevant people in advance, based on our profiles. This has a nice UI, and worked reasonably well, pointing me to some interesting people. The videos and talks will go online at some point. The line-up went:

Location (Monday morning, 10:30 – 11:30 AM)

  • Brady Forrest
  • Tom Carden (Stamen)
  • Felix Peterson (Plazes/Nokia)
  • Mary Hodder (Apisphere)
  • Tom Coates (Yahoo! Fire Eagle)

Boundaries/Context (Monday afternoon, 1:30 -2:30 PM)

  • Liz Lawley (RIT)
  • Lili Cheng (MSR)
  • Molly Steenson (Princeton)
  • Kevin Marks (Google)

Play (Tuesday Morning, 10:30 – 11:30 AM)

  • Elan Lee (Fourth Wall Studios)
  • Jesse Alexander (Heroes/NBC)
  • Paolo Malabuyo (Microsoft)
  • Merci Victoria Grace (GameLayers)

Social Objects (Tuesday afternoon, 1:30 -2:30 PM)

  • Jyri Engestrom (Google)
  • Matt Webb (Schulze & Webb)
  • Kati London (Botanicalls)
  • Rob Faludi (ITP)

It was all interesting stuff and a good way to catch up with devpts in a world which is impossible to keep up with, but partic. highlights for me:

  • Liz Lawley reviewed the different ways in which people use Twitter [lifecasting, mindcasting, conversations, org. informing], with some observations on how well different tools support the socially sensitive process of dropping people from your friend and feed lists, and pointed to Clive Thompson’s blog on social proprioception.
  • Kevin Marks (Google OpenSocial “advocate”) discussed the “homophilic” ways in which social networking sites reflect cultural boundaries, and connect like-with-like.
  • Joi Ito reported on his Free Souls project
  • Tom Carden [Stamen Design] reflected on the future of mapping, starting with: “GoogleMaps is Yr Zero.” He talked about the shift from tiles to flows, and gave me pause for thought on what it might mean for our own work on knowlege cartography to follow the geo-spatial web trends we’re now seeing. In my Compendium map, I have 3 questions: “What is conceptual/epistemic location?”, “What are epistemic blindspots/shadows? (critical geography)”, and “What will discourse flows look like?”
  • Tom Coates [Yahoo!] introduced the concept of Personal Infomatics, which is described in this slidecast, a way to think about how new apps will bring together data in new ways, and how individuals will manage their data (and privacy) through iterations of capture data -> review/edit/explore data -> publish/recombine data.
  • Elan Lee gave insights into the design of and experiences with some of the groundbreaking alternate reality games he’s been involved in, including the NIN Year Zero album, The Beast (following Spielberg’s AI), and Open Source Resistance. The engaged followings that these have sparked are intruiging. Oh, and spot yours truly in Elan’s Trust Game, part of the Play session

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