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There is a great piece on PSFK on the latest iteration of social networking—going beyond the fun “social” gathering to a more pragmatic networking effort that may be more socially binding amoung groups of people. This is a very important piece because it suggests that the anomie that comes with the breakdown of many of our old social institutions is being replaced by traditional bonding in new digital bottles. I know this sounds a little, well, academic, but its flowing out of my academic brain at the moment.
When I was in my “100 Years of Grad School” phase at the University of Michigan, one of my professors was Robert Putnam, a brilliant sociologist who talked about real social issues—not the blah blah of statistics that has destroyed the relevance of sociology and political science today. Putnam wrote a book, Bowling Alone, now a classic, on how all the old institutions, like bowling clubs, were disintegrating, leaving us alone and unconnected.
We can now see that Web 2.0 is quickly gathering people again into groups. MySpace and Facebook are but two examples of people grouping. Now we see a second stage of this in networks such as Read It Swap It and London Voices where people are gathering to exchange things, do community work and like that. It’s the next step after teenage discourse. I think local sites are, in fact, cropping up all over the US—PTA, AA, religious groups, etc., doing more community stuff.
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