Just finished listening to a talk by the deputy director of DARPA. It was one in a series of talks about the “new” DARPA, which in this case was positioned as one that’s going to align more effectively with the culture of Universities.
Much could be said, but I want to focus on one aspect of the talk. One of the thrusts within DARPA is focused on understanding what social networks make possible. He talked about the Iranian election and how technologies were used to mobilize people in protest. This was part of a discussion about democratizing innovation.
What is that? My understanding is that it’s a focus on how social networking technologies make it possible for large groups to mobilize around shared interests (ideological, political, religious, entertainment) that are not related to geographic borders. Technologies are creating new borders, new edges, that DARPA needs to understand.
And this reminds me of Computing at the Margins and Global Development. We need to understand these edges too… It’s not just building technologies for those who have none, but leveraging what’s already in use to develop it further. But, I think that we’re also very actively attempting to change the boundaries, by bringing more people into the digital society. I’m still pondering the implications of this, while listening to the DARPA director discussion human motivations and the need for sociologists and so forth to understand how social networks work.