The genealogy of the concept of "Social Software"

Some excerpts of "Tracing the Evolution of Social Software" (2004):

"The term 'social software', which is now used to define software that supports group interaction, has only become relatively popular within the last two or more years. However, the core ideas of social software itself enjoy a much longer history, running back to Vannevar Bush's ideas about 'memex' in 1945, and traveling through terms such as Augmentation, Groupware, and CSCW in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.

By examining the many terms used to describe today's 'social software' we can also explore the origins of social software itself, and see how there exists a very real life cycle concerning the use of technical terminology".


It isn't until late 2002 that the term 'social software' came into more common usage, probably due to the efforts of Clay Shirky who organized a "Social Software Summit" in November of 2002. He recalls his first usage of the term to be from approximately April of 2002.

I asked Clay if it was the loss of meaning in the terms 'groupware' that made him choose the term 'social software', and he replied:

"I was looking for something that gathered together all uses of software that supported interacting groups, even if the interaction was offline, e.g. Meetup, nTag, etc. Groupware was the obvious choice, but had become horribly polluted by enterprise groupware work."


2000s — Changing Definitions of Social Software

An early definition by Clay for the definition of social software was:

"1. Social software treats triads of people differently than pairs.
2. Social software treats groups as first-class objects in the system."

However, Clay more recently prefers the simpler:

"software that supports group interaction"


In: http://www.lifewithalacrity.com/2004/10/tracing_the_evo.html

Publication: October 13, 2004

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