Stowe Boyd on Lifestreaming on the Edge


The notion that we're drowning in information is false. The world is full of information and we've been dealing with it from the pre-agricultural era. We're reaching back to systems and techniques that we've never lost. There's no such thing as information overload. Attention isn't a resource that needs to be parceled out. This is like the earlier failed metaphor of "knowledge management." You can't manage knowledge like bricks.

The movement of message control away from large organizations (the center) to the edge has destabilized the status quo. Non-market collaborative efforts (like open source) have had a similar effect. Networks are all edge and no center. This is what Doc Searls calls the giant zero. This is the demassifying media.

Social media has led to an egalitarian situation where everyone can get involved. Anyone can get involved. But that doesn't mean it's democratic because your influence depends on your talents and other factors.

We live in a world that instant messaging built. RSS is analogous to instant messaging. These tools set the stage for a different way to perceive and interact with the world. Blog comments have moved off of blogs to disaggregated community sites (like Disqus). This gives commenters more control and makes them full fledged participants. Whether Digg or Techmeme, value is being harvested from communities, but the value is very different.

He shows his desktop: Snackr, Friendfeed flow UI, Flickr, Twitterfox, and so on. These are all flow apps. There are dozens of streams now and there will be lots more in the future. These differ on the basis of the social interactions they enable. There will be 5 or 6 themes, but lots of implementations.

This leads to a model called "lifestreaming." People are continually broadcasting their life to groups of friends and even strangers. People know where you are and ask you questions about things in your life because of life streaming.

Attentionitis is the notion that we're being driven crazy by multi-tasking and continuous partial attention. While it's true that these things take time, but they also add value. He says "we're all made greater by the sum of our connections, but so are our connections." He references research that shows we're being cognitively changed by Web experiences. We're moving ourselves into a slightly different state of cognition. It's like juggling. You can't explain it--you have to do it and practice.

Stowe believes that where we've been with social tools and where we're at now is leading to a new culture that is more egalitarian, more progressive, and more liberal. I guess we can only hope he's wrong about the last one. :-) He mentions his son's involvement in games where he leads groups of people. I've had the same experience with my son. He concludes "if we don't destroy it first, what kind of world will our kids make?"