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Convergence: history, meanings and socio-cultural implications


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Convergence is introduced as a conceptual tool to analyse, evaluate, compare and improve the design and use of information infrastructures (particularly, the Internet)

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Convergence: history, meanings and socio-cultural implications

  1. 1. STS Italia 4th National Conference “Emerging Technologies, Social Worlds” Convergence: History, Meanings and Socio-Cultural Implications Giuseppe Lugano E European Cooperation in Science & Technology (COST) giuseppe.lugano@cost.euThematic Session 3 “Information Infrastructures: from Standardization to Multiple Uses”
  2. 2. Why “Convergence” ?Convergence as a conceptualtool to analyse, evaluate,compare and improve thedesign and use ofinformation infrastructures
  3. 3. The Internet as Global Information InfrastructureConvergence has made the Internet (and us) even more interconnected. At what cost?
  4. 4. A Brief History of todays Global Information Infrastructure 50s - 60s Originally, it was a small network of computers used for academic purposes… 90s …then it became an electronic highway of digital content to “consume”. 2000s Today, digitally converged technologies have contributed to make the Internet an integral part of “constantly connected” social lives
  5. 5. Convergence: a techno-economic viewpointConvergence is typically understood as a synonym of technologicalconvergence - the coming together of telecommunication systems,computer networks and media industry Converged networks and devices
  6. 6. Convergence: a broader viewpointConvergence as a process spanning technological,economic, global, cultural and social dimensions((Jenkins, 2006)Convergence as a complex and multi-facetedphenomenon linked to parallel trends of divergence(Fortunati, 2007) Focus on: Social Convergence
  7. 7. Social Convergence as Micro-Coordination Rendez-Vous: before digital technologies converged, mobile phones used to facilitate physical convergence of a small group of people to an agreed location (Ling & Yttri, 2002)
  8. 8. Social Convergence as Virtual Co-Presence Online social networks typically model a social relationship as a “0” or “1”, leading to a “collapse of disparate social contexts into one” (boyd, 2008) Exposure InvasionAmplifiers & Attenuators: growing awareness of Exposure & Invasion: downside of increasedthe need to privilege quality to quantity (not only convenience of access to social information andaggregating, but also filtering social streams) more immediate interactions
  9. 9. Complementary function of convergence & divergenceThe challenges of social convergence could be addressed by acknowledgingthe complementary function of convergence and divergence
  10. 10. Complementary function of convergence & divergenceEarly phase: divergence a strategy to compete -> fragmentation, choice, creativityGrowth phase: convergence as an opportunity to grow/”share thepie” via strategic partnerships (Skype / Facebook deal)-> interoperability, few global actors and policiesMaturity: divergence as a necessity to enable users to cope with thegrowing complexity by enhanced control of incoming/outgoing socialstreams (i.e. a social media funnel) -> enhanced user experience Filtered social stream
  11. 11. Social Convergence: the case of Nokia Lumia The Nokia Lumia smartphones allow a seamless experience of multiple social networks from a single interaction spaceWhile it is extremely easy to import contacts and visualize social streams,the lack of adequate “filters” (e.g. sort contacts by current location,interest) reduces significantly the usefulness of the feature
  12. 12. Enhancing Information Infrastructures: Lessons Learnt Convergence supports the adoption of similar protocols / policies, but it does not necessarily reduce complexity
  13. 13. Enhancing Information Infrastructures: Lessons Learnt“Big data” should not only used for marketing purposes, but also to implement socialmedia funnels with user-controlled information “amplifiers” and “attenuators”Computational Sociology should support Interaction Design by deriving behavioraland contextual patterns, models of evolving social relationships to test on the field
  14. 14. Enhancing Information Infrastructures: Lessons Learnt In a specific interaction context, the information infrastructure should not only consist of a detected and aggregated network of similar nodes… Converg Diverge e …but also represent roles and relationships, which should be used as input for customizing interaction possibilities and information flows
  15. 15. Enhancing Information Infrastructures: Lessons Learnt We need to develop and use both convergent and divergent thinking strategies
  16. 16. STS Italia 4th National Conference “Emerging Technologies, Social Worlds” Thank you for your attention! Question Time Also by email: Giuseppe Lugano ( Session 3 “Information Infrastructures: from Standardization to Multiple Uses”