Balancing Identity, Community & Trust

Whether we like it or not the Internet is changing how we see ourselves and how others see us. This post isn’t about the rapid pace of technological change but rather how this change is affecting how we communicate, form relationships, and trust one other.

Social Networks are not new but the need to architect your communities within these networks is. What happens if you ignore this evolution? Imagine everyone you know getting together in one big room with a giant display screen behind them advertising some of the most private details of their lived experience. A birthday party, the death of a parent, the personal impact of a recent natural catastrophe.

Some of these events you may want to share with everyone but mostly you want to target your message to specific people in your community. Before social media this concept was referred to as back room and front room conversations and was easy to manage. Social media has broken down the walls between back room and front room conversations and opened a window into back room behaviors.

What you need to know is that social media can be designed in a way to strengthen our broader relationships in a way that is manageable. This introduces the concept of trust and managing our trust relationships.

I found the following presentation through a tweet and it’s probably one of the most clear and comprehensive explanation that I’ve come across about the importance of architecting your social network and of understanding the underlying trust relationships. It’s written from a designer’s perspective but is relevant to individuals and businesses alike.

Surveillance Camera Field Trip

This entry describes my thoughts upon reflection of our class field trip last Wednesday, which took place around downtown Vancouver. We took pictures of surveillance cameras in retail shops, banks, on the streets, and in at the post office.

I spent some time thinking about what the field trip meant to me. I was surprised at first at how unconcerned I was about the number of cameras. When I was a teenager I remember being frightened by signs in retail shops that stated in glaring capital letters that I was under surveillance. I remember instantly feeling like a criminal when I would look up at these signs. I would usually leave because somehow I felt unwelcome in the area. I remember the sense of unease wouldn’t leave me right away but would linger and follow me out of the building until conversations with friends or other activities would replace the feeling with the usual carefree attitude of youth.

Thinking about this made me wonder what has changed. Why do I no longer feel like a criminal when I look up at these signs and these cameras. I think first of all it’s that many of the signs have disappeared and the cameras are now mostly hidden. Public surveillance is becoming incognito. I think the other reason is that the cameras are everywhere and I’ve come to accept them as common-place as street lights. I wonder if this parallel means that the cameras prevent me from doing anything illegal because I’m being watched just as the streetlights prevent me from crossing on a red because I know I may be ran over. This is not a happy thought, to think that the only reason that I’m not a criminal is because I’m being watched. It makes me wonder how this affects the psyche of society as a whole. Then again, maybe I’m just thinking about this too much?