Relationships matter! Even for our royal!

On: September 27, 2010
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About Layla Van Daalen
I am MA New Media student of the University of Amsterdam. After I passed my study Communication Multimedia & Design, I worked for half a year as a graphic designer. 1 year ago I moved to Amsterdam to start my premaster at the university. I succesfully completed my premaster this year, and I’ll hope to complete my master at the end of this schoolyear (2010-2011). Beside my study I am still working as a graphic designer and beside my creative activities I am also interested in new media theories. In particulair I am interested in social media, design & interactive installations, locative media, user experience & behaviour.


Can the use of RFID and location based services generate new insights, new activity and new social relations in urban spaces and contribute to our social capital?

Since last Saturday our Royal is on twitter as well! And today on the news there was a new article about it. U can read the full article here. Although i am not very interested in our Royal, it reminds me too of her criticism of social media. Our Queen have said in her christmas speach: Social media makes us less social in our offline world, also called urban open spaces. Instead of creating social capital, we are ignoring face to face contact and are more disconnected from each other in urban spaces. What followed was a meeting between users of twitter in Amsterdam to show her how online relationships can meet each other in the urban spaces.

Not only this example showed us different perspectives about social media, and how our society can change in positive and negative way, there are also a lot of academics and philosophers who have written about the change of society from different kind of views.

Even though this is an example of how the virtual community, in this case the users of twitters have created a meeting in urban spaces, the place from which they had planned the meeting was different from where the meeting was scheduled. But now, in our contemporary society, where the technologies like RFID and different location based services become part of our everyday live, i can imagine that this is going to create new experiences and making real-time new relationships and new networks in the urban spaces.

Is this a new way to create more social capital in our near future?

How communities have changed can be placed in a historical framework and connected to different kind of technologies. With a focus on the theory of Deleuze about the shift from disciplinary society’s to control society’s, and where individuals become dividuals, it is possible to examine how our society is changing through different kind of technologies.

“In the disciplinary societies one was always starting again (from school to the barracks, from the barracks to the factory), while in the societies of control one is never finished with anything–the corporation, the educational system, the armed services being metastable states coexisting in one and the same modulation, like a universal system of deformation. (…)We no longer find ourselves dealing with the mass/individual pair. Individuals have become “dividuals,” and masses, samples, data, markets, or “banks.” (Deleuze, 1992)

Social new media, and in particular social network sites have changed our communities in different ways. The work of Danah boyd, what examines social media, youth practices, tensions between public and private, social network sites, and other intersections between technology and society can be used to describe these changes.

And now through RFID and the use of more mobile devices we can connect to the internet at any time at any place. In this new situation the division between virtual communities and urban spaces is going to disappear. In the book Check in / Check uit the authors ask critical questions about regarding the digitization of public spaces. This book can be very useful to learn more about the different aspects, by example privacy and public, power and control, virtual identity, e.g. of this new technologies. I would like to focus on the opportunity of the digitization of the urban space. How can we benefit from this new technology’s and how can we bonding and bridging social capital?

So it’s necessary to focus on social capital, and how it is produced by technologies, and the economical and political structures in society. John Field outlines in he’s book Social Capital the theory about social capital and uses the work of Bourdieu and Putnam.
Social capital means, following the words of John Field:

“The theory of social capital is, at heart, most straightforward. Its central thesis can be summed up in two words: Relationships matter. By making connections with one another, and keeping them going over time, people are able to work together to achieve things they either could not achieve themselves, or could only achieve with great difficulty. People connect through a series of networks an they tend to share common values with other members of these networks.” (John Field, 2008)

Besides that it’s necessary to outline how technological developments have changed our everyday life.

In the work of Mark Shepard Sentient City Survival Kit: Archaeology of the Near Future about “a design research project that probes the social, cultural and political implications of ubiquitous computing for urban environments.” (Shepard, 2009) Shepard outlined the theory of Stevenson as followed:

“Stevenson refers to an archeology of the contemporary past as “the design history of the everyday,” where common objects drawn from daily life do not simply (passively) reflect cultural forces (trends in taste and fashion, for example) but also actively participate in shaping the evolving social and spatial relations between people and their environment.” (Shepard, 2009)

Besides using different academic work its also necessary to analyze projects that are good examples of projects about crowd-sourcing, where it was about managed and focused crowds. How has they become realized our failed in our society?
What are the possibilities and opportunities to create connections and new relationships in the urban space to contribute to social capital?

I can imagine that there are opportunities for non-profit organizations, groups with common interest and so on, to benefit from these technological developments. That it is possible to create a mass collaboration in society and a social change in urban spaces on a positive way. Maybe i can generate my own goals more efficiently if i am going to use social media in Urban spaces?

Is this our near future? A system of systems?

Can this system of systems generate new insights, new activity, and new social relations in urban spaces? Can it contribute to our social capital. I hope so. I think its an interesting topic that I can outline in my thesis this year.

1. Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control”, from _OCTOBER_ 59,
Winter 1992, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 3-7.

2. Field John, “Social capital”, 2008.

3.Mark Shephard, “Sentient City Survival Kit: Archaeology of the Near Future” publication date 12-12-2009.

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