In general, computers and software are taking an increasingly social role for us. Our behavior hasn’t become all that much more social (although it certainly has for some) but we’re learning how to effectively model our social needs in software. Three years ago the social aspects of software was email and chat messaging. Now, it’s forging online identity as profiles and embedded messaging within applications. It’s become always-on, which means that there is no distinction between “offline” and “online” anymore. We are not just modeling messaging, we’re modeling presence as well. This is a big shift…and our language reflects it. I’m “on MySpace” means that we are figuratively and literally on the site.
I quoted Wil Wright recently, and I think he’s (pardon the pun) right on. First thought of as super calculators, computers are now part of the social fabric of our lives. They are becoming integral to how we communicate with our family, friends, and colleagues. They’re still doing calculations of course, but the software that we’ve designed for them is all about human-to-human contact. Social contact. And since we’re social animals in the end, the trend of modeling this in software won’t be reversing any time soon.