Latent Information is Made Explicit

I’m reading Everyware, by Adam Greenfield, and finding it perfect timing with the discussion of Google’s new social graph API (see Marshall K.’s summary if you need a primer).

This is Thesis 35 in Everyware: “Everyware surfaces and makes explicit information that has always been latent in our lives, and this will frequently be incommensurate with social or psychological comfort.” Sounds like a pretty good description of the current conversation. It might be okay to expose that information. It might not. Maybe it’s inevitable. Regardless, if the decision is made solely by technologists, other people lose.

This isn’t information that people know they’re creating, like posting a picture or emailing someone. Google is mapping the network of connections between people, created as they go about other tasks. And it’s information that we consider very personal. I already feel awkward if someone adds me as their friend on Facebook and I don’t want to add them back.

I’m increasingly aware of the privilege I experience because I know how to write software. I understand how the tech works. I’m also in a position where nothing Google could expose would irreparably harm my career or personal life. I am not typical.

One of the things we’re trying to do with Calagator is to create software for and by people. Not developers. Maybe not even technologists. How can we know whether our project will meet the needs of the community it intends to serve, without inviting everyone to participate in its development? I want to see the social graph movement take this on as well. Open the conversation and explain what’s at stake.

One response to “Latent Information is Made Explicit

  1. Glad you’re finding the book useful!

    You might also enjoy my “Antisocial Networking”:
    http://speedbird.wordpress.com/2007/12/09/antisocial-networking/