Genevieve Valentine on the future shape of social media

Paul Raven @ 04-01-2011

Super-awesome science fiction webzine LightSpeed has a non-fiction piece from Futurismic veteran Genevieve Valentine (“Is This Your Day To Join The Revolution?”), who looks into the imminent future of even-more-ubiquitous social networking. I’m not sure I quite agree with her template for excellence, though:

But frankly, an ideal template for the future of software responsiveness is actually already here: Apple’s App Store. The Store itself is a social network of user-generated content that provides both marketing and moneymaking opportunities (a holy trinity of market appeal). Populated by techies for techies, the App Store contains single-click download options for other platforms (Twitter, Tumblr), market-friendly apps (entertainment-blog feeds, Yelp) and even reference guides (sky maps, bird-call encyclopedias).

[…]

In some ways, it’s a comfort to see the emergence of technology that supports a concept rather than a user; the App Store technology has spread to other smartphone platforms, and the idea of individual, crowd-sourced utilities is the sort of technology that, because of its immediacy and flexibility, could develop smoothly as the years go by, until the next thing you know it’s the future, and social networking is easier than ever before. Right?

I suspect my objection hinges on an aspect that Genevieve wasn’t considering, but even so: if Apple’s App Store is the shape of the future, then the future will be a walled garden full of things that Apple has deemed safe, suitable and sanitised for our consumption.

In the Apple future, you won’t be able to read material from Wikileaks, or stories with cuss-words, or graphic novels with gay themes (whether in an explicitly erotic context or otherwise). Apple’s App Store decides what’s best for you, and limits your choices accordingly; it’s the gated community of the post-geographical web. That’s comforting to many people, which is fair enough; personally, I think I’ll outsource my content curation over a wide range of unfettered independent channels. Maintaining your own filters is harder work, sure, but it means you know what’s coming through and what’s getting turned back at the borders.

And as for technologies that support concepts rather than users… well, give me the user support every time. 🙂

I suspect Genevieve’s praise is directed more at the basic concept of “the app store” (uncapitalized, non-proprietary): a marketplace where all manner of useful things can be found. On that basis, I agree: we already have the ability to search for content, and app store systems allow us to search for functionality in the same way.

But I expect it’ll surprise no one when I say I think the ideal social media of the future will be built spontaneously from multiple platforms and networks, created and reformed on an ad hoc basis according to the needs and interests of its users from moment to moment. It is to be hoped, then, that open alternatives to the corporate solutions will remain available; the best way to ensure that they do so is to find them, use them and support them.


Is this your day to join the TOC?

Paul Raven @ 22-11-2010

For Genevieve Valentine, it certainly is! Few things make this particular publisher happier than seeing the authors he’s published getting published elsewhere, and so it’s lovely to see Genevieve Valentine’s Futurismic dystopia “Is This Your Day To Join The Revolution?” nestling in the TOC of the insanely prolific John Joseph Adams’ latest anthology, Brave New Worlds among some very notable names indeed, I might add*.

Bravo, Genevieve! 🙂

[ * I can’t help but giggle every time I see “Harlan Ellison®” in a TOC; there’s something charmingly odd about an author achieving their apotheosis as registered brand while still alive. ]


NEW FICTION: IS THIS YOUR DAY TO JOIN THE REVOLUTION? by Genevieve Valentine

Paul Raven @ 01-09-2009

If you asked me for three words to describe this month’s Futurismic fiction offering, I’d give you “short, sharp and timely”. Genevieve Valentine wastes no words in revitalising (and spoofing) the classic sf dystopias in this brisk story of an all-too-plausible tomorrow. “Is This Your Day To Join The Revolution?” Read on and find out…

Is This Your Day To Join the Revolution?

by Genevieve Valentine

When Liz left her building, Disease Control workers were standing on the corners, handing out pills and little paper cups of Coke.

“Do you need one?” the old lady asked, holding up a handful of paper masks stamped with ads for Lavender Fields Sterile-Milled Soap. Liz pulled out the one she kept in her bag, and the lady smiled.

The TV in her subway car showed “What You Can Do on a Date.” The young man and woman went to the fair twice – once where he screwed everything up, and again where he helped her into the Ferris Wheel and handed her a paper mask before he put on his own.

The movie closed with swelling music and a reminder in cursive: ARE YOU DUE FOR A DATE? CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR. Continue reading “NEW FICTION: IS THIS YOUR DAY TO JOIN THE REVOLUTION? by Genevieve Valentine”