Why socialising is amazing, how we are able to design for socilisation, and what psychological and anthropological tools are at our disposal, followed by a demo of CrowdScanner which is designed for socialisation with strangers.
So the cream line represents the time people in 2008 spent socialising... But people socialise while they are eating, working and travelling as well.
Whats so great about socialising anyway?Although sociability has neither objective purpose nor intrinsic results, it has a definite role in social life in that it indirectly influences more serious endeavours. The more serious person, Simmel argued, derives from sociability a feeling of liberation and relief, because the practical tasks of life are sublimated. http://www.bolenderinitiatives.com/sociology/georg-simmel-1858-1918/georg-simmel-formal-sociologSimmel on SociabilitySimmel was especially fascinated, it seems, by the, "impulse to sociability in man," which he described as "associations...[through which] the solitariness of the individuals is resolved into togetherness, a union with others," a process he describes by which, "the impulse to sociability distils, as it were, out of the realities of social life the pure essence of association," and "through which a unity is made," which he also refers to as, "the free-playing, interacting interdependence of individuals."He defines sociability as, "the play-form of association," driven by, "amicability, breeding, cordiality and attractiveness of all kinds." He also describes, "this world of sociability...a democracy of equals...without friction," so long as people blend together in a spirit of fun and affection to, "bring about among themselves a pure interaction free of any disturbing material accent."Simmel says that, "the vitality of real individuals, in their sensitivities and attractions, in the fullness of their impulses and convictions...is but a symbol of life, as it shows itself in the flow of a lightly amusing play," or when he adds: "a symbolic play, in whose aesthetic charm all the finest and most highly sublimated dynamics of social existence and its riches are gathered."Wikipedia entry. All above quotes are from Simmel'sThe Sociology of Sociability.His explanation is so great that the writer says: “One has to conclude that he is describing human interactions at their idealised best and not the more typical ones, which tend to fall a long way short of his descriptions.”- That means he has never had an engaging conversation... Shame.
We know what that feels like:couchsurfing
Social interactions increase happiness:To thrive in a modern society, research suggests, it is vital to have a variety of connections.^ Karen L. Fingerman,"Consequential Strangers and Peripheral Partners: The Importance of Unimportant Relationships," Journal of Family Theory and Review, 1 (2009): 69-82."What really connects you to people is substantive, meaningful conversation rather than small talk," says study author Matthias Mehl, who teaches at the University of Arizona. The happiest folks tended to spend less time alone and more time talking, as compared to the least happy. While the study doesn't prove cause-and-effect, Mehl says it raises the possibility you can get happier by having conversations with substance. http://www.wtop.com/?nid=600&sid=1907652
Social interactions increase cognitive capacity:“Social interaction and relationships not only sharpen our knowledge and social skills but also strengthen the cognitive processes that underlie those skills, which may then ready people for greater connection and effectiveness in dealing with others. Thus, an important outcome of social interactionappears to be mental sharpness, which in itself may play a central role in helping us enjoy the many other benefits that come from being socially connected. Thinking many times is for being social, and being social supports our thinking. For example, a simple exchange of views between two people requires that they pay attention to each other, maintain in memory the topic of the conversation and respective contributions, adapt to each other’s perspective, infer each other’s beliefs and desires, assess the situational constraints acting on them at the time, and inhibit irrelevant or inappropriate behavior. Some of these processes are automatic, but others depend on limited-capacity cognitive resources often subsumed by the term executive functions, which include capacities such as attention, working memory, and cognitive control (Shallice, 1988; E. E. Smith & Jonides, 1999). The process thus seems aligned with the possibility that social interaction can “exercise” general cognitive processes (working memory, speed of processing, inhibition)in the service of social cognition (e.g., empathy, mentalizing, symbolic interaction). It is possible that as people engage socially and mentally with others, they receive relatively immediate cognitive boosts, which then facilitate subsequent social interactions, receiving additional cognitive boosts, and so forth. This perspective suggests that anyone, older and younger alike, can do things that come naturally to most of us to stay cognitively engaged.”Social interactions increase social capital:“In more recent times, though, social connections among people seem to be on the decline. As Putnam (2000) has noted in his book, Bowling Alone, there has been much loss in social capital in the United States over the last couple of decades. This is evident, for example, in the decline of the number of organizations people are part of and the number of meetings they attend that involve being around others and having face-to-face interaction. There has also been a decline in family dinners and the occasion with which people have friends over for a visit. Other research indicates that people have fewer close others they can talk to about their innermost thoughts and feelings (McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Brashears, 2006). Our society appears to be in a state of social decline, not one in which the environment is chaotic and people fear for their lives, but one in which people have fewer interactions and relations with others.”Mental Exercising Through Simple Socializing: Social Interaction Promotes General Cognitive FunctioningOscar Ybarra, Eugene Burnstein, PiotrWinkielman, Matthew C. Keller, Melvin Manis, Emily Chan and Joel RodriguezPers Soc Psychol Bull 2008; 34; 248http://psp.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/34/2/248If the interaction is one filled with anxiety, then the positive effects are reduced, so its important that the application gain the participants trust, and that it not be filmed, or their name attached to it, so that they are relieved of anxiety, and can benefit from the cognitive rewards of interactions with another person.
Problem: we are creating homophilious networks “In an era of networked media, we need to recognize that networks are homophilous and operate accordingly. Technology does not inherently disintegrate social divisions. In fact, more often then not, in reinforces them. Only a small percentage of people are inclined to seek out opinions and ideas from cultures other than their own. These people are and should be highly valued in society, but just because people have the ability to be what Ethan Zuckerman talks about as xenophiles does not mean that they will be.” Zephoriahttp://www.danah.org/papers/talks/Web2Expo.html Heterophily, or love of the different, is the tendency of individuals to collect in diverse groups. It has been shown that that heterophilious networks are better able to spread innovations. Everett Rogers in his book Diffusion Of Innovations. The notion of ‘the stranger’ (George Simmel) or weak ties, is that they can bridge homophilious networks, turning them into one larger heterophilious network. (Burton) Goal: To make it easier and motivating to create heterphilious networks, or weak ties, to create innovative environments
Research from sociopatterns.org with rfid tags showed how people interact with same people at networking events. The graph reports the number of distinct attendees met by the 5 most social attendeesof the conference, for different values of the contact duration threshold. As the RFID contact data were taken during the conferences sessions and coffee breaks (and notduring lunchtime, for example), only few contacts of long duration were observed. Table 6. Number of individuals met by the 5 most social attendees at the conference, as a functionof the contact duration threshold.http://isiosf.isi.it/~cattuto/papers/lss_iswc09.pdfWhat we see from this is that people are not connecting on their first contact, they are being interrupted, looking for the next interaction, are screening each other quickly, and moving on after a minute to the next interaction. Conversations die. It depends on what people are looking for in an interaction, however this is not the interactions that Simmel or Zeldin was talking about. It must be due to this objective purpose of a networking event that they do not fulfil the same criteria and we are left with this concept of Networking
Problem: Networking is like scavenging, and having connections with already existing connections. Barbara Ehrenreich's Bait & Switch:"[Networking] feels 'fake' because we know it involves the deflection of our natural human sociability to an ulterior end. Normally we meet strangers in the expectation that they may truly be strange, and are drawn to the multi-layered mystery that each human presents. But in networking, as in prostitution, there is no time for fascination. The networker is always, so to speak, looking over the shoulder of the person she engages in conversation, toward whatever concrete advantage can be gleaned from the interaction - a tip or a precious contact. This instrumentalism undermines the possibility of a group identity, say, as white-collar victims of corporate upheaval. No matter how crowded the room, the networker prowls alone, scavenging to meet his or her individual needs."But networking doesn’t have to be so cold and scavenger like, does it? We can design better. Goal: To create liberating, interesting conversations, not replicate networking:
Problem: We have forgotten the value of strangers Simmel identifies a stranger as a person that is far away and close at the same time.In a society there must be a stranger. If everyone is known then there is no person that is able to bring something new to everybody.The Stranger bears a certain objectivity that makes him a valuable member to the individual and society. People let down their inhibitions around him and confess openly without any fear. This is because there is a belief that the Stranger is not connected to anyone significant and therefore does not pose a threat to the confessor’s life.On one hand the Stranger’s opinion does not really matter because of his lack of connection to society, but on the other the Stranger’s opinion does matter because of his lack of connection to society. He holds a certain objectivity that allows him to be unbiased and decide freely without fear. He is simply able to see think, and decide without care of others.– Georg Simmel The Stranger 1908, So asking a stranger will not only induce an open and honest opinion, but there is a sense that they will bring you new information.
Goal: To redefine or rebrand strangers:Chat roulette is cashing in on this stranger value, to capture something of the original delights of the internet:http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2010/02/21/chatroulette-from-my-perspective.html
Design influences socialisation
Breakfast cereals invented at the end of the 19th century: breakfast cereal was a food that had to be heavily promoted to convince people to change their habits. “It is ironic, considering that classic image of the “cornflake packet family” that few products have accelerated the decline of eating breakfast together more than packaged cereals.” – Christina Hardyment
A survey from the American Dietetic Association finds that 75 percent of office workers eat lunch at their desks as often as two or three times a week.
Robert Putman uses the decline in meal preparation times and the rise in solitary dining on TV dinners as indicators of the loss of “social capital”, the sense of solidarity that binds American Society together
Portable coffee – they said in Italy that customers prefer to get the cardboard take out cups even if they are drinking it in the coffee shop. ‘There’s a relationship of trust and confidence in that environment’. Schultz discovered that there were 200,000 coffee bars in Italy, with some 1500 in Milan alone.
Dunbar argued that gossip evolved as a sort of vocal grooming, suitable for the larger groups in which humans live.Around 2/3s of conversation is taken up not with intellectual or practical matters but with gossip about personal relationships, likes and dislikes, and the behaviour of others. Robert DunbarOffices – used to gossip, at tea break... Then they introduced vending machine in 1950’s so gossip went down as people had coffee breaks at different times.
Then socialisation increased with the introduction of photocopiers as people aggregated around them to gossip. But it decreased again with computers - Research by Space Syntax suggests that around 80 percent of work conversations happen when one person simply passes another’s desk. An earlier MIT study conducted in the 1970s, found that office workers were 4 times more likely to talk if they are sat 6 rather than 60 feet apart, and that people seated more than 7 feet apart hardly speak at all. Email makes both meaningful and meaningless communication easier, and allows us to conduct electronic conversations that could be more quickly and efficiently conducted by the old-fashioned technology of talking. People suggest that it is becoming harder to talk casually in modern workplaces.Dunbar argues that much modern work involved tenuous connections with people on the other end of a telephone line or email server, and that the desire to cut occupancy costs encourages firms to get rid of communal spaces. This devalues the “chance encounters over the coffee machine, idle chatter around the photocopier” where the casual contacts can function like a parallel processing supercomputer, generating ideas that individuals could never have on their own.
Trains: When the train arrived in the 1830s, it soon became a more anonymous form of travel. The greater comfort of a railway carriage encouraged musing and window gazing, and made solitary activities like reading, writing, sewing and sleeping easier. In the 1960s, the Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman came up with the term ‘civil inattention’ to describe the polite ways in which we ignore other people’s presence in these temporarily shared environments, from thousand-yard stares, to burying ourselves in newspapers. To alleviate crowding on the trains, in 2002, they started ripping out the seats.
According to one historian, television was the social solvent of the 1950s the way that the war had been in the 1940s. In 1949, “putting an aerial outside your house was a guarantee of a social life” & people created mini cinemas for their neighbours”
ATM & internet banking - Telephone and internet backing remove the need for high street banks to deal with their customers in person. never have to ask anyone ever again...
Positives of internet: can stay in touch with people you would not text and let them know what you are doing so keep connectedInternet -forums – can meet new people online and converse with them over topics which interest you. Internet -twitter – can encounter LOCAL new people and talk with them in REAL TIME over topics which interest you and encounter NEW topics
Mobile PhonesUsing our state of the art mobile phone to complain to a friend or colleague that our train is running late instead of telling the person next to us is a perfect illustration of the unevenness of progress in daily life.but you can now stay in touch with people you may not otherwise keep in contact with...
“Generally speaking, the occupants of a railway carriage perform the whole of the journey in silence... This is most unnatural and unreasonable.”So the next time you are standing next to some one , waiting for a bus or plane, ask yourself what the Travellers companion complained about in 1862: “Why should half a dozen persons, each with minds to think and tongues to express their thoughts, sit looking at each other mumchance, as though they were afraid of employing the faculty of speech?”
So if we can influence our tendencies to interact negatively, we can reverse the trend. And design for better face to face socialisation.
Planting for social influence:Planting an individual who is talking to new people, starting up conversations with many people in the group can influence the group, generating a culture of talking to strangers within the group, and create a cascading behaviour that can bond a group of previously disconnected participants. Personal evidence from testing at walking tours in Berlin, with and without planters. At ignite events in Dublin, we were requested to be at the event:“I would also like to thank you for your participation in the other Ignites, I think the way you have of chatting to so many people has done a lot to help give Ignite the atmosphere we want it to have.” Conor Houghton, organiser at ignite. With this in mind, if you plant various “chatty people” at an event, or gathering, or metro tube, you can socially influence the behaviour of the people at that gathering. Why does it work?
Compliance:How likely a person is to help you out and answer your question is dependant on your credibility. In this case, handing them your phone with an official looking survey on it can increase the strangers likelihood to comply.
Social Validation:Very often, if you approach a group, there will be one person who is unresponsive. But people are more willing to participate if they see evidence that other people are based on the principle of conformity and consensus. If one person in the group says ok, then the others are more likely to follow suit.
Normative influence suggests that you are more likely to conform within a group of strangers than you are with friends.Normative influence; combined with social validity, and having a credible survey reason, means that if you are in a space, approaching lots of different people, then if one or more people conform, they will all follow suit.
Joint attention:Joint attention is the process by which one alerts another to a stimulus via nonverbal means, such as gazing or pointing. For example, one person may gaze at another person, and then point to an object, and then return their gaze back to the other person. In this case, the pointing person is "initiating joint attention" by trying to get the other to look at the object. The person who looks to the referenced object is "responding to joint attention." Joint attention is referred to a triadic skill, meaning that it involves two people and a object or event outside of the duo.This has been an effective way of grabbing the interest of people in a group, as people want to know what’s happening, and play. The person who has the iphone has something everyone else wants to be able to see.
And look to our brain and chemical make up: Robin Dunbar speaking in 2008http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i98XpBFWPrI
Small towns to Big cities – brain detects any differences in the landscape but in big cities – everyone looks the same...probably why we try and STAND OUT
Laughter – most primitive form of endorgphin connection. HUGE for endorphin release. So must be funny – upsurge of a sense of belonging to a community. You are proven to share money with a stranger to the same level that you would with a friend if you LAUGH together beforehand. Dunbar: The emotionally intense component of grooming... why?Guess – need this physiological mechanism to set up an internal psychological state where it is to build up a relationship of trust and reciprocity
When mass observation conducted research in north west pubs in 1930s, it discovered that drinking was not the main motivation for going to the pub. Pub going was a social habit, a temporary liberation that was the equivalent of music, dancing or other tribal ceremonies
Smoking is “an international, wordless language that breaks down – if only for a few moments – the inevitable awkwardness between people who are not quite strangers and not quite friends.” Asking for a lighter.Asking a stranger for help
Insert CrowdScanner - Solution
Fear alleviated by the act of giving someone your phone:Trust
Endorphins: Approach – anxiety (fear of rejection and the unknown)= Fear triggers endorphins
Endorphins trigger courage – another study http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V5W-45WYWSY-J6&_user=10&_coverDate=05%2F31%2F1993&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1314744859&_rerunOrigin=google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=b686babcc5b9def9480c7eb92770057d
Endorphins make bonding more easy with new people. – IF YOU MAKE THEM LAUGH EVEN BETTER
Cant get more than 5 ppl in a conversation according to Dunbar - with our app you can get more than 5 people in.
What’s so great about socialising?<br />Sociability: the play-form of association,“.<br />“This world of sociability...a democracy of equals...without friction," so long as people blend together in a spirit of fun and affection to, "bring about among themselves a pure interaction free of any disturbing material accent.”<br />George Simmel<br />The Sociology of Sociability.<br />
Planting<br />Planting an individual who is talking to new people, starting up conversations with many people in the group can influence the group, generating a culture of talking to strangers within the group, and create a cascading behaviour that can bond a group of previously disconnected participants. <br />(our experience)<br />