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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Technology is changing social relationships profoundly. Most of us have a small group of family members and friends for whom we care greatly. We also have many colleagues, contacts, acquaintances, and social network friends and followers with whom we interact occasionally but who are useful to have around.
Nowadays, at whatever level they are in the above hierarchy, much of our interaction with them is via digital technology, for instance by email, messaging, Facebook and VOIP, and it is becoming increasingly so.

The things that have brought this about are broadband, mobile connectivity, and the migration from a social scene that consisted mainly of groups of people who form closed circles of interconnected contacts, to virtual social networks.
Social scientists are now referring to this phenomenon as networked individualism, which refers to the fact social interactions involving loosely bonded networks are replacing traditional networks that are deeply bonded and hierarchal.

In this new social order it is the individual who is at the centre rather than the family, or the work place, or the local neighbourhood, or any social group. Every individual is able to create their own personal social network that meets their needs and lifestyle, and to maintain it digitally through their contact database.  Anyone can plug into an existing network or community, or can create a new one of their own.

The natural concern is one of physical isolation; people still interact with their family, colleagues and neighbours, but their important contacts are remote. The new social order means that these remote contacts become closer, connected digitally. Nowadays we are all creators of online content in one or many forms. It is simple to find people with whom we share ideas, thoughts, lifestyles and problems, thus enhancing our own lives.

So where is it going and where will it end? In terms of technology the semantic web will come about and will spawn personal virtual agents who will work with us to sort through the vast oceans of information, enabling us to integrate our needs in an efficient manner. This will be aided by broadband packages that include augmented reality to enrich the way in which we perceive our physical and virtual environments; a brave and bountiful new world.
But what might happen should our personal virtual agents turn coat, become double agents; more loyal to the organisations who wish to sell to us? Instead of providing us with data on others, they could provide others with data on us; we become the exploited. Some might argue that this is already happening with targeted ads. Home broadband and mobile connectivity have changed our whole social strata, but it is up to us to ensure that it remains for the better!

Author Bio:
This is a guest post by Claire Chat a Londoner interested in technology in general as well as the mobile and telecommunication industry. If you want Claire to write a specific content ypu can find email her here or contact her on Twitter (Claire_Chat).

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