Oral is the core of Communications
The New York Times reported on Dec. 2nd on how the collective buzz of profile-surfing, messaging and “friending,” which drives social networking services, seems to be tapping into our "ancient" forms of oral communication.
"The growing popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Second Life has thrust many of us into a new world where we make “friends” with people we barely know, scrawl messages on each other’s walls and project our identities using totem-like visual symbols. “Orality is the base of all human experience,” says Lance Strate, a communications professor at Fordham University and devoted MySpace user. He says he is convinced that the popularity of social networks stems from their appeal to deep-seated, prehistoric patterns of human communication. “We evolved with speech,” he says. “We didn’t evolve with writing.”
Talking is the "New Black"
Clearly there are common parallels between online social networks and tribal societies. In the collective behavior of profile surfing, messaging, establishing and posting friends ("friending") there is a new assertion of old communicating styles and patterns. The argument is that social networks now fueled by the internet have arisen from the desire to express oneself in a more "talking" format than "writing." Blogs, comments, UGC video and the one liners they fuel via channels such as Twitter and Facebook are the new "talking."
I believe mobile communications are the ultimate access point for communications between humans, and these findings just fuel the argument that eventually mobile messaging and mobile voice are going to be both access points and channel for the social networking portals. That is where the industry will be migrating.
Flat Cloud Archietecture
The power of a short, asynchronous “snack” length communication has made text the dominant format. It taps into these same ancient needs we have as human beings and is a natural extension to the communicaiton style emerging from net social networks. Seems technology today with its instant communications, isn't that different from jungle drums, smoke signals, or cave paintings buried deep in our cerebellum.
Now with the onset of social networks, and the Times' reflection of this research, these social networks will drive a sea change in architecture as well. Why? Because a flat, open architecture will be driven by the need/demand for access by adjacent segment offerings seeking to directly link to the messaging networks, and by definition voice as well. The carriers’ control of a "hub and spoke" architecture will be subject to assault. Q:What are the adjacent segments? A:Social networks.
Access demand by these social networks, driven by our "ancient oral communications" style will be only the first attack on the operators to open up access to application providers, content developers, handset manufacturers and adjacent web communities such as social networks–all as a result of the continuing demand of humans to be "heard" as the Times' article implies. The entire communications ecosystem will seek access, which will be the primary driver of change. In fact, this is already happening through the initial developments of the “mobile internet.”
“If you examine the Web through the lens of orality, you can’t help but see it everywhere,” says Irwin Chen in the Times article. Chen is a design instructor at Parsons School of Design who is developing a new course to explore the emergence of oral culture online. “Orality is participatory, interactive, communal and focused on the present. The Web is all of these things.”
Look to Mobile for the future of Oral Cultures
Well, that's not that surprising to those of us in the mobile communications field. The mobile web will be even more of an accelerant for social networks, since an "oral culture" unites people into groups. Oral cultures means more than just talking--there are strong social dynamics at work.
“In tribal cultures, your identity is completely wrapped up in the question of how people know you,” he says. “When you look at Facebook, you can see the same pattern at work: people projecting their identities by demonstrating their relationships to each other. You define yourself in terms of who your friends are.”
Well, we already see that in research on the mobile address book. Notwithstanding hundreds ( or thousands ) of connections in a mobile address book, we tend to communicate with the same core 10 to 20 people. Seems our "oral tradition" and tribal history caps out at that size based survival needs as an individual and as a group. This Darwinian scaled group size may be the optimal comfort level we seek.
Mobile is the Nuclear Access Point
With over 3.3 billion mobile users (probably more since in "ancient Africa" the average number of user per handset exceeds 1.0) establishing "oral communication" as the trend of convergence between social networks. "orality" and mobility, for both channel and access points, will only increase. The mobile phone will eventually be the "nuclear access point" for all communications, tethered web, and unteathered web or over the air. Read the Times' article here.
OK. Now its your turn. What do you think of the prospects of Social Networking affecting will affect mobile communications? Do you think there's a connection here, or I'm just muddled minded? What do you think of the academic take on the commercial supply demand reaction of communications and social sub cultures? Comments are very welcome, let's get it on!