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Stowe Boyd: “the individual is the new group”

I met Stowe Boyd at Reboot8 in Copenhagen. He embodied the spirit of that conference. Illuminating, affable, sincere. And when it comes to understanding the significant future of social tools, social networks and social software, he’s a leading voice. What’s telling is that I didn’t realize that until I started to read his thoughts, which are written with so much insight and joy.

In addition to his strategic consultancy work, and engaging speeches, he’s been a devoted contributor to key discussions on social technologies.

Stowe’s in Europe at conferences in September. So I asked him a few questions.

JK: Why are you so personally and passionately attracted to social technologies?
SB: Social tools are different in that they are focused on shaping culture, not pushing bits or tallying records in a database. It’s about people interacting and making something bigger.

JK: How do you see social software redefining our collective culture?
SB: It’s more that I see web culture — shaped by social tools — changing world culture. The spirit of the web — open to diversity, opposed to centralized authority, and inclusive — is the best hope we have for a world culture to emerge that represents what we, the edglings living at the edge, believe in, as opposed to the global corporate strip mall.

JK: What emerging motivations will people have in participating in online communities?
SB: Self-understanding, belonging, and sense-making: the same stuff we are doing anyway.

JK: You’ve made persuasive arguments that social software augments social systems. Do you see them diminishing social systems at all?
SB: No.

JK: How will social software support the individual in new ways?
SB: The individual is the new group — we are moving past being defined as an employee of a company or the member of a family, into a world where we are defined by relationships with hundreds of people, work for/with dozens of companies, and associated with an unbounded number of initiatives. This is a new day, and the social web is like the tilled soil on which this will grow.

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