Networks

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A final component that enables new ways of interacting in our modern society

that has just recently started to become widely adopted are various kinds of

local open wireless networks of different kinds. These networks have sometimes

been labeled “spontaneous” networks since they typically support adhoc

networking, which is good if somebody wants to quickly establish a

network connection for a short while or if the user is at a new location and does

not know if there is any network connection available in the ether.

These spontaneous networks that open up new possibilities for people to

interact in new ways include, e.g., WLANs (wireless local area networks), adhoc

networks, Bluetooth networks, and P2P (peer-to-peer) networks.

New Behaviors: An Emerging Society

on all Different Levels of Computer

Supported Human Activities

The previous sections above have pointed at some important enabling components

for the Interaction Society. One might think that “that’s just technology.”

Technology has, however, always had an important influence on the shaping of

our society and, on the other hand, our society has had great influence on the

shaping of our technology and our technology use5.

The general hypothesis put forward in this book is that the current transformation

from the Information Society as described by, e.g., Webster (2002),

enabled by the Network Society (Castells, 1996), to the Interaction Society,

touches upon, and has some severe impact on several dimension of the modern

world, including issues related to individuals, groups, organizations, and the

society at large. It also spans across different problem areas of research related

to social and cultural issues, technical issues, and theoretical challenges. It also

spans across work related interaction, leisure-time interaction, and other forms

of social interaction.

To just illustrate the impact of the Interaction Society in how it leads to new

behaviours related to the different levels of human activities as mentioned

above, we can for example see how new information and communication

technologies (ICTs), and interaction applications and interaction devices have

implications for individuals in their work environments on, e.g., how they

should make up their priorities between individual tasks and interaction with

others (i.e., a question of interactiveness vs. interpassiveness). In this book,

Kakihara et al. explore exactly this specific issue in more detail and in relation

to the fluidity of work in organizations.

On a group level, or collaborative level of human activities, this transformation

into the Interaction Society relates to questions concerning mutual awareness,

coordination, and division of labor. While a lot of experimental research has

been conducted since the mid-1980s around CSCW (Computer Supported

Cooperative Work) to explore new ways of supporting groups and team

collaboration with new information technologies these experimental efforts are

now a reality. Today, people around the world communicate frequently over

email and mobile phones, they participate in electronic meeting rooms and

share documents in virtual work environments on the Web. What was once

solely prototype systems have now left the research labs and are now available

everywhere. One such example is, as mentioned in the previous section, ICQ

and similar instant messaging applications that are now a technology that is

available and adopted on a large-scale basis.

On an organizational level of analysis, an increase in interactions and use of

computerized interaction support relates to questions concerning, e.g., how to

organize work effectively according to this new society, and how to make use

of interaction to build up and share competence (which is closely related to

current research in the area of knowledge management). This issue has been in

focus for some while now and several studies have been conducted on, e.g.,

how the use of email affects the efficiency of work in an organization, or how

instant mesaging could be used in organizational decision processes on a

management level.

Clearly, this new technology has already enabled, and will even further enable,

new ways of doing and organizing work. Some researchers in this area have for

example pointed at “networking” as a new way of doing business where

interpersonal contacts and interaction technologies play important roles to

make the network work (Ljungberg, 1997). This networking idea has also been

extrapolated to the society as a whole (see, e.g., Castells, 1996) and there are

strong reasons to believe that even more new business models will emerge on

top of this “networking” trend6.

On a societal level the transformation towards the Interaction Society is also

a shift from computing focused on transactions (e.g., administrative systems,

banking systems, datawarehouses), towards computing to support interaction

(e.g. mobile phones, ICQ, chat, email, etc.) (Ljungberg & Sørensen, 2000;

Dourish, 2001). As mentioned above, it almost makes sense to talk about IT

as an interaction technology, and not merely an information technology. A

general vision often put forward here is that interaction in the near future will be

seamless, effective, “anytime, anywhere,” and instant (stretching from various

application domains such as the use of SMS and MMS among teenagers to

interaction among business executives and use of interaction technologies to

enable financial services). Some researchers (e.g., Dahlbom, 1996, 1997)

have even argued that our society of today might be best described as a “talk

society” where we, by just picking up our mobile phone, can get in contact with

anyone at anytime to do business, to negotiate, to make deals, and act as

knowledge-brokers and service buyers and consumers on an open and free

market.

On this societal level of human activities we have also already started to see new

mass-behaviors emerge during the most recent years. One such phenomenon

is “flash mobs” (Reingold, 2003) where several hundred mobile phone users

gather together for a fraction of time to do some collective action. It might be

to form a line of a couple of hundred persons in front of a hot dog wagon for

a couple of minutes and then just walk away from the place a couple of minutes

later as if nothing has happened, or gather together to do something else for a

couple of minutes and then split up again a couple of minutes later. Reingold

(2003) has described this phenomenon as “stranger interaction” where total

strangers use their mobile phones to get together and quickly organize themselves

to do some collective action without knowing anything about each other.

These sections above have just exemplified very briefly what this new technology

can do for us and what it does to us. The rest of this book will report on

a lot of additional behaviors emerging in the use of these interaction technoloIntroduction

gies and it will go into detail in describing and analyzing these different

behaviors.