Hello forum! I’m a communications design student from Germany and in my upcoming semester I’m trying to tackle the question of how social networks should work (and look like) to be good for the user and society. I’m not going to build one of course, I only have a few months of time, but in summer I want to at least be able to present a rough concept of an alternative social network. The project is meant as „design fiction“, it won’t necessarily be marketable, or able to compete with existing social networks, I just want to give an insight into what could be or could have been an alternative way of connecting ourselves digitally.
I’m doing a lot of research right now, this is how I stumbled upon this forum, and I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on this, or if you have any links or book recommendations, or know of any research. I’d love to hear it.
(I hope I explained my project well, I’m never sure if I’m translating everything correctly. Feel free to ask, if you have any questions!)
I think that one of the main problem of global social networks is how they handle identity.
You can’t just put everyone in a single giant forum, talking surrounded by shouting strangers, it’s not working. It’s failing a lot of people (hate speech, discrimination, spiral of silence/loneliness).
But that doesn’t mean we can not interact with large groups, for example cities are working (we don’t fight each other everyday).
During the middle age in France, it was said that ‘In the city you can breath the air of liberty’ (not sure of my translation :/). Because you were far from the church influence/authority from rural villages, and also far from the King power/authority.
And why that? because the city allows you to be anonymous. It’s easier to play with norms, try new things, and it allows social progress.
That’s why i think that the issue is how they handle identity. We don’t have a single identity, we have several, i strongly believe in pseudonymity.
Global social networks are trying to ‘fix their products’ (Zuck), but only with bad answers (more real name, more IA/surveillance). Of course, it is in line with their business models (profiling for more targeted ads/personalization).
And more than that, i am not sure we need social network. We need communities, like what we are doing here, meaningful communities, of people sharing common interests.
And it doesn’t mean we will only interact with a small number of people. We need a global network of communities, were we can have different identities in each of them.
My issue with most network is the lack transparency and disclosure. I find the basic assumptions of “Likes,” “Followers” and “Organic Search” are deeply problematic.
Not all social networks run this way. Here is an intriguing one that supports those with long term health issues. And it’s organizing social concepts are legitimate qualitative human states that can be surveyed against discloses and studied.
See all the “Happy” “Sad” etc. That is real survey data. And compare the experience to a “Follower” or a “Like” See the idea?
Does that sound like a thing to anybody?
OSNs present Interesting challenges. My observations on the dominant social network today is that there is too much GIGO on the news feeds, TMI in general, too many ads with the reliance on ad revenues, anonymity, and too few incentives to build reputational capital by providing useful rather than annoying content. All of these weaknesses create data value for the network, which is why they are ignored or promoted.
Frankly, I think the problem is that the locus of control is with the central platform rather than the user (and that determines where most of the value flows). The hope is that blockchain can address that with decentralized ownership and control. I think anonymity on community networks is a serious detriment because users hide behind it to act out their worst impulses. For the most part, identities should be verified just like they are on Apple or Amazon. Necessary privacy networks to protect users can exist in tandem and one can choose where to participate.
I desire a social network where I can share meaningful content and engage in like-minded interaction, building out a community that enriches each participants’ experience. That is data that can be monetized for the benefit of users. I’m not sure how this can work with news media, but I believe it definitely can with creative content like music, images, books, and video. In a healthy, functioning, free society, politics should be merely a sideshow (and I say that as a political scientist). May the blockchain get us there.
I advocate for pseudonymity, not anonymity. But anyway it’s one of the immortal myths that real name is better for accountability and allows more ‘civilized’ discussions. But people that have managed big communities knows that enormous amount of abuse/harassment/hate speech is done by people acting under their real name. In fact real name is at the opposite hurting real people, usually minorities, making them targets.
What makes the difference is not the name policy, it’s the will of the platform to address these issues, put resources and the tools to community managers and users so they can keep their community healthy.
A pseudonym is an identity that sticks with you but is not related to your real/legal identity. Just like a pen name. You can build a reputation, be accountable. A mix between authority and anonymity.
Regarding blockchain, yes there is a big hope that it could enable decentralized platforms monetization. And it could really disrupt the attention based business model. But there are tons of challenges, and unfortunately right now 99.9999999% of blockchain projects around this are just BS (or worst scams). I’d be happy to discuss more about blockchain here (i’m passionate about the subject) but it might be boring to read
Agree! And then combined with privacy-first design, where the user can decide to expose themselves further - based on trust and on a case-by-case basis.
Yes! This is what my investigation also found, and it is why I am waiting till the hype blows over before doing anything blockchain. This is not to say that I am not a huge believer in decentralization as a solution to much of the web’s problems, like monopolization by the big tech companies. I am!
But many people now think that decentralization == blockchain and that is simply not true. Blockchain is just an application of decentralized technology. I think it will be valuable to start a separate thread in this forum about the vision of The Decentralized Web (the web as it was originally intended by its inventors).
Today at 10:00am PST there will be a discussion about decentralized/distributed applications in a post-blockchain world: https://www.facebook.com/events/145268742831772/
It will likely be posted on the Holo youtube page shortly thereafter.
You can find more context around this Holochat conversation at https://medium.com/h-o-l-o/https-medium-com-h-o-l-o-holochats-dapps-8fa4050a06dc
I absolutely agree with @valere and @aschrijver that blockchain in its current form is not really living up to the hype around it. From what I’ve been learning about Holochain, it looks like it could be a more promising solution for developing viable decentalized/distributed applications.
I have to go to work, but I’ll add more to this discussion later.
hi @Brooks… we have cross-posted it seems I just created a thread on the vision of The Decentralized Web…
Yes, one can abuse one’s real name, but it’s also necessary to impose sanctions by the community. So, if the community has control over the rules of participation, the scamming and flaming can be reduced to isolated incidents, no? Also with real identity verification, one cannot merely open a new account under a pseudonym, unless one has many verifiable identities! I think that’s the problem with avatars, under which one remains hidden from the community, but perhaps not to the administrators. I suppose that works in many cases, but takes control away from the community of users, where I think it should reside. I guess there is a problem of ganging up, but that becomes an issue of herd behavior and how to prevent that.
I think there are many possible models and that people can choose depending on what kind of value they want to reap from the network. I prefer building reputational capital, which is why I use my real name in most social networks, especially when discussing politics. (I used my start-up name here to raise the profile of that particular effort.)
BC holds promise for the future, but I think it’s unnecessary to let the uncertainty of the future prevent us from building out viable applications today. The technology will progress in fits and starts and those with the right applications will reap the benefits of first mover advantage. What do you think? BC may sound boring, but the community is on fire. Medium articles on BC are some of the most popular, even if technically dense.
Thanks for the response…
I am always for choice, here i am using my real name, but it’s important to have the choice to stay pseudonymous. And we need to take in account what is going on the background, i mean giant monopolistic tech companies trying to identify me uniquely all other the web for whatever reason. It has consequences, i love this talk about elastic self.
What is going on in China with the government wanting people to surf the web using real name and ID number, is not very different in US/EU. It’s not government sure, but private companies.
Also regarding blockchain, i am all in on that subject! but i don’t want to blocksplain here. By ‘all in’ i mean that i am investing my time learning the technology (not buying shitcoins).
quick edit: I understand the point on reputational capital, i certainly would have more capital by not splitting my identities, but i feel better like that.
I agree. There are different approaches for different needs. Privacy is crucial if you’re criticizing your authoritarian govt. But one root of privacy fear is that there is some entity controlling the information flow, such as a private corp. or a government bureaucracy. If control over data is decentralized and secure, that threat can be removed, no?
If you are criticizing an authoritarian govt you probably need more than privacy, that is secrecy and resilience. Decentralized architecture are by design resilient, it’s hard to shut them down and it’s very important in some countries.
Regarding controlling the flow of information, we are seeing a new breed of control, algorithm control. Until now if you wanted to manipulate the information flow you had to take control of media, and it was easy to spot. With FB, it seems that there have been interference but nobody noticed it. Not even the FB, these algorithm are black boxes.
So maybe a blockchain system via transparency can bring trust. But technology cannot fix the problem alone, we will need regulation.
It remains that transparency makes privacy a big challenge.
I am building a better social network at www.getmotivatedbuddies.com. I believe the “better” component of a social network is entirely centered around a) incentives and b) identity and c) the actions you take offline.
Right now there is a growing gulf between our digital identity, how we perceive ourselves in the virtual realm, and our actual lives, and this causes grief for people.
I call it a “debauched sense of self”. Or for techies, our virtual identities are corrupt.
Love this question!
I feel lucky to have had several conversations with Tristan about this, as they’ve really shaped my thinking. It’s easy to fall into the pattern of thinking about the social feeds we have now. But content is not a human need. A truely “social” network wouldn’t look anything like the products that currently exist. How can we actually create meaningful social interactions between people? Deepen the relationships with people you care about? Create real-life experiences that we look back on with satisfaction… not regret? Can we measure our success not based on time-spent, but by later asking how well the experience we prompted met the user’s needs?
All thought starters, really just on the social-life side of things as I’m in a rush, but wanted to weigh in!
@frrrst What a thought provoking post! Shaped by my background as a behavioral researcher, mental health therapist, social media marketer and ethics professional, I came up with some ideas of what I’d like to see in an alternate social network. Many of them have been done, either as a trial, randomly by users, or are successfully adopted now by different networks. My vision is of a network where factors like altruism, the need for social support, acceptance, and accountability are solicited and reinforced but with a different foundation and shared purpose.
Let me know what you think but go easy on me. I’m not a designer, engineer, etc. Nope, I’m just a shrink who loves finding online garage sales, pinning crafts and building my practice with professional networking. At the same time, I’m sick of watching my sick and aging family members fight with strangers on Facebook to the point of mental and physical decline…so here it goes!
We need some universal symbol for a trigger warning. I would like to see something that is easily recognized but not obnoxiously distracting. Yesterday I was on my FB feed and there was a “funny” meme of someone pointing a gun directly at the reader. I’m a trauma and addiction therapist. Just seeing that picture could cause people with PTSD to go into a full blown panic attack, or an entire day meltdown. It’s easy for people to roll their eyes when I say this, but they probably haven’t actually been beaten by the back of a gun or actually shot at close range. The people I work with have.
If we could use a safety rating to indicate to others how safe it might be to interact with someone outside their network, we wouldn’t lose the valuable gift that these networks have given us: 1-1 compassionate, and long-lasting relationships connecting 2 people from opposite ends of the world. People would earn this badge and higher ratings within the badge over time and would benefit from it. What would they need to do? That’s the hard part, so I would leave it up to a diverse committee of users, designers, and safety folks to figure out the activities or qualities that earn high ratings. Some obvious things like: length of time on network, number of connections that stay connected 1 month or more, and identified causes they’ve volunteered for. Another could be flagging/moderating for fake news.
Trauma therapists, like myself, and trauma survivors could contribute a list of items that are offensive or harmful to female survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Examples would include no offensive language, no gender shaming, no sexual approaches, taking pledges to fight stigma or be an ally, etc… I realize this may be an impossible task, but when brainstorming I just throw it out there anyway.
I’m really into the way that IG is creating a support system in a safe space for adults with mental illness and little, if any, family or friend support. I now “know” folks who are depressed, PTSD, eating disorders, some bipolar disorder, in recovery from addiction and definitely folks with borderline personality disorder doing this. They’re learning, over time, to reach out more to their connections on IG at the beginning of a crisis. For example, I see people who used to only like everyone else’s content now post one sentence on a blank background stating what their feeling and why they need help. Immediately, IG users with a pretty good following will respond right away. A whole cascade of support will come right behind. These aren’t just silly little “you got this” comments. People are providing suggestions that are specific to that person.
Applying the misery loves company rule, but with a spin on it.This is really apparent in the grassroots movement called “narrative medicine” where the style of comics, comic strips and graphic novels is used to come out of the closet and reveal their identity as a person with mental illness. I don’t think this movement is going away any time soon as I got into this space about 4 years ago and only see the popularity climb. What if social media users could ask for a virtual pick me up when they notice a red flag (e.g. thoughts of hurting themselves or waking from a very bad night dream)? For those without mental illness, they still have bad days at work, lose their job entirely, get a flat tire, etc. When getting a flat tire, they could hashtag it and immediately see Brady Bunch tiles of others with the same experience. Sometimes, seeing others deal with the same crappy hand as the one we were dealt with on that particular day is reassuring. Everyone wants to know they’re not alone. The network would encourage 1-1 advice or opportunities for venting.
Another idea, formerly integrating the need for accountability into the reward system. This would be far broader than just fitness, weight, or diet. It could include a career change, sleeping more, or just learning how to accept who they with inward compassion. Some people do a positive affirmation (write a positive belief down or say it with no reservation) every morning, as part of their daily ritual. Their could be a menu option or a hashtag to record it and store it in a repository for retrieval when others need that extra boost of encouragement. When people opt in on their profile settings, they receive and post their own video greeting to wish strangers a good day and keep themselves accountable to their wellness ritual. Basically, the simple things that humans can do, even as strangers, to cheer each other up in person become basic actions or features built into the social norms of this alternative network.
Establishing CLEAR membership guidelines, reward systems, and code of conduct based on a mutually shared set of values like: the need for randomness in this reciprocal network of interaction, no judgement balanced with assertive conflict resolution, only offering advice when it’s requested, cultural humility, and a concerted effort to respect others need for privacy. If the very purpose of the network was promoting mental health and human kindness, people could still use the network for most of the same reasons they currently use FB or IG, just with more cohesion to moral code and truly informed consent, which legally entails more than just a flashed screenshot of a contract with indecipherable legal babbling (see current user agreement forms, their horrific and are updating without notifying users).
Evidence based with peer-reviewed research conducted humanely-I wouldn’t want a network that’s just floating clouds, rainbows and unicorns all day…but I think the social psychology research on group norms and bystander effects also speaks to the potential of countering this with well-established norms, clear expectations, and mutual understanding that one might get flagged, blocked, or worse if their reason for sharing or interacting turns away from the agreed upon goals during registration. To counter, their engagement in prosocial activities would earn them rewards, either popularity, access to new content, or enhanced profile features.
Recognition and benefits that reach past the world of cyberspace-What if employers, when looking at our resume for volunteer history or community engagement, searched for our “H-score” (humaneness in technology) too? This score would increase when we do the things outlined in #2 but also made donations to good causes via the network space, promoted awareness campaigns, took a survey that was approved byt he social network as IRB approved and humane, gave free mentoring to a younger person (like LI now), volunteered to moderate groups, etc.
Sorry for my off-the-hip ideas. They got the best of me. I’ll shut up for now.
Good question, very simply create a platform that doesn’t reward dopamine addiction, i.e. the Triple V, Vanity, Voyeurism and Validation, essentially these are the drivers of social media.
More to the point social media is an oxymoron as it actually isn’t social at all, it’s only exchanging zero’s and one’s over a server, engaging and interacting is real life real social without the need to add the media side.
When him being doesn’t physically interact or limit social interaction you end up with the current situation of higher rates of mental illness, children who cannot concentrate for extended periods and have difficulties in developing interpersonal relationships. - this is what Max stated above
Human kind has lost it’s way but we can correct this course.
Well said Max, its about real life, something that will become main stream which is really sad - IRL - In Real Life
I think the main question is not about better social network, the main question who is going to control the social network.
The main purpose of social network business, is to push people spend as much time as possible on social network
Hi @frrrst! Please, check out Validbook Social. I think this is how humane social networking service should look like. The main difference from current high-engaging social networking services is that it allows to comprehensively present your personality via comparmentalized profiles.
Here is the list of UX innovations that make Validbook Social a “better” social network
- Compartmentalized profiles: comprehensive view on personality
- Compartmentalized and layered privacy: easy to use gradiated privacy layers tools
- Inverted following model (compartmentalized, layered identity following, controlled by the followed identity): followed identity can open different compartments of itself to followers, usually done mutually mimicking the real life human relations (implemented on VB Social by using UX feature - Books).
- Informative and privacy layered feeds of information – ability to have a lot of feeds, tailored per different needs
- Point of view from other identity – ability to share your feeds, look into other people’s feeds (implemented on VB Social by using UX feature - Channels)
- Calm mode: ability to receive all notifications at one time in a day
Here is my bigger post about current issues with Social Networking Services and how they can be fixed - https://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-credentials/2018Jun/0125.html
And here is general description of Validbook idea (as a set of cooperation services aimed to make cooperation more transparent and reliable) - Validbook - a universal platform for cooperation
Check out alpha version of Validbook here - http://futurama1x.validbook.org/ (As Validbook is built on Self-Sovereign Identity idea, you will need a cryptographic key for login. To login as a main test user - download and use the following key https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_ZDoXh4aBUQXR50PLRusZRF7XvEY3OQx/view Password to keystore file - “123456789”. After login go manually to the home page. Use Chrome browser. In production version the process of login will be seamless, as we will use browser extension to store key.)