The Antisocial Life of Information

Updated 20-Sep-2023

I was one of the (apparently) skeptical few when hearing John Seely Brown's job talk at UC Berkeley in 2001, ostensibly on his book The Social Life of Information written with Paul Duguid. Rumor was he co-wrote the book as an exit strategy out of Xerox Parc, the spectacularly failed think-tank. He eventually ended up at another Information School (Washington). Paul Duguid became and adjunct professor at UC Berkeley after this (or before? not sure). Yes, this book is necessary but is ultimately a minor work dominated by technical prowess. It always disturbed me that the social side of technology was dominated by people who were a bit afraid of technology, even those who worked as programmers in the past. Social Life of Information on Amazon

Not Available as an Ebook

The biggest sign of failure these days, of course due to a publisher, not an author, is the lack of availability in an affordable, electronic version. Authors should be held responsible for this, since they choose publishers, and have some power and role in these publishing decisions, especially established authors.

Website Missing

Another sure-fire sign of failure is the entire website for the book is missing. Yes, the domain name still exists, but without any actual content.

The Social Life of Information

So what is this social life? It is the (mere) idea that information has a social live, and not merely a technical transmission process for its existence. People produce and consume information socially. Lovely, yes. Ok, well if that is so, then we should enable information be more alive socially. That would mean websites that work, first of all, and new formats for use of information (aka ebooks). It seems, that just as at Xerox Parc, the innovation never quite makes it to the wider world, because a lack of the social and technical coming together.