TechnologySolution

In the world of online communities, a technology solution is an attempt to solve social or personal problems by reconfiguring or altering the software that supports the community. For example, administrators for a MailingList that's suffering from excessive spam may use the mailing-list software to disable posts from non-members, or they may add a spam filter at the list server.

Technology solutions have positive and negative aspects. At its best, software helps people with repetitive and tedious tasks, freeing them to concentrate on more complex and interesting ones. With our example mailing list, the software has allowed the list members to read the list without constantly bouncing on the delete key. Because the signal-to-noise ratio is higher, members can interact in a more pleasant and information-rich environment.

But implementing a technology solution can have unintended consequences. Software tends to be pretty ham-handed, and it misses many subtleties. Technology solutions to social problems are particularly notable in this regard, since no software yet created can comprehend the important nuances of online communications.

Extending the MailingList example: restricting posts from non-members, although it will probably block most spam, will also prevent casual interaction and cross-posting with other communities -- essentially cutting off the list from the outside world. Using a spam filter may prevent perfectly legitimate posts by list members from being shared with the rest of the community.

Altering the medium by which a community interacts can change the nature of that community (TechnologicalDeterminism). Technology solutions also highlight the power of those individuals with access to the software or configuration files. In communities where consensus or democracy are important, technology solutions enhance the powers of admins and programmers to the detriment of other members.

EditNearLinks: MailingList TechnologicalDeterminism

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