The web needs more good public spaces. Digital cities with public squares, caf├ęs, librariers, bars, etc. Too many of the new social services are clubs, not places. You have to signup give your name, sit in the circle around the fireplace with the others.
When traveling around Europe one of the greatest things to do is to just be in the cities. Anonymous but acknowledged like the rest of them. There's a lively, restful detachment about it that I really like. The silos of social software makes it hard to find places like that online.

What qualities of public spaces can we transfer online?
What qualities of public spaces do we want to transfer online?

  • Open to scrutiny - You can view them from the edge without really participating. You don't have to commit to the place to get a sense of it.
  • Shared - the same for all of us. This is really important I think. Kafkaesque uneasiness comes from a feeling of living in some kind of edited unreality where everything is a story told for you, not just a shared object world with trustable firmity.
  • "Anonymous but familiar" - there's a level of social familiarity but you're still anonymous. It's like being recognized by face if you're a regular, but what people recognize about you is the role you have within the space not your identity in any larger sense of the word
  • Together - many people are present at the same time
  • Transactionless - The cue for the word comes from Adam Greenfield's Everyware which talks about the inherent transactional stickiness in (too much) technology.

See also the Urban Computing notes and from the same project the The City Is Here For You To Use seminar, which - apart from the title - also quotes good qualities of cities in the invite: "Free and open to the public. All are welcome."


  • How could we make "face recognition" familiarity online? Is that the URL in a blog comment - i.e. the fact that its a URL and not an email address?