<科学>杂志 :作为社交网络的计算机网络

网络一日,人间一年,计算机网络变化日新月异。来看 Barry Wellman 教授 2001 年发表在《科学》杂志上的文章。他认为,计算机网络内在地来说也是社交网络,它将人、组织和知识连接在一起。网络是一种社会制度,因此它不能被孤立地研究,而要结合在日常生活中来。计算机网络的扩张让工作和社会中的群体团结不再被强调,网络的发展还为我们提供了一个走向松散连接的网络社会(networked society)的转向。互联网提升了人们的社会资本,增加了人们和无论远近的朋友亲人的联系。未来将会有新的工具帮助人们在复杂、碎片化和网络社会中寻找知识、提供导航。作者观察到了两个前进的领域:线上/线下社区网络和知识的获取。

  • 社区与计算机一样也变成了网络,如何处理线上社区和线下社区的关系?
  • 网络社会中,每个人身边所接触到的人都是不断变化的,那么人们如何获得知识?如何找到“谁知道什么”(who knows what),甚至是“谁知道谁知道什么”(who knows who knows what)。[我们知道后来有了谷歌,还有了 Facebook]
  • 隐私的问题开始暴露,我不想让人知道我知道什么;
  • 连接越来越多,我们需要提供不同的优先级,让我的老板和伴侣能优先联系到我。
  • 虽然技术并未改变社会,但它提供了改变的机会;一些强大的力量正在改变着网络:不断增加的宽带使用率,全球性,便携性,24/7提供服务,个性化以及 从Place-to-place 到 Person-to-person 的连接的转换。

原文题目:

Barry Wellman: Computer Networks As Social Networks

原文:

ABSTRACT

Computer networks are inherently social networks, linking people, organizations, and knowledge. They are social institutions that should not be studied in isolation but as integrated into everyday lives. The proliferation of computer networks has facilitated a deemphasis on group solidarities at work and in the community and afforded a turn to networked societies that are loosely bounded and sparsely knit. The Internet increases people's social capital, increasing contact with friends and relatives who live nearby and far away. New tools must be developed to help people navigate and find knowledge in complex, fragmented, networked societies.

Once upon a time, computers were not social beings. Most stood alone, be they mainframe, mini, or personal computer. Each person who used a computer sat alone in front of a keyboard and screen. To help people deal with their computers, the field of human-computer interaction (HCI) developed, providing such things as more accessible interfaces and user-friendly software. But as the HCI name says, the model was person-computer.

Computers have increasingly reached out to each other. Starting in the 1960s, people began piggybacking on machine-machine data transfers to send each other messages. Communication soon spilled over organizational boundaries. The proliferation of electronic mail (e-mail) in the 1980s and its expansion into the Internet in the 1990s (based on e-mail and the Web) have so tied things together that to many, being at a computer is synonymous with being connected to the Internet.

As a result, HCI has become socialized. Much of the discussion at current HCI conferences is about how people use computers to relate to each other (1). Some participants build “groupware” to support such interactions; others do ethnographic, laboratory, and survey studies to ascertain how people actually relate to each other. This work has slowly moved from the lone computer user to dealing with (i) how two people relate to each other online, (ii) how small groups interact, and (iii) how large unbounded systems operate—the ultimate being the worldwide Internet, the largest and most fully connected social network of them all. Just one small portion of the Internet—Usenet members—participated in more than 80,000 topic-oriented collective discussion groups in 2000. 8.1 million unique participants posted 151 million messages (2–4). This is more than three times the number identified on 27 January 1996 (5)

Computer scientists and developers have come to realize that when computer systems connect people and organizations, they are inherently social. They are also coming to realize that the popular term “groupware” is misleading, because computer networks principally support social networks, not groups. A group is only one special type of a social network; one that is heavily interconnected and clearly bounded. Much social organization no longer fits the group model. Work, community, and domestic life have largely moved from hierarchically arranged, densely knit, bounded groups to social networks.

In networked societies, boundaries are more permeable, interactions are with diverse others, linkages switch between multiple networks, and hierarchies are flatter and more recursive (6–8). Hence, many people and organizations communicate with others in ways that ramify across group boundaries. Rather than relating to one group, they cycle through interactions with a variety of others, at work or in the community. Their work and community networks are diffuse and sparsely knit, with vague overlapping social and spatial boundaries. Their computer-mediated communication has become part of their everyday lives, rather than being a separate set of relationships.

When computer-mediated communication networks link people, institutions, and knowledge, they are computer-supported social networks. Indeed, if Novell had not gotten there first, computer scientists would be saying “netware” instead of “groupware” for systems that enable people to interact with each other online. Often computer networks and social networks work conjointly, with computer networks linking people in social networks and with people bringing their offline situations to bear when they use computer networks to interact.

The intersection of computer networks with the emerging networked society has fostered several exciting developments. I report here on two developing areas: (i) community networks on- and offline and (ii) knowledge access.

原文作者:Barry Wellman
Centre for Urban and Community Studies, University of Toronto, 455 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Canada M5S 2G8. E-mail:wellman@chass.utoronto.ca

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