Sunday, November 04, 2007

Trebor Scholz and Paul Hartzog: Toward a critique of the social web via 4h4r0n

Update : As an aside, I'm not entirely sure that I buy the model behind "you should be allowed to take your contribution with you if you want to leave the YASN".

Firstly, many contributions I make in a social environment are necessarily embedded in that environment, and arguably belong to the community as much as me. If I reply to someone else's comment about a blog entry, I'm saying something I'd never have said in a different context, and I think some of the credit does belong to the people who sparked my response.

Furthermore, my comments may be essential context to further downstream replies. There's long been a debate on wikis about whether you should be allowed to delete your contributions, leaving later contributors bereft of context. A similar point may be made. Does a right to "move" from one YASN also imply a right to "remove"?

At the end, doesn't something just "smell wrong" about the idea that "community participation" is something that can be packed up into a suitcase and taken elsewhere? It's still thinking of ideas and writing as if they were kind of property. But imagine someone said "I've lived on this street all my life, always looked out for my neighbours, built a nice little cafe that's become the centre of social life, but now I should have the right to move it to the next town and set it up there." Of course it can't happen. Sure you can move the chairs and tables and signboards and cookers to the next town. But these are secondary. You're never really taking your community contribution with you.

So when it comes to community sites, what are videos and photos and blog-posts and comments? Are they like the restaurant furniture? Or are they like the friendly words that got spent building up the community? Is it possible to take them elsewhere. Is it even "right" to think of them as if they are alienated, portable things rather than as gifts that have been made to the community and now belong to it.

(Not sure yet what *my* answer is to these questions, but I want to raise them.)

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