Sunday, June 05, 2011

Anthropological perspective on Trust

Social GesturesImage by Dave Duarte via Flickr

I ran across this interesting article written for the New York Times in 2007 that discusses social networks from the perspective of anthropology of tribal cultures. I won't go over the whole article, instead I want to highlight an interesting paragraph.
“In tribal cultures, your identity is completely wrapped up in the question of how people know you,” he says. “When you look at Facebook, you can see the same pattern at work: people projecting their identities by demonstrating their relationships to each other. You define yourself in terms of who your friends are.”
In two previous posts, I talked about trust & measures of trust. The identity talked about in the quote, forms you standing within the tribe. It is derived from what the community thinks of you. PeerIndex is building a way to project that identity at a much lower cost.

"As intriguing as these parallels may be, they only stretch so far. There are big differences between real oral cultures and the virtual kind. In tribal societies, forging social bonds is a matter of survival; on the Internet, far less so."

I disagree with this conclusion, for the simple reason as more and more of our life is online in various virtual tribes, the social bonds formed online will become as important to survival as social bonds formed in the flesh. Granted we are not there yet, I foresee that PeerIndex (and similar services) will become fundamental to building the social bonds that allow you to survive in the 21st century.

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