There is no There There on the Internet
I am at the Personal Democracy Forum in NYC, and as the many great panels and conversations unfold, I realized that I needed to post some of my recent conversations around social networking into the public sphere.
As more and more of us tap into destination sites like FaceBook, LinkedIn and MySpace, it is critical to understand that like email, these types of all-in-one sites are very unInternet.
The most critical aspect of the Internet is that there is no there there. In the physical world, we have destinations and can only exist in one unique space. To be in Evanston, I must fly to O’Hare and take a cab to campus. I can not be in Austin, Texas and Evanston, IL at the same time. In the digital world, that restriction is lifted and thus I can have a presence in multiple locations and multiple communities, simultaneously, concurrently and in parallel.
The current challenge with the MySpace, FaceBook or LinkedIn view of the world is that I must continue to go their websites as a destination. We “go to” facebook.com or we “go to” linkedin.com or “go to” alumni.university.edu. The challenge with destinations, though, is that this concept forces us to use the digital world the same way we do the physical world. On the Internet, I can exist in multiple locales at the same time, so the idea of a ‘destination’ disappears.
The challenge with LinkedIn groups or Facebook communities is that we simply substitute their destination for other ones. I don’t want a destination; I simply want to connect with those with whom I need to connect, AnyWhere.
One way that I like to say this is that I had social networks before FaceBook and LinkedIn, and I will have social networks long after these particular sites are no longer in vogue. Heck I had social networks that started before the Internet that continue to this day, even when there wasn’t an Internet to connect us.
The real powerful next step in social networking is sites like Ning.com that let you create social network sites on the fly or things like Loopt that take a social network, integrate with location-based phones, so that you can build a mobile social compass. The whole point of Web 2.0 is that rather than continuing to drive folks to destinations; the destinations come to us as individuals.
The real trick for any cause, group or campaign is to not have folks go to yet one more place but instead to take the cause, group or campaign out to wherever a supporter or participant may be, their personal site, LinkedIn, a Ning community or anywhere else and be in all of these places at the same time.