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It Takes a Network

- July 30, 2008 - 0 Comments

It first took a family, and then it took a village. The idea being that you can count on your community-however you define it-for help, for knowledge. And for sharing in your accomplishments. The ultimate extension of this concept,”it takes a world,” sounds a bit far-fetched at first. After all, the whole world can’t really be there for you. Or can it? The idea of community is a powerful one and it came to mind last month after I read that industry analyst Charlene Li was leaving Forrester, in order to pursue a more balanced work/family life. You might remember Charlene’s keynote at the Graphing Social Patterns Conference in March, which focused on the future of social networks. She likened them to air:”They will be anywhere and everywhere we need and want them to be-.Without that social context in our connected lives, we won’t really feel like we are truly living and alive, just as without sufficient air, we won’t really be able to breathe deeply.”The network is more than just email, IM, video, Facebook, and YouTube. These are merely tools. The real power is in what you can do with them. And each day, we’re seeing a transformation in how people interact, in an increasingly cross-border, human, and very real-life way through this ever-changing electronic medium. Soldiers stationed in the Middle East are sharing special moments with their families halfway around the globe; TelePresence narrows the distance as though each party is only separated by a pane of glass. Biologists in South America are sharing research on the rain forest with their colleagues in Europe and accelerating the response time of climate issues by being able to show and tell-and act in concert. And farmers are able to learn new irrigation techniques from their far-flung counterparts thanks to the posting of instructional videos. The most remote village and the most developed city can now connect and share experiences as though they are neighbors. Increasingly, we’re getting better at making knowledge and information accessible. Today I have friends whose family, whose ‘village,’ spans a dozen time zones. And though they may not get to connect face-to-face, their interactive relationships are more personal than the types of relationship some next-door neighbors have.We’ve already established the platform for these vibrant interactions to take place. As we move forward, it will be the voice, video, and data applications-and the more evolved social networks that Charlene spoke of-that will add new facets of color and light.

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