Mobile social software: historical roots, state of the art and future prospects


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Mobile Social Software, also known as MoSoSo, is an emerging paradigm of social computing that appeared around 2004, in parallel with the diffusion of smartphone technology. However, the early applications of MoSoSo were SMS-based. Since then, there has been some research and commercial development of MoSoSo: at an academic level, the peak of MoSoSo popularity was achieved in 2006, when a special workshop on MoSoSo was organized at the annual CHI conference. From a commercial viewpoint, Nokia introduced Nokia Sensor and Google acquired Dogdeball. Unfortunately, both academic and commercial expectations were not met, thus leaving MoSoSo as an unrealized potential. Recently, this trend has been reversed by the success of mobile apps and the popularity of social networking, which led to the rapid growth of the latest generation of MoSoSo including, among others, Foursquare and Gowalla. This lecture on MoSoSo will trace the historical origins and developments of MoSoSo, present the current state of the art and evaluate its possible impacts on future societies.

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Mobile social software: historical roots, state of the art and future prospects

  1. 1. MOBILE SOCIAL SOFTWARE timeline Historical roots State of the art Future prospects Giuseppe Lugano Aalto University, 25.11.2010 1
  2. 2. Something about me... 1. Camerino 2. Bologna 3. Helsinki 3. Jyväskylä 2000 Erasmus exchange in Helsinki 2002 Master’s thesis on educational technology 2003 MSc Computer Science, Univ. of Bologna Visiting researcher at HIIT 2004-08 2005-2010 2010 Researcher at TeliaSonera PhD Cognitive Science, Univ. of Jyväskylä Intern at Nokia Research Center Helsinki
  3. 3. From Educational Technology to Mobile Social Software (MoSoSo) My Research path 2003 2007 2010 Educational technology Mobile communication Digital communities and MoSoSo
  5. 5. Evolution of mobile communication From communication tool to ”Digital Swiss-Knife” 5 Historical roots 2005 -2.5G 2010 - 3G 1982 – 1G 1996 – 2G
  6. 6. Mobile2.0Mobile2.0 Mobile1.0Mobile1.0 Timeline 2G 1991 - 2001 2G 1991 - 2001 2005 – 3G and beyond 2005 – 3G and beyond 1G: Cellular network, call hand-off, non-digital standards, early mobile phones, voice services 0G: Mobile radio telephony, walkie-talkies, landline telephony (wired, cordless), pagers 1G: Cellular network, call hand-off, non-digital standards, early mobile phones, voice services 0G: Mobile radio telephony, walkie-talkies, landline telephony (wired, cordless), pagers 2G: Digital standard (GSM), Roaming, SIM, devices add features, data services (SMS, WAP) 2G: Digital standard (GSM), Roaming, SIM, devices add features, data services (SMS, WAP) 3G: Digital convergence, broadband mobile connectivity, Smartphones, GPS, touch interfaces, mobile Internet, video-calls, mobile tv, Mobile Social Software (MoSoSo) 3G: Digital convergence, broadband mobile connectivity, Smartphones, GPS, touch interfaces, mobile Internet, video-calls, mobile tv, Mobile Social Software (MoSoSo) 0G & 1G 1960 - 1991 0G & 1G 1960 - 1991 Mobile social networking, Large-scale mobilizations (e.g. smartmobs, flashmobs) Digital communities 2.5G: Camera integration, Bluetooth, MMS, Color screens, larger memories 2.5G: Camera integration, Bluetooth, MMS, Color screens, larger memories Tecnological Innovations 2.5G 2001 – 2005 2.5G 2001 – 2005 Interpersonal communication & small group coordination Evolution of mobile communication 6 Historical roots Social scope
  7. 7. Mobile2.0 is about convergence Mobile Services 2G 2.5G 3G Web 1.5Web 2.0 Web 1.0 Phone call SMS MMS MoSoSoMoSoSo Email Mailing-lists Newsgroups Internet Relay Chat (IRC) Internet Forum Instant Messaging (IM) Blogs Wikis Online social networks Video calls WAP Social Software ’60s –’80s ’90s 2000 - ’60s –’80s’90s2005 -NOWNOW MoSoSo is the outcome of the technological convergence between mobile services and social software, which implies social convergence as well 1G Historical roots Mobile2.0
  8. 8. Before the turn of Millennium: CMC, Groupware, CSCW & CSCL • There are several ancestors of MoSoSo – Computer-Mediated-Communication(CMC): computers regarded since ‘70s not only as information processing tools, but also as communication devices – Groupware: digital technologies used for supporting collaborative social interactions in formal activity contexts like schools, educational institutes, institutions and organizations • Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL): collaborative environments for learning communities • Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): knowledge sharing, cooperative processes in organizations • Solid academic tradition of CMC and Groupware • Boundaries and differentiating factors between Groupware, social software and MoSoSo has never been clearly established 8 Historical roots
  9. 9. 2002-2003: Smartmobs & Social Software • Howard Rheingold, who also coined the term virtual community, publishes an influential book titled Smartmobs – the next social revolution • Instead of MoSoSo, Rheingold coins the term smart mob technology, an amplifier for human cooperation but also a potential always-on panopticon • The author provides several examples of ways in which MoSoSo would impact societal changes (e.g. mass mobilization via SMS against President Estrada in the Philippines) • Clay Shirky coins the term social software in his blog 9 Historical roots
  10. 10. 2004: term MoSoSo is coined • First papers on MoSoSo by Dan Melinger, CEO of Socialight “Mobile social software is social software designed for use while mobile. This includes software that augments human social or collaborative abilities by supporting group communication […] MoSoSo represents more than merely a grafting of social software onto mobile devices. When running these types of applications on a mobile platform, the usage models for the applications take on quite different characteristics from their non-mobile counterparts” • Melinger’s papers are not considered very significant. They are seldom quoted in MoSoSo literature. – His contribution demonstrates that the origins of MoSoSo are closer to business than academic contexts • Timo Arnall creates a well-known list of MoSoSo on his blog 10 Historical roots
  11. 11. 2005: MoSoSo gains popularity • Several academic projects and articles on MoSoSo – Reality Mining project at MIT Media Lab: Nathan Eagle publishes “Social serendipity: mobilizing social software”, the most quoted paper on MoSoSo – Within the Context project at the University of Helsinki/HIIT, Antti Oulasvirta, Mika Raento and colleagues analyze the social implications of ContextContacts, a MoSoSo enhancing social awareness through the disclosure of contextual cues – Papers from Churchill and Smith review the state of the art of MoSoSo, connecting it to social network analysis / social networking sites – Digidress/Nokia Sensor, a MoSoSo for identity expression and social proximity interaction from Jan Blom, Younghee Jung and Per Persson 11 Historical roots ContextContacts Digidress/Nokia Sensor
  12. 12. 2005: MoSoSo gains popularity • Increasing coverage on specialized media – Wired publishes a column on MoSoSo titled “MoSoSo not So-So” defining MoSoSo as “the mobile equivalents of online social networks like Friendster and LinkedIn. They help users find old friends, or potential new ones, on the go” – Related trends: Tim O’Reilly popularizes the notion of Web2.0, and the term social media gets increasingly popular • MoSoSo startups launched – Dennis Crowley, founder and CEO of Dodgeball, presents Dodgeball, a MoSoSo that “encourages users to opt-in with their location via text messaging in order to broadcast their whereabouts to their friends, look for nearby friends-of-friends or hook up with nearby crushes” • In the same year, Dodgeball was acquired by Google, which integrated Dodgeball technology in its Google Latitude service in 2009 • Crowley left Google in 2007 to create Foursquare, a service launched in 2009, which shares many similarities with Dodgeball – Other startups: Playtxt, Jambo Networks, Plazes (acquired by Nokia in 2008) 12 Historical roots
  13. 13. 2006: peak of popularity for MoSoSo • Scott Counts (Microsoft), Henri ter Hofte (Telematica Instituut) and Ian Smith (Intel) organize the workshop “Mobile Social Software: realizing potential, managing risks” at CHI, the most important conference on Human- Computer Interaction • My first paper on MoSoSo: “Designing people’s interconnections in mobile social networks”, which is based on a technical report done in 2004 at the Corporate R&D of TeliaSonera Finland 13 Historical roots
  14. 14. 2007: end of the MoSoSo hype phase • Web2.0 and social media rapidly replace MoSoSo as emerging trends – MoSoSo is soon archived as an “unfinished” revolution • At an academic level, several interesting papers are published – The first critical analysis of MoSoSo is published by Thom-Santelli, who underlines the current limitations of MoSoSo, defined as an entertainment gadget with little utility – Kolko explores the potential of MoSoSo for the developing world, overcoming the common idea that MoSoSo is suitable only for densely populated developed cities – Lugano provides the first systematic definition of MoSoSo and connects its most promising applications to social capital theory. In another paper, he suggests an approach to MoSoSo privacy challenges • My definition from 2007 (also reported in Wikipedia page on MoSoSo): “MoSoSo is a class of mobile applications whose scope is to support social interaction among interconnected individuals” 14 Historical roots
  15. 15. 2008: early signs of MoSoSo maturity • Development of MoSoSo as an interdisciplinary research area continues – Heyer publishes the first thesis on the topic: “MoSoSo: the design, implementation and usage of a system for mobile group communication, coordination and sharing” – Humphreys publishes in the Journal of CMC a widely quoted case study on Dodgeball – Lugano explains how the network approach allows moving from the theory to the practice of MoSoSo design • At a commercial level, the term MoSoSo is not used much, but social networking services are increasingly accessed on mobile devices – A study from ABI Research predicts that online social networking going mobile would be one of the strongest growth trends, leading to 140 million users by 2013 15 Historical roots
  16. 16. 2009 & 2010: MoSoSo as part of Mobile2.0 • The popularity of smartphones and the powerful trend of mobile apps open the era of the Mobile2.0 – Wired declares that the Web is dead because it is evolving towards from an open-ended platform to more close and proprietary interconnected ecosystems, increasingly accessed through specialized mobile apps • MoSoSo is connected to the wider trend of digital convergence, which encompasses technological, economic, cultural and social meanings – In his PhD thesis “Digital community design”, Lugano presents a conceptualization and holistic design model of MoSoSo, arguing that its role is to enable and to empower self- organizing digital communities 16 Historical roots
  17. 17. Summary of MoSoSo • Still a young technology • Significant both academically and commercially • Multiple contributions and overlapping trends 17 Historical roots CSCL Virtual/Online communities Groupware Web2.0 Social media Online social networks Mobile2.0 Context-Aware Computing Social software Social computing CSCW MoSoSo 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 “hype phase” interest fades off maturity?
  19. 19. What is MoSoSo today? • There are three main types of MoSoSo 19 State of the art
  20. 20. What is MoSoSo for…? • Friend-finders (e.g. Dodgeball, Nokia Sensor) • Mobile dating applications (e.g. Lovegety, MeetMoi) • Pervasive urban gaming (e.g. Human Pacman) Typical users: teenagers / young adults living in cities and with active social lives Typical usage contexts: bars, clubs, streets, large-scale events (e.g. concerts) Social proximity applications let users “scan” the social environment through sensors State of the art
  21. 21. What is MoSoSo for…? • Mobile access to online social networks (e.g. Facebook) • Social aggregators: access to multiple social networks at once (eg. Funnelry) • Mobile media sharing: single update to multiple social media sites (eg. Shozu) • Presence-enhanced mobile phone-book (e.g. ContextContacts) Social awareness applications let users share their “life feeds” with social networks Historical roots
  22. 22. Foursquare • Foursquare is a MoSoSo created in 2009 by Dennis Crowley, who also invented Dodgeball • Foursquare can be used anywhere in the world and has currently 4 million registered users • Users voluntarily disclose their locations by “checking-in” at venues – Users frequently checking-in at a venue can become “mayors” and earn “badges” (social status incentives) and get discounts or offers from business partners (economic incentive) – Users can have their check-ins posted in Facebook and/or Twitter 22 State of the art MoSoSo of the year? • Webby Award 2010 as best mobile social network • App of the Year 2010 in the T3 Gadget Awards • 2011 Technology Pioneer nomination by the World Economic Forum in ICT category MoSoSo of the year? • Webby Award 2010 as best mobile social network • App of the Year 2010 in the T3 Gadget Awards • 2011 Technology Pioneer nomination by the World Economic Forum in ICT category
  23. 23. Foursquare • Similarly to Facebook, Foursquare raises significant concerns for personal privacy and security – There have been cases of stalking through Foursquare – Wired reported how hacker captured 875k check-ins by exploiting privacy hole • The game-like mechanisms of Foursquare are exploited to overcome users’ traditional resistance towards location-sharing – By removing this barrier and combining it with special discounts, Foursquare manages to unlock the commercial potential of the application by turning users into marketers (e.g. invite other friends to check-in to get points needed to have a personal discount) 23 State of the art
  24. 24. Gowalla • Gowalla lets users check-in to collect “passports”, a collection of stamps of the places they visit. – Pins, personal achievements in e.g. trips, are attached to passports – Users can attach photos, comments to passports and connect places to people – Like in Foursquare, virtual items offering rewards and special offers can be discovered while “exploring” the world 24 State of the art
  25. 25. Facebook Places • Facebook Places is the new feature of Facebook that connects location-sharing to local deals via friends – Based on Foursquare concept of “checking-in” – Through the “Deals” feature, Facebook connects its business strategy to the transactions mediated by Facebook with commercial partners 25 State of the art
  26. 26. Summary • Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places represent the current state of the art of MoSoSo – The basic idea of these MoSoSo is the same: engage users in location-sharing by offering a mobile social game, while enjoying revenues from commercial partners – Mechanisms to protect users’ privacy and security exist, but recent cases demonstrate that they are far from optimal – As expected, the potential of MoSoSo is used for attaining the goal of economic growth, while societal development remains a secondary objective • Can we do better? What may be the future paths of MoSoSo development? 26 State of the art
  28. 28. Designing MoSoSo for Sustainable Futures “How do you navigate an unsteady economy, a future without cheap oil, and unimaginable changes in the climate?” (YesMagazine 55, 2010) 28 We need to become skilled equilibrists to maintain/restore balance in our lives despite sudden disruptions, shocks or systemic changes Gowalla, Foursquare and Facebook Places do not help us in achieving this objective because the are conceived for a stable society enjoying continuous economic growth Future prospects
  29. 29. MoSoSo as critical element of the “balancing pole” The real potential of Mobile Social Software (MoSoSo) consists in the creative use of information and/or resources embedded in one’s social network to address contextual needs Unfortunately, the current conceptualization and design of MoSoSo does not fully exploit this potential Future prospects
  30. 30. MoSoSo for Sustainability Innovations • MoSoSo needs to evolve from stand-alone entertainment gadget to a general-purpose platform enabling and empowering self- organizing digital communities • Community has always been about sharing 30 • Traditionally: shared territory and/or feelings of solidarity • Currently: “content-based” communities digitally sharing tangible/intangible resources • MoSoSo is not only about finding a nearby friend, sharing photos of a birthday party or getting access to special discounts or offers – it is especially a powerful tool for using bits to share atoms Future prospects
  31. 31. Emerging trend: “using bits to share atoms” • Early phase of Web2.0 has been about (co-)creation, sharing and use of user-generated content (UGC) mostly for information and entertainment purposes • The current trend is about co-creation, provision and consumption of community-generated services (CGS) satisfying basic needs in a cost-efficient, transparent and environmental- friendly manner 31 Future prospects
  32. 32. “Using bits to share atoms”: a recent case • In April 2010, the Icelandic ash cloud caused severe disruptions to airplane traffic • Alternatives for completing a journey (trains, buses, car rentals) became hard to obtain and expensive because of speculations • Instead of fighting for gaining exclusive access to scarce resources, passengers self-organized in small groups • Through mobile access to Facebook, passengers managed to quickly and cheaply “design” a digital community and implement an efficient ad-hoc car- sharing service 32 Future prospects
  33. 33. Other grassroots initiatives • Sharing homes – “make yourself at home…anywhere in the world” – 2,2M members couchsurfing in 78k cities • Sharing vehicles/rides – Community-powered sustainable transportation – Finnish trust-based ride sharing solution • Sharing objects/tools – location-based peer-to-peer renting – “swapping saves your money and saves the planet” • Sharing knowledge – Skillshare: local meet-ups where people share their personal expertise – consumer activism supporting socially responsible companies – Nokia Green Explorer: share tips and advices on greener cities and lifestyles 33 Future prospects
  34. 34. The future: next-generation MoSoSo • Until now, MoSoSo mostly designed for entertainment and socialization, and with specific use cases/social groups in mind (e.g. Nokia Sensor) • To “unlock human potential”, next-generation MoSoSo should follow the path of the WWW, a general-purpose social platform in which “anything can be linked to anything” (Berners-Lee, 1999 p.4) 34 MoSoSo as “magic box” • Economic profits still possible, but should be realized as a “side-effects” of wider strategies for societal development • Principle for next-generation MoSoSo: designing MoSoSo for enabling and empowering a self- organizing network-based civil society Future prospects
  35. 35. MoSoSo and the future: towards a network-based civil society • The informal and evolving network of self-organizing digital communities form a network-based civil society • Citizens participating to the network-based civil society are a precious resource for realizing more sustainable societies Future prospects
  36. 36. Sustainability: MoSoSo helps building resilience • From resilient materials and products…. • …to resilient lives, ecosystems, organizations and societies Future prospects
  37. 37. Conclusions • We are living in a historical period of profound transformation • Role of MoSoSo: contribute to the goal of sustainable living by promoting grassroots social change and building resilience in people’s lives, businesses and societies • Existing MoSoSo not suitable for addressing current and future challenges Climate changeGlobal ageing Resouce depletionEconomic crisis Future prospects