A while ago I wondered how our relationship to social networking services will change when instead of adding new contacts, we begin to feel like we’d be better off cutting the links to the people who we actually don’t know, stopped liking, or no longer want to be associated with for whatever other reason. I was reminded of this on reading that Russel Beattie has now decided to link out of LinkedIn. He explains:

Yes, I thought about just deleting the people I didn’t know, but each deletion of a contact requires an individual request to customer service (it’s not just a check box and submit operation) so I finally just decided to cancel the whole thing. I think in general, people who would want to use this service are pretty contactable without using this system, no? … And if you’re a hard to reach person, you’re most likely not using this sort of thing anyways. Anyone can contact anyone in five hops, so what real use is it?

I want to use Russell’s question about the ‘real use’ of LinkedIn as a window into what I think is a profound confusion about the nature of sociality, which was partly brought about by recent use of the term ‘social network’ by Albert Laszlo-Barabasi and Mark Buchanan in the popular science world, and Clay Shirky and others in the social software world. These authors build on the definition of the social network as ‘a map of the relationships between individuals.’ Basically I’m defending an alternative approach to social networks here, which I call ‘object centered sociality’ following the sociologist Karin Knorr Cetina. I’ll try to articulate the conceptual difference between the two approaches and briefly demonstrate that object-centered sociality helps us to understand better why some social networking services succeed while others don’t.

Russell’s disappointment in LinkedIn implies that the term ‘social networking’ makes little sense if we leave out the objects that mediate the ties between people. Think about the object as the reason why people affiliate with each specific other and not just anyone. For instance, if the object is a job, it will connect me to one set of people whereas a date will link me to a radically different group. This is common sense but unfortunately it’s not included in the image of the network diagram that most people imagine when they hear the term ‘social network.’ The fallacy is to think that social networks are just made up of people. They’re not; social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object. That’s why many sociologists, especially activity theorists, actor-network theorists and post-ANT people prefer to talk about ‘socio-material networks’, or just ‘activities’ or ‘practices’ (as I do) instead of social networks.

Sometimes the ‘social just means people’ fallacy gets built into technology, like in the case of FOAF, which is unworkable because it provides a format for representing people and links, but no way to represent the objects that connect people together. The social networking services that really work are the ones that are built around objects. And, in my experience, their developers intuitively ‘get’ the object-centered sociality way of thinking about social life. Flickr, for example, has turned photos into objects of sociality. On del.icio.us the objects are the URLs. EVDB, Upcoming.org, and evnt focus on events as objects. LinkedIn, however, is becoming the victim of its own cunning: it started off thinking it could benefit by playing up the ‘social just means people’ misunderstanding. As Russell put it,

That was the “game” right? He who has the most contacts wins. At first you were even listed by the number of contacts you had, remember?

Reid Hoffman’s choice (however unintentional it might have been, I don’t know) to encourage the use of LinkedIn as a game is what activity theorist Frank Blackler would call the introduction a ‘surrogate object.’ The surrogate object is actually not sustained by the economic, technical, and cultural arrangement that the activity relies on to sustain itself. Playing ‘Who has the most connections wins’ might have been fun to some people for a while, but it was not very valuable to the users and developers as a collective in the long run. Now LinkedIn is trying to change the object of sociality that it offers, and persuade people to re-orient their networks around their actual jobs. (Don’t get me wrong—I’m the first to support Reid and his team on their endeavour to make LinkedIn more useful as a medium for job-centered sociality!)

Last but not least, we can use the object-centered sociality theory to identify new objects that are potentially suitable for social networking services. Take the notion of place, for example. Annotating places is a new practice for which there is clearly a need, but for which there is no successful service at the moment because the technology for capturing one’s location is not quite yet cheap enough, reliable enough, and easy enough to use. In other words, to get a ‘Flickr for maps‘ we first need a ‘digital camera for location.’ Approaching sociality as object-centered is to suggest that when it becomes easy to create digital instances of the object, the online services for networking on, through, and around that object will emerge too. Social network theory fails to recognise such real-world dynamics because its notion of sociality is limited to just people.

For a much more elaborate academic argument about object-centered sociality, see the chapter on ‘Objectual Practice’ by Karin Knorr Cetina in The practice turn in contemporary theory, edited by Theodor R. Schatzki, Karin Knorr Cetina, and Eike von Savigny (London 2001: Routledge.)


Feed   Trackback Address
April 13th, 2005 at 12:55 pm (#)

Russell & Jyri: Object Centered Sociality

Russell Beattie responds to Jyri Engeström’s post about social networks. Russell recently left Linked In, one of

Ted Holmes
April 13th, 2005 at 1:04 pm (#)

Wow! Great read!
I’ve been considering the convergence of Google Maps, Flickr and Camera Phones as an infrastructure for new social software.
Very soon, camphones will be cheap and plentiful, integrated into whatever piece of hardware we like to carry around. Thousands shots with GPS enabled Phone cams, posted to Flickr, will be accompanied with the longitude/lattitude co-ordinates.
From above the trees or rooftops of some spot you’re interested in at Google Maps, get your latitude and longitude, go to Flickr, run a search on that. You will soon tap into ground level photos of that very spot as thousands of people fill in the last mile.
Other Social Software Apps
Google Maps merged with recently released prisoner data, Wireless hotspots, nearest grassroots recommended restaurants, cash machines…
Wireless access, Google maps, and tagging will create sticky location based fountains of useful knowledge.
This is one to watch. There’s no telling what will spin off next.

the iCite net development blog
April 13th, 2005 at 1:15 pm (#)

Handling social network handles

Jyri Engeström has a great post about online social networks: Why some social network services work and others don’t — Or: the case for object-centered sociality

April 13th, 2005 at 1:23 pm (#)

excellent article, and *very* useful for me – thank you. manual trackback: http://www.helge.at/archives/00000204.php

April 13th, 2005 at 3:38 pm (#)

there already is a location-centered social network service. it’s called Dodgeball, and it connects people through texting from mobile phones.
unfortunately, Dodgeball is only supported in selected cities, and is limited to locations that are restaurants and pubs (what Dodgeball calls “venues”). also, Dodgeball’s Boston subsite (the one i use) has very few people signed up ~ at least when compared to the New York, London and Dublin subsites.
here is my profile at boston.dodgeball.com:

Jonathan Aquino
April 13th, 2005 at 9:53 pm (#)

I enjoyed your article. I have recognized that Flickr and del.icio.us are successful social networks, and you article has crystallized the reason for that (there must be some shared interest or activity among the people involved).
May I offer another successful social network: blogs, and the people who leave comments.

Pascal G
April 13th, 2005 at 11:53 pm (#)

I’m not sure that Foaf doesn’t allow at all the building of objects centered social networks. Foaf has the properties foaf:currentproject, or foaf:interest, which anyone can use to describe projects or interests. The only difference between Foaf and Flickr or del.icio.us is that Foaf uses URL, and not tags. It seems to me to be more semantic. Foaf is also a decentralised project : you’r not closed in a single community like Linkedin. But what reminds true : There’re not a lot of tools (semantic search engines) which can today use Foaf files.

Nick Douglas
April 14th, 2005 at 5:12 am (#)

FOAF and blog links only work for web developers and bloggers; a social network should be built from one central space — a site — to get the most members.
MySpace, currently dominated by high school and college kids, uses “groups” but doesn’t link them to individuals in a social network. Friendster and Tribe did this too, with even less integration. If each social contact was tagged with one or more groups, the network would be more object-oriented.
Myspace revamped its “colleges” feature a few weeks ago. I’ve found contacts through my school’s page, which I think is just what we want from an object-centered network.

N=1: Population of One
April 14th, 2005 at 7:42 am (#)

Object centered sociality

Jyri Engeström explains the theory of ‘object centered sociality’, from sociologist Karin Kn…

April 14th, 2005 at 8:44 am (#)
April 14th, 2005 at 1:30 pm (#)

I completely agree. I’ve been a member of several social networks over the years and the glue that holds them together is a shared contemporary interest.
Even better is an innovative use of the system:

Broadband Stars
April 15th, 2005 at 7:21 am (#)

Why Social Networks Work – And Fail

Why some social network services work and others don’t is a must-read post by Jyri Engeström that explains the essential factor in a network’s success.

Gerd Kortuem
April 19th, 2005 at 12:10 pm (#)

With the profileration of social network software
my problem is: how do I manage my network of social
networks …

Dan Brickley
April 20th, 2005 at 2:06 am (#)

Hi. Very interesting post, and I’ve much sympathy with this viewpoint. As one of the creators of FOAF, I do think you mischaracterise the FOAF approach somewhat. Easily done; our website is pretty crappy. The FOAF design very carefully makes sure that FOAF files can describe far more than people and typed relationship claims linking them. FOAF only has ‘foaf:knows’ as a built-in relationship (though various parties have defined extensions for more detailed claims, eg. ‘friend’ — whatever that means —, family relationships etc). Given a choice between claiming friendship versus showing it, I find the latter more interesting. FOAF is structured to allow for describing the photos, events, collaborations etc that are the evidence friendship leaves in the world, rather than crudely taxonomising classes of friend.
http://rdfweb.org/2002/01/photo/ has some (pre-Flickr) notes on the photo aspects of documenting social life. Or there’s a quick transcription of my 2004 Etech talk online at
which touches on these points:
There’s a couple of styles of using FOAF.
There’s a couple of styles of social networking sites. And we tried to
architect FOAF to be neutral between them, although I think there are
some cultural biases in the FOAF crowd towards one of them.
So, you can be very explicit in a FOAF file. I could say: “Edd’s my
or I could say “Edd’s my _best_ friend”. Or I could say “Edd’s my
arch-nemesis”. I could plug in any set of interpersonal relationships
that someone else out there decides to make available.
That’s a very… articulated, social networking site style of talking
about sociality.
There’s also, and my biases lean this way, a more kind of implicit,
evidence-based approach. So we talk about: Liam and I work for the same
organisation. Or… Libby and I went to the same school. The two of us
co-authored a document, and so on. So you describe facts about the world
which have associated with them implicit information about your
relationships to someone.
Hope that helps some.

Jere Majava
April 20th, 2005 at 3:35 am (#)

Great article! I think blogs are especially interesting in the respect that they facilitate both object oriented sociality and people oriented social networks.
Another manual trackback:

April 21st, 2005 at 5:00 am (#)

Do you think another theoretical lens to look at this is through the concept of ‘affordances’ (as used by Norman and Dourish, for example)? I think focusing on the object (or the people, for that matter) can potentially mislead us to attribute some fixity or centrality to it while theoretically contemplating it. On the other hand an affordance, defined as a 3-way relationship between the environment, the actor, and the activity, can help us map the shifts, displacements and balances between objects that a change in one element has on the others. Just a thought.
PS. I’m glad I found your blog. I think we share many interests.

Kyle Johnson
April 21st, 2005 at 9:35 am (#)

A Case for Object Oriented Social Networking

April 21st, 2005 at 2:21 pm (#)

Christefano: I agree that Dodgeball is a good example of the current state of mobile social softwares. The problem that I pointed out is that MoSoSos suffer from the lack of a quick and easy way to capture and tag locations, which are one promising–though not the only possible–new type of object for online sociality that networked mobile devices can potentially create. Although the use of Dodgeball is growing (hats off to Dennis and his team!), it hasn’t skyrocketed yet, and I think that is so because most of us feel that it’s just too clumsy to announce our location using text input, especially with current mobile phones. Although iMode is generally more usable than SMS, Imahima (Dodgeball’s Japanese precursor, founded by my good friend Neeraj Jhanji back in 1999) continues to suffer from this same problem even though it has a menu-based interface. For a brief English description of Imahima see: http://www.imahima.com/www/en/ps/service_imahima.html
As I see it, the trouble with announcing location is that it should be made on an opt-in basis to maintain workable privacy, but the action of ‘opting in’ has to be kept really quick and simple in order for the service to truly work. I tried to solve this problem for one specific place, our social club (Aula) in Helsinki, by linking the RFID readers that controlled the doors of the physical space to the Aula blog and eventually to SMS services as well. See: http://www.zengestrom.com/blog/2004/01/is_there_a_busi.html
The next iteration was the recently launched Nokia NFC shell, which can be used to announce location by touching a tag with the phone. See:
But the problem in using NFC tags to announce location is their short read distance (which does work to their advantage in some other use cases). With proper marking the tags are pretty easy to spot on consumer products because products have a limited surface area, but very few of us are ever going to bother searching for a tag the size of a quarter in a space as big as a café. Even when we do, there’s no guarantee that we’ll remember to touch again to log out on leaving the space. Our ethnographic study of Aula shows quite well that that is the case (I’ll blog the link as soon as we get the new Aula site up and running). The way the development seems to be going now is that touching tags will become a way to initiate other local wireless connections, such as Bluetooth or WiFi.
To return to the question of potentially successful location-based services: I think that Plazes is one of the more interesting examples of the new wave of MoSoSos because despite its shortcomings, it’s clearly trying to become a platform for other developers — and although that strategy alone won’t guarantee success on any level, I think it will be an essential move more generally for the players in the social software industry. See: http://plazes.com and Eric Wahlforss’ critique: http://eric.wahlforss.com/articles/archives/000026.php

April 25th, 2005 at 2:52 pm (#)

Social networking

Interesting article about why some social networking projects work and other´s don´t. From my own experiene, I can share the author´s view that there must be common object of interest in order to create viable groups….

April 25th, 2005 at 11:36 pm (#)

Social Network中的物

zengestrom.com: Why some social network services work and others don’t — Or: the case for object-centered sociality的题目比较抓人,这年把做social software和提供服务的快比得上蚂蚁了,但真正做成的有多少?前几天看…

May 2nd, 2005 at 5:48 am (#)

zengestrom.com: Why some social network services work and others don’t — Or: the case for object-centered sociality

I’ve been one of those hollering that content is not the end point and is not for passive consumption. Content is for starting a conversation! Michelle from Forrester infected me with the term – conversational content. Other call it ‘social

May 2nd, 2005 at 11:15 pm (#)

Why some social network services work and others don’t

Kann das Modell von OpenBC auf Dauer funktionieren? Reicht es aus, Interessierten “einfach” ein Dach für ihre Beziehungspflege zu bieten? Ich bin ja selbst Teilnehmer und habe beobachtet, dass OpenBC für mich weniger im Mittelpunkt als am äußeren Rand …

May 4th, 2005 at 9:40 am (#)

Very interesting article. I agree absolutely that successful social networking sites need to have a clear object – something more specific than “come and hang out” or chat. If you take a very broad view of what constitutes a social networking site – simply a website which enables communication/sharing between users – then it seems to me that all successful examples have 2 things in common:
1. They have a clear OBJECTIVE/PURPOSE – something that people want to do
2. They are optimised for that purpose – with appropriate functionality for that objective/purpose.

Graham Attwell, Exploring Team Tasks
May 5th, 2005 at 7:10 am (#)

Thoughts on this and that

“the term ‘social networking’ makes little sense if we leave out the objects that mediate the ties between people……social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object.”

Lets substitute the word e-learning for social n…

Smart Mobs
May 7th, 2005 at 5:37 pm (#)

Why some social network services work and others don’t

I met Jyri Engestrom in Helsinki at Aula, run into him from time to time here and there around the world, and have taken him and his partner Ulla-Maaria walking on Mt. Tamalpais. He thinks ahead and thinks deeply,…

May 7th, 2005 at 9:28 pm (#)

Object-centered sociality…

I think that there is a lot of useful connections between network theory— particularly social network theory— and ecclesial dreaming. This interesting blog post shines a light on why some social networks work while others don’t. I fin…

Get Real
May 7th, 2005 at 11:44 pm (#)

What makes or breaks a social network service?

Howard takes a look at social networking services on Smart Mobs in a piece titled “Why some social network services work and others don’t.” In particular, he points to a post by Jyri Engestrom on object-centered sociality that has reminded…

Chaik Space
May 8th, 2005 at 4:26 pm (#)

Social network capitalism

Jyri Engeström borrows from sociologist Karin Knorr Cetina’s concept of

Give Your Network Something To Believe In

After reading the NYT article referenced in my last post, I made my way to Stowe Boyd’s Get Real blog. Jackpot. How did I miss Stowe for the last six months? Anyway, in one of his posts he writes about

May 12th, 2005 at 11:33 pm (#)

Object-centered Sociality: Digital Affordances in Physical Spaces

Jyri Engeström claims that the problem with some social networking services is that they focus solely on people and links, ignoring the objects of affinity that those linked people share.

May 13th, 2005 at 1:18 pm (#)

Object Mediated Social Networks

The one thing I left out of my last post was the different types of social connections or links we keep. Tribe.net, delicious and flickr all use different types of connections. Jyri Engeström has a very interesting post, describing those different co…

Roland Tanglao's Weblog
May 22nd, 2005 at 8:50 pm (#)

To get a ‘Flickr for maps’ we first need a ‘digital camera for location.’

Sounds right to me! From zengestrom.com: Why some social network services work and others don’t – Or: the case for object-centered sociality.: QUOTEIn other words, to get a ‘Flickr for maps’ we first need a ‘digital camera for location.’UNQUOTE…

June 9th, 2005 at 9:18 am (#)

very interesting blog re object-centered sociality

Object centricity is critical, yes, but there’s still the question of who’s on the other end of the line – or “object.” This seems to be missing from Jyri Engeström’s blog – if not from the references he cites [addendum: nor from some of the trackba…

June 9th, 2005 at 10:03 am (#)

About using “Flickr for maps”, I suggest to have a look at http://geobloggers.com/?lat=40.440556&lon=-79.996111
Photos geotagged on Flickr shown on Gmaps!!!
For geotagging photos you find great and easy tips at http://steeev.f2o.org/mt/2005/05/geotagging_flickr_with_google_maps_and_greasemonkey_part_2.html

June 11th, 2005 at 4:16 am (#)

Yuri Engestrom – object-centered sociality

Excellent talk from Jyri centered around the question why so many social networking platforms fail. He explained how social networks emerge: networks emerge around objects. The representation of social networks in node diagrams are good at representing…

Michael Braly
June 11th, 2005 at 6:30 pm (#)

links for 2005-06-12

ibrotha movie The independent production is about a young man so obsessed with Apple Macs he becomes a Malcolm X-like revolutionary, fighting computer bigotry — by any means necessary (tags: OSX) The New Commonplace – Technology and Fun But…

June 13th, 2005 at 9:19 pm (#)

The Problem with Social Networking

I’ve written lots about the problems with social networking. It’s generally not localized, online contact tends to precede physical contact, etc. When I ran across Jyri Engeström’s entry titled…

June 30th, 2005 at 3:24 pm (#)

New blogs/Old blogs

Now that I have returned from the internet cafes of South America to my quiet computing space of home and office, it is much easier to reflect and consider and ponder and let ideas percolate according to Slow Food”-esque principles….

July 10th, 2005 at 7:12 pm (#)

Object-centered sociality

In simpler language, people get together to share stuff and do stuff. The point’s right, the big words are extra….

July 19th, 2005 at 12:44 pm (#)

Object-centered sociality

According to this theory, people don’t just connect to each other. They connect through a shared object. Jyri Engeström se pose la question suivante : pourquoi certains outils de social networking fonctionnent et d’autres pas ? Sa réponse : ceux qui fo…

Changing Way
July 22nd, 2005 at 11:53 am (#)

Object-Centered Social Networks

zengestrom.com: Why some social network services work and others don’t Or: the case for object-centered sociality
The social networking services that really work are the ones that are built around objects. And, in my experience, their developers int…

July 29th, 2005 at 1:45 pm (#)

Social Networking

Why some social network services work and others don’t Or: Why some social network services work and others don’t Or: zengestrom.com: the case for object-centered sociality…

July 29th, 2005 at 1:57 pm (#)

Social Networking

Why some social network services work and others don’t Or: Why some social network services work and others don’t Or: zengestrom.com: the case for object-centered sociality…

Spidey Senses -> Tingling
August 9th, 2005 at 11:22 pm (#)

Object-Centric Sociality

I recntly read a explanation of successful community websites by Jyri Engström, a Finish PhD student. He describes the glue behind long-lasting community-focused sites as ‘object-centered sociality.’ While we can’t forget the glue in some of the best…

Spidey Senses -> Tingling
August 9th, 2005 at 11:22 pm (#)

Object-Centric Sociality

I recntly read a explanation of successful community websites by Jyri Engström, a Finish PhD student. He describes the glue behind long-lasting community-focused sites as ‘object-centered sociality.’ While we can’t forget the glue in some of the best…

Ted Rheingold
August 10th, 2005 at 12:23 am (#)

Jery, I can concur with almost everything you suggest in this piece with what I see on my sites Dogster and Catster. Everyone’s involvement in the sites all revolves around their love of animal companionship. They have almost no interest in talking about other thing or transfering relations into real-life, but they spend hours sharing and enjoying what they all have in common. The best part is I’ve come to see they are from all walks of life, but I would imagine the average user would not guess that.
It’s been 18 months since I launched Dogster and it’s hardly a fad. Each month our rate of new memberships increases, as do our page views and overall participation. 500 new pets were added today and I suspect 500 more will be added tomorrow. From all we can tell only a fraction of those interested in our sites have found them.
It’s taken a ton of work to keep the purpose and community on axis, but what a pleasure. We add a new feature set and we get 1,000 separate thank yous.
PS: Your site design is a joy. Makes me wish I never started using a RSS reader.

August 23rd, 2005 at 2:33 am (#)

Objects, Networks and Sociality

I’ve been catching up on some reading lately, especially around activity theory and much of what I was reading seemed to resonate with some of my other interests, especially that of Actor Network Theory. What initially got me thinking

Notes from Classy's Kitchen
October 24th, 2005 at 1:00 am (#)


DIY is hip, we live in the age of the amateur, the age of Makers – according to at least…

October 30th, 2005 at 7:36 am (#)

Reading material for Jyri’s talk

If you’re inclined for some preparatory reading for Bloggforum, here are some links that will probably be relevant to Jyri Engeström’s talk. Jyri will be talking about “blog posts as objects of sociality.” What does that mean? It all began…

Swarming Media
January 1st, 2006 at 5:43 pm (#)

Engestrom and Object-Centered Sociality

Jyri Engeström’s weblog has many interesting posts; this one from April 2005 about social networks brings up particularly relevant approaches to analysis of the topic. He uses the concept of “object-centered sociality” as well as actor-network theory t…

J Mac
April 15th, 2006 at 8:31 am (#)

I find it strange that your critique of LinkedIN is based on other’s evaluations of it. Though I am a LinkedIN newbie, I would like to relate a single day in my “networking” experience using the service.
I have had a linkedIN account for a while, when a friend invited me, she was looking for a job. But last week, when a mentor of mine, asked me to link-in to his network, my perspective changed dramatically! At once, his deep network was available for me to browse. Wow! He was connected and had some interesting names on his list. A number of his “network” were mutual friends. Several were CEO’s and VPs within businesses I was actually working to get hired by.
And here is where LinkedIN shines beyond any other network I have been part of. Business! Through my friend I was able to request an introduction to this contact, write that person an email and with my friend’s approval–send this message directly to the VP of X corp.
And something amazing happened! I was doing this from a wired coffee shop and thus was rather excitable… so excuse my enthusiasm. I had applied via X corp’s website for a position that looked interesting in the early morning. Later that morning I was browsing the network of one of my contacts… and ping, there it was! The co-founder and CEO of the company I had just applied to was listed in my friend’s contact list! I wrote the intro email, related my recent resume submission and interest in his company; my friend forwarded the email with a short note about how he knew me; AND 30 minutes later (I almost spewed my coffee) I got an email directly from the CEO.
“I got your note and have forwarded your resume to my partner who is hiring for the position. Thanks and if you don’t hear from her soon, please let me know. And there was his real return email address.
No word from the company yet. That was Friday and today is Saturday. But give me ONE example of a social networking community that works like that and I am IN!
Anyway, if you are looking for work, wanting to expand your business opportunities, I can’t think of a better service than linkedIN. See ya there!

April 24th, 2006 at 9:03 am (#)

Buildings that Stand

In 1979 Christopher Alexander published a book titled The Timeless Way of Building. Alexander opens the book by saying: There is one timeless way of building… It is not possible to make great buildings, or beautiful places, places where you

April 26th, 2006 at 6:02 am (#)

What Do We Want From Our Social Networks?

Social networking is reaching a natural inflection point where we should all start to examine exactly what we are getting out of it and what we really want. We are starting to formalize and systematize what all good business people

May 30th, 2006 at 4:07 am (#)

Niche Social Networks: A path to success ?

Theres an interesting article on the present and future of social networks in todays edition of the Financial Times. Besides the strange mix of concepts (since when is Geocities a social network?) it points out some of the intesting thing…

Engineering Patterns
May 31st, 2006 at 9:10 pm (#)


Pivoting is a navigation technique employed by social networking software with increasing popularity. In user experience terms, it means being able to take some object as your focus, and have the ability to navigate to relat…

Notes from Classy's Kitchen
July 2nd, 2006 at 6:25 am (#)

Tilbage – Dunk – Eksempler

S er classy.dk genoptaget. Mens jeg har vret vk har der vret en helt uvant kommentaraktivitet p bloggen. Glimrende. Og…

July 16th, 2006 at 6:08 pm (#)


Im advising a new startup called Dandelife, which is a Social Biography Network. TechCrunch has the scoop, but let me tell you why I think they will be successful. Ever get that feeling why you are blogging and flickring your…

August 17th, 2006 at 5:23 pm (#)

Participatory Media

Stewart Butterfield, as reported by AlwaysOn: … the key to success in participatory media (a term he prefers over consumer generated content) is the people, not the photos or medium. The photos are just the “locus” for people bringing people

October 4th, 2006 at 8:10 am (#)

The Art of Building Social Software

I think it’s interesting to watch as social networks become more commonplace and people start really digesting the ideas them and becoming aware of how they work. And as that’s happening, people are starting to realize the limitations of current

October 4th, 2006 at 9:15 am (#)

SlideShare — the YouTube of Powerpoint

SlideShare launches today the YouTube of Powerpoint. While Powerpoint destroys thought, so does TV. And misgivings aside, slides can be an art form in and of itself. They are objects you spin stories around. Like this: I…


Many to Many: SlideShare launches today the YouTube of Powerpoint. While Powerpoint destroys thought, so does TV. And misgivings aside, slides can be an art form in and of itself. They are objects you spin stories around.&nbsp…

Uncle Unvoid
October 25th, 2006 at 2:46 am (#)

Very interesting article.
I had to blog about it.(http://www.resonancedesign.blogspot.com)
What I find most interesting about it is indeed the fact that there has to be a value creation that is beyond the mere publishing or connection. The LinkedIn.com example very much reminded me of the Orkut.com hype to create networks of “friends”.
The online games and/or MUDs where most of these modern forms of community websites derive from have a very simplistic yet impressive by impact system of object creation or value creation. Magic objects and 50th level magician characters are traded online for physical world currency on Ebay, and physical fights over killing a Lineage character show how emotionally or financially attached people can get to their digital community.
The objectifisation(?) of content in the form of emotional or financial impact into the physical world is one of the most impressive phenomena blurring the borders between digital and physical, which has been part of my research as an artist for the last 5 years.
Picking up on the last part of the above article, my recent project is about the exploration of how much geographic location can have an impact on value creation. If anyone wants to comment on that you can check http://www.project-80days.blogspot.com for further details or email me, I am happy to get a conversation started about this.

February 3rd, 2007 at 4:36 am (#)

Sometimes I wonder if people who are spending so much time on the web forget the basic norms of everyday life. Essentially this is all just common sense: go to any local community centre, and you will see basketball clubs, knitting clubs, book clubs etc. I would propose re-naming the theory: “Having something in common is nice online too”

Some Lab
February 16th, 2007 at 5:35 am (#)

Sosiaalisten esineiden rooli kasvaa

Sosiaalisten esineiden rooli kasvaa
Sosiaalisen median tiimoilta on viime aikoina alettu puhua sosiaalisista objekteista. Ilmeisesti kyseess on nouseva trendi, koska aiheen ksittely vilkastuu blogeissa.
Jyri Engenstrm kirjoittaa aiheesta

BPO Island
February 23rd, 2007 at 9:01 pm (#)

Philippines 2.0

Lately I’ve been thinking about Social Networks, Web 2.0, and all that stuff. One of Wikipedia’s (many) entries on the topic describes the phenomenon as “… embracing an approach to generating and distributing Web content itself, characterized by open…

Rechtsanwalt Strafrecht
April 18th, 2007 at 6:14 pm (#)

Thnaks for the Links.

May 19th, 2007 at 1:45 am (#)

Thx for list of links, great work

Lost and Found
June 1st, 2007 at 1:18 am (#)

meme radar: “social objects”

Leider habe ich es nicht zur [Reboot 9](http://www.reboot.dk/) geschafft, und wenn ich daran denke, [wer](http://www.reboot.dk/person-1925-en.html “reboot 9.0 – Helge Fahrnberger”) [alles](http://www.reboot.dk/person-265-en.html “reboot 9.0 – Ton Zijls…

Web Thoughts
August 21st, 2007 at 6:15 am (#)

Where is my Travel 2.0? – Part 3: Users Add Value

In the first two parts of the Where is my Travel 2.0? series I talked about the long tail aspect and data-driveness of online travel applications. In my todays post Ill write up some thoughts on Tim OReillys no…

Ton's Interdependent Thoughts
August 28th, 2007 at 11:15 am (#)

Multi-subjectivity and objectivity

Objectivity is a fiction! In my presentations on information abundance and social media I often say that ‘objectivity is a fiction, it really is multi-subjectivity’ and then go on to say that using social media is a good way of…

Zachary Thacher
September 12th, 2007 at 7:42 am (#)

Dude — great post. Very, very smart. Thanks!

September 14th, 2007 at 12:36 pm (#)

my empirical intuition leads me to exactly the same conclusion: social networks are nothing else but groups of people linked by ‘something’ they have in common, whatever this ‘something’ is: a common passion for football, friendship, seeking new job opportunities, looking out for a partner, you name it. in that, i fully agree with you: there needs to be an ‘object’ in its loosest sense for relationships between people to emerge and hence networks to form. no object, no network. hence, no potential for a service that, literally, has no object…
however, many services do have an object, yet some seem to fly way better than others. my explanation to this rests on how the networks these services build upon rank in terms of INITIMACY between their members (whereas jaiku is a service bringing something extra to *existing* networks of people – friends, colleagues, etc. -, me.dium is in contrast a service whose value arises out of people sharing similar interests but *not knowing*, a priori, each other) and their associated level of ACTIVENESS (compare the number of daily micro-interactions you have on IM or jaiku vs. the number of links you post on del.icio.us for your friends…). to my understanding, these two dimensions move together: the greater the intimacy between members of a network, the greater their likelihood to actively participate in that network. hence, services that target this kind of networks (examples run from IM to Habbo, or Jaiku) have probably greater chances to meet success than services that built upon much ‘looser’ networks (from me.dium to del.icio.us).
having said all this, the explanation you put forth, that ‘when it becomes easy to create digital instances of the object, the online services for networking on, through, and around that object will emerge too’ definitely carries power in it. economists would refer to this as transaction costs: the lower the cost of transacting, the higher the propensity to make a transaction. which would explain why services whose main transaction mechanism remains as simple as typing (such as IM or jaiku) are still finding wider audiences than services which are more demanding to operate (such as me.dium or del.icio.us).

Microsoft News and Technology
September 20th, 2007 at 5:24 am (#)

Microsoft approves Blue Monster wine

I just read this on tech Crunch UK and i wanted to share It’s ironic that, a couple of days after the

November 2nd, 2007 at 2:38 pm (#)

Very interesting article.
Essentially this is all just common sense: go to any local community centre, and you will see basketball clubs, knitting clubs…

Facebookster Blog
November 12th, 2007 at 4:42 am (#)

Getting past the echoes

Facebook’s success and evolution says a lot about the maturation of
the web-based social network scene and the changing ecology of online
data and services. Everybody I’ve encountered on the various prominent
social network systems (Ryze, Friendster, T

December 3rd, 2007 at 8:04 pm (#)

I agree! A true social network is a network of people connected or bound by a specific interest.

Alex de Carvalho
January 3rd, 2008 at 3:56 pm (#)

The use of social objects as artefacts for identity management

Alex de Carvalho
January 3rd, 2008 at 4:03 pm (#)

The use of social objects as artefacts for identity management

February 5th, 2008 at 5:19 am (#)

Social markers or the shared consumption paradigm

Occurrence of the term Social Objects is increasing a lot in recently. Jaiku Founder, Jyri Engstrom’s who first published idea on the subject of Social Objects has a nice synopsisinspired by Karin Knorr Cetina (One of the best presentation read

evden eve nakliyat
May 31st, 2008 at 8:33 am (#)

I do not believe social networking…

SEO Consultancy
June 20th, 2008 at 5:40 am (#)

A very true line…object centered society….thats the whole thing that matters…only those social sites work that have common interests of all people.

martin emanuel
September 19th, 2008 at 7:33 am (#)

Hi from Millisle county down northern ireland.
Whats the weather like in palo alto. Is that near salsalto. My only knowledge of it is tonto in lonr ranger. and dr ann marie garret used to live there.
Your language is heavy.
thought i would say hello martin 15.31 GMT

October 13th, 2008 at 11:23 am (#)

In particular I like the conclusion you’ve arrived at: following and paying attention to the right people can really make you more effective.
This says it all – knowing what the right people know is a commodity – it has always been the case but social networking now brings this concept into 3D.

Three Minds On Digital Marketing @ Organic
October 20th, 2008 at 7:53 am (#)

The Web Should Be A Great Party Host

The Dunbar number is the supposed cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable social relationships. Traditionally stated as “150” individuals, the Dunbar limit was never much of a problem. You’d only stay …

sklep komputerowy Bydgoszcz
October 25th, 2008 at 12:43 am (#)

Very interesting article.
Essentially this is all just common sense: go to any local community centre, and you will see basketball clubs, knitting clubs…

Robin Good's Latest News
May 2nd, 2009 at 2:48 am (#)

Media Literacy: Making Sense Of New Technologies And Media by George Siemens – May 2 09

What is Media Literacy? Media literacy is the ability to bring critical thinking skills and about asking pertinent questions about what’s there, and noticing what’s not there. And it’s the instinct to question what lies behind media productions – the…

Dan Bassill
May 3rd, 2009 at 9:16 am (#)

Looks like what was written here is a couple of years old, but it is still relevant. Instead of the term “object centered” I use “network for purpose”.
I’m not a theorist, but put these ideas in practices in building a network of people and organizations and ideas which support efforts to connect inner city youth with volunteers in structured non-school tutor/mentor programs. Read ideas related to building such a network at http://www.tutormentorexchange.net

June 10th, 2009 at 2:31 pm (#)


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June 27th, 2009 at 12:09 am (#)

there are social networking accounts that you would want to keep private or for your close friends and relatives only, something that is not open for strangers and of course, there are those you use for marketing purposes that you would rather populate than keep private. the only thing is, you should know whether this particular person you are trying to invite is open for these kinds of activities as well so they won’t find your updates annoying. that’s when netiquette applies.

O'Reilly Radar
July 21st, 2009 at 10:40 am (#)

Social Network Analysis I Can Believe In

Why do Friendster, Orkut, LinkedIn, Yahoo! 360 et al. leave me cold? It’s the act of retyping my social network and labelling everyone “friend”, “family”, “acquaintance”, “uncategorized” that is deeply unsatisfactory. Finally, someone has explained why…

December 13th, 2009 at 9:12 pm (#)

I think it is because of lack of interest and hard work. To be able to work your social network service, you must put all your attention to it, you must be very interested on what you are doing and give all your best and be hardworking.

January 12th, 2010 at 2:58 pm (#)

Place-centered Sociality

Jyri Engestrom first introduced me to the concept of object-centered sociality almost 5 years ago, through a blog post in which he argued that social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object. Jyri suggests that the…

Social Network Software
February 9th, 2010 at 7:52 pm (#)

Social Network Software

Excellent read regarding the various points of view in regards to social networking websites. In today’s highly competitive markets it is the trend to work towards the smaller niche social networking websites that seems to be the most productive in terms of business.

Ayesha Laurente
February 21st, 2010 at 7:30 am (#)

Now a days social networking is hottest thing in our real life. People get new connection and find new friend either from their citiy, state, country or from abroad. This is also good way to find the people which you have forgot or don’t have their any contact info. Really it’s interesting. on new generation growing social networking site is MySocialPoint.com. People can chat, make blog, search jobs, post classified, watch videos-audios and lots of funny things to do. So why not you join today and get connected with whole world.

May 27th, 2010 at 5:19 pm (#)

@ Ayesha: I believe the world is already connected.
Great article about social network.

Anders Tolborg
June 9th, 2010 at 5:29 am (#)

Hi Jyri,

First of all, I am pretty close to being a fan of your dad! His works have helped guide my study in information science and architecture. Recently he visited us in Aalborg Denmark, where he – in a friendly (and deeply marxistic inspired way) – pwned Etienne Wenger in an open discussion :P

Because of my view on your father – and the cultural-historical tradition in general – I was somewhat thrilled to learn about your existence. In fact, it happened quite randomly when I was looking for a video interview with Yrjö. Since then, I have viewed several of your talk and have found much inspiration.

I am currently writing my thesis, and together with two fellow students I am trying to design a system (read social network website) situated around ‘clothes’ as the social object. I wont get into details here, neither theoretical complications related to the notion of ‘designing’ nor details related to our system concept specifically. However, since we are going to use the notion ‘social object’ in our paper, I thought it would be interesting to let you comment on the notion of ‘object’.

As I experience it, the notion of object takes two forms in yours (and others) writings. In fact the notion of object has always been somewhat dual sided in my own interpretation of AT too. On one hand a somewhat atomistic interpretation would speak of physical objects/entities as being the ones we are talking about, where another interpretation would focus on ‘objects’ being related to motivation and purpose, like when we say “as colleges we have the same object”.

Personally I was introduced to phenomenology before I was introduced to AT, and to some extend I view AT through the lense of phenomenology. Especially the technical term intentionality it very similar to the relation between subject and object described in AT. Because of my biased interpretation of AT, I have never really wondered if I needed to reconstruct my notion of object. In the phenomenological sense the object is whatever our attention is directed towards. Its our reaching out into the world.

What your interpretation of object, and do you recognize the duality Im pointing towards? :)

Hydrea Cialis
June 30th, 2010 at 7:32 pm (#)

As I experience it, the notion of object takes two forms in yours (and others) writings. In fact the notion of object has always been somewhat dual sided in my own interpretation of AT too. On one hand a somewhat atomistic interpretation would speak of physical objects/entities as being the ones we are talking about, where another interpretation would focus on ‘objects’ being related to motivation and purpose, like when we say “as colleges we have the same object”.

September 28th, 2010 at 10:06 pm (#)

interesting! i can even take this idea further: people themselves are nothing but collections of objects (likes/interests), and the aim of a social network is to connect people that have common interests – ie shared objects – ie normalize the “schema” if you will by making objects first class entities that are referenced by profiles. thus photos, places, fan pages all reference profiles.

this is exactly the approach we’re taking with email btw – introducing relations between people, email addresses and messages.

January 10th, 2011 at 7:24 pm (#)

Social networking services are purely based on the users view and through your article, I came to understand that flickr and delicious are successful social networks, but it all depends on users view. Marketing strategy is one of the reasons for other social networking sites that have not worked out. Regards : plc training in chennai

Jon Ruigrok
April 13th, 2011 at 9:39 am (#)

Many Many More people in the social media business should read this article. It explains in such an easy way how social media actually works. Great job! Even more so because its already written in 2005.

December 21st, 2011 at 5:51 am (#)

As a Labyrinth maker based in Toronto, reading this article just hit me like a tonne of bricks…

I’d never grasped that Labyrinths are a social object for Humanity itself and have been for thousands of years through time and space and place.

I have but two words to share in return for this epiphany:

Thank You.


Kevin F. Adler
May 1st, 2012 at 12:27 pm (#)

Fun to stumble upon this, 7 years late but just in time for my startup. Thanks.

Alisa (Think Big Online Marketing)
January 2nd, 2013 at 1:35 pm (#)

amazing how content, strategies and purpose don’t change over time. All this still rings true 8 years later

Paul M Camic
January 22nd, 2013 at 12:20 am (#)

I stumbled on this blog from a fairly circuitous route but feel very fortunate to have done so as it has changed my thinking about how and why the visual arts, including museum visits, may help people with a dementia. The museum visit ( which can also be enacted virtually over a phone or tablet) involves material objects but also social objects and it is the interaction of the social and material object that allows for a kind of object centred sociality to occur. Rather than depending only on the social interaction of person to person, it is more likely to be important to consider the person-material object interaction as a kind of object centred sociality, which engages the person with a dementia as a co-constructor of experience along with material objects. Still getting my head around it but theoretically a new door has been opened.

January 22nd, 2013 at 2:10 am (#)

Hey, Paul! The connection to dementia makes total sense, love it. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m glad it opened a new door in your thinking!

Marc Binkley
January 22nd, 2013 at 9:02 am (#)

Hey Paul,

Really great article. I’ve had similar thoughts to you about social networks vs. social objects. I elude to the importance of creating social objects in branding for a guest blog post this past Nov http://bit.ly/TqFRjv. Hugh Macleod also makes a great argument about social objects being the future of marketing.

I teach social media for business at Mount Royal University in Calgary. During my classes I make an an analogy to social media and the periodic table. In my opinion, the two elements of social media are 1. Networks 2. Social Objects.

The networks are the pathways that connect people together. At the moment, the networks are generally closed in that it’s difficult to really communicate cross platform. For example, a user on LinkedIn can’t really talk to a user on Facebook.

The second element are social objects. These objects are platform agnostic and can float freely from one network to another. These objects are the items that create dialogue and conversation between two or more people. The objects are social precisely because they are sharable and create conversations. For example, your blog post is a social object. It’s keeping my attention, it’s attracting collaborative contributors by way of comments and will likely be shared across across multiple networks.

It’s my opinion that the networks are not as important as the social objects. It’s not the network that keeps a person’s attention, it’s the object.

November 13th, 2013 at 1:40 am (#)

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September 25th, 2015 at 4:54 pm (#)

Nice article. I wndoer, could content expert staff such as astronomers, paleontologist, etc also be considered an “object” or “stuff” along with exhibits, artifacts, coffections? Also, with regard to sharing objects how about the sharing of data too? This might work well were visitors compare their results from working various exhibits?

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