Where Locality Meets Virtuality

Resnick, Paul. "Where Locality Meets Virtuality". In Making the Net Work: Sustainable Development in a Digital Society, edited by  Vidhya Alakeson, Tim Aldrich, James Goodman, and Britt Jorgensen. Xeris Publishing, Middlesex, England. 2003.

Draft of May 5, 2003

Technology has created new ways for people to make and maintain social connections. People can communicate at a distance and exchange messages asynchronously or quickly catch up on missed conversations. They can maintain weak or latent ties, to be activated when needed.

Whenever a new way of accomplishing some function emerges, observers tend to notice first a substitution effect of the new for the old. Then there is what economists call an income effect, an increase in how much the function is performed overall. Finally, new structures emerge that rely on cheap ubiquitous availability of that function. Malone and Crowston charted this progression in the realm of transportation (the horseless carriage; increased mobility; suburbs) and tried to anticipate it in the realm of coordination technologies (Malone and Crowston 1994). The same framework can help us understand and perhaps even foresee potential impacts of new, technologically-mediated ways of making and maintaining social connections.