Sunday, March 23, 2008

Gaining Face

Some might argue that Web 2.0 has been transformed into Web 3.0 with the addition of social networking as a new way of creating communities that can be effective in mounting projects and sharing common objectives actually implemented through Internet technology.

I am of a generation that fiercely guards privacy and prefers individual initiative and achievement over group effort. I have resisted the various social networking schemes, and remember when Web Gurus were predicting that these emerging Internet networks would surpass anything that we have seen before, and that no one knows what the limits are of this networking or where it might ultimately take us.

Yet, as I thought about the possibilities, I concluded I could best get a sense of the potential by participating. So I joined FaceBook. From the very start it has been like joining a party in progress where I meet new friends and see others that I have not seen in years. It is a little bit like the game SimCity, in that the community starts to build itself as you make certain choices, but in FaceBook everything is real. As friends join and visit each other, you learn possibilities, options. You see yourself in relation to those around you. This is a powerful process. Each time you visit yourself on FaceBook, something has changed.

What is most remarkable is that so many are participating and willing to reveal themselves. As I see different generations interact, I am struck that there are so many who seem to be flourishing in their natural habitat. For younger generations their presence is effortless and they bring original ideas that unfold as the natural terrain of group chemistry. Identity is altered as you absorb and assimilate so many ideas, personalities, and processes. Many connections are of the moment, still others are lasting, penetrating, and transforming your perceptions. In some cases, it is like someone with you who remarks "Did you notice this? What do you think?" Suddenly you are sharing some image, some music, some video, some text, and you find yourself encountering ideas with immediacy and spontaneity.

I have invited many of my friends to join me. I suspect many are cautious and see the bastion of individuality crumbling in modern society as a reason to remain mute and unresponsive. I tell myself it is probably generational, but not entirely. Many are terrified about revealing themselves. I certainly empathize with this point of view.

Rather than losing yourself when you are willing to share yourself, you find yourself continually in a process of growth and assimilation. Rather than losing face by surrendering to the process, you are gaining face in the midst of the myriad personas that now collaborate with you on many different levels. We begin to understand how we define each other in overlapping and dynamic contexts.

I began this project with FaceBook as an investigation of how creating community might lead to collaborative work, and while that is certainly materializing, there is an additional luster that transcends this original purpose and opens my perceptions to the catalytic interactive transformations. I agree that we have no idea where this will take us, but the ride, while at times a little rough, is really fascinating.

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