When you consider David Nye's quote you can easily apply the same context to the emergence of social networks.Mr. Nye's speaks to the impact of electricity as the medium which caused significant social change.
Put the same context into the medium of social networks and what should one conclude? Are individuals, corporations, institutions and society in general adopting social networking technologies in a wide range of social, political, economic, and aesthetic contexts, weaving them into the fabric of experience?
Or Are We Overloaded with Networks?
E-mail, cellular telephones, voicemail, the Internet, and other information technologies do not increase our efficiency, give us more flexibility, or liberate us from drudgery. Instead, argues Thomas Eriksen (social anthropology, Univ. of Oslo). They eat away at our increasingly precious time, leaving us to wade through useless and marginally useful information. Eriksen claims that our new electronic modes of communication are partly to blame for causing a host of contemporary social ills, including decreased job security, blurred boundaries between work and leisure, and the declining quality of family life. Eriksen's critiques feel a little too familiar, and one is left with the sense that it has all been said many times before.
Eriksen also states "The turn of the millennium is characterized by exponential growth in everything related to communication - from the Internet and email to air travel. Who would have expected that apparently timesaving technology results in time being scarcer than ever? Since we are now theoretically "online" 24 hours a day, we must fight for the right to be unavailable - the right to live and think more slowly." Eriksen argues how the logic of this new information technology has, in the space of just a few years, permeated every area of our lives.
A Tipping Point or a Withdrawal?
So are we all getting burned out or is the medium at a tipping point where it will become an efficent and effective tool to conduct commerce? Will things begin to be simplier or even more chaotic? Will individuals and businesses alike be able to justify their time and energy with the medium or will all this pass away as a blip on the landscape of technology.
There is a quote from Mohandas Gandhi, describing the stages of establishment resistence to a winning strategy of nonviolent activism, that partisans of open source and especially Linux have embraced as almost an explanatory framework for the behaviors they observe while trying to get corporations and other large institutions to take new ways of doing things seriously: First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.
In hacker usage this quote has miscegenated with the U.S military's DefCon terminology describing 'defense conditions' or degrees of war alert. At GhandiCon One, you're being ignored. At GhandiCon Two, opponents are laughing at you and dismissing the idea that you could ever be a threat. At GhandiCon Three, they're fighting you on the merits and/or attempting to discredit you. At GhandiCon Four, you're winning and they are arguing to save face or stave off complete collapse of their position.
So which stage of GhandiCon do you think we're at? Your answer depends on where your thinking.
What say you?