Social Computing Metaphors

Writes Jeremy Allaire, Macromedia’s CTO:

Our metaphors for social computing are under-developed. The common examples on the Internet today lack depth and creativity, and reflect the fact that real-time computing is essentially a new, uncharted world.

The most developed forms of social computing are multi-user online games. Many of these are full virtualizations of social worlds, attempting to model conflict and cooperation, notions of personal and communal health. Some, in fact, develop full systems of political, military and economic power. Unfortunately, the logic and interfaces for these are pretty simple — peer communication via text, enabling users to conspire with each other, and systems of killing and wealth accumulation which reflect themselves in ‘points’ that can be viewed by all players.

I’m interested in much more focused issues around real-time collaboration, as opposed to the development of ‘online social systems’ such as those found in online gaming. Simple things like metaphors for ‘taking turns’. The most common example of this is some shared design space where multiple users can jointly create some visual object (a.k.a. the shared whiteboard). Some legacy applications for ‘shared whiteboards’ use a mixed approach — a moderator can grant control to any given user, while users can ‘raise their hand’ to ask for control.

He goes on to give some interesting example. Most importantly, his articles makes one Imagine.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.