Inevitability, social network merging, and Jane Jacobs

Inevitability is a rhetorical technique used when someone is trying to steamroll some highly debatable activity.
The first time I really noticed the technique being used was when doing public interest lobbying. Legislators pushing a bad bill would say that passage was inevitable. This tactic would put inexperienced activists into a tizzy. But it wasn’t fact. They were just trying to get you to give up. opposing their deal.
Another way this is used is technical determinism. A given action is technically possible, and therefore it is inevitable that it will be used the way the speaker wants. This is bogus. Automobiles can easily do 70 mph. This makes it possible to construct many-lane, banked boulevards that allow cars to careen through neighborhoods. But it doesn’t make it inevitable. The design of the road system is a social decision, not a purely technical decision. Localities can choose speedways or traffic calming.
The folk pursuing the social network graph experiment are claiming that reducing the inefficiency of digital social networks is inevitable, just as 60s traffic engineers claimed that reducing the inefficiency of local roads was inevitable. Some amount of social network friction is socially beneficial. Someday, digital networks will need to make this decision as policy choice. There will be the network equivalent of robots.txt, or some other aggregation calming technique. Brad Fitzpatrick is acting as the Bob Moses of social networks, someday we will need social network Jane Jacobs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.