Friday, May 17, 2002

Social Network Experiment, with technology and champagne
I have seen the light. I have seen the technology which will save the shy introverts of Norway from themselves. Have you ever been to a party where you're supposed to "mingle" in Norway? If it's a really big party, you'll have a hundred people politely clinging to their drinks, glancing at the others and speaking in low, careful voices to the one or two people they know. This can become a scene of the past.

Eyebeam presented the social network technology that gets you past that embarassing first moment and carries you on to chat as if you have known the other person for ever! which in Norwegian means that you know their name. Getting past the introductions includes having attented the same school for a couple of years back in between the mountains where I grew up...

The lectures were kind of self-evident. Nothing new on what networks are or why they are important. Some funny charts, like the graphic display of the fortune 100 company boards and their interlinking board-members. It also made me think about my social spheres. While I think I belong to more than the standard three: home, work, school I am a far cry from the 35 different social spheres of the really social people. I mean, the REALLY social, those obnoxious people who remember all the names, who always knows someody, and who will remember your birthday and send you cards long after you have lost their address.

The technical thingies were fun though. Typing in the name and getting started was a social event on its own: "now if I do this and push this and try this - will you and I be able to meet? Who's Judy? Did anybody see a Judy? Hmmm, it says I met her, but I have never heard of you. How odd. Is this thing functioning?" At the third attempt I got one that worked. By then the panel was done, Yoko, my japanese nerd friend had arrived, and so had even matthew the broker, who dropped a company excursion to a strip club in order to try his luck on the academic chicks gathering in Chelsea. It was time to mingle.

Now I won't claim that I was uninfluenced by the champagne. But it was an extremely fun evening. The "thingies" would "meet" the signals of the passing persons, and if you saw somebody good looking, it was perfectly legitimate to run after them and check things like "was that your name I just got on this thing here? Did you and I just meet?" After I had been chasing down young handsome men for an hour or so, Yoko found that it was time to reel me in - which made the young handsome men chase us, fantasies of a beautiful delicate-looking Japanese and a butch-looking aggressive Scandinavian making the technology superfluous. But sometime after most other people had left the place Yoko and I found matthew in a group of three admiring intellectual women from different important sounding universities, we grabbed him before he had a chance to give out more cards, and hit the pavement. Around midnight we had untangled ourselves from each other's embraces and found the way home.

Yes, that was excellent social technology, and I am all for more such experiments in the name of science.

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