Public goods

Public goods are non-rivalrous resources that no-one can be excluded from using. They are also known as social goods and collective goods. Oft-cited examples include street lighting, broadcast TV, knowledge, and the World Wide Web.

Non-proprietary social networking that is open to anyone is a public good. The resources needed to establish decentralized social (dsocial) networking may be a public good when the corresponding resources have open source / open design licenses.

:link: LINKS


Hey Mr Sheldrake

Do you think the social graph in itself is sufficient to constitute a public good or is it the information/communications functions of the social network that makes it a public good?

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Hi Barry, thanks for your question.

You are making the distinction between social networking and “the social graph” with appropriate precision imho :heart_eyes:

In the LINK above — Hart, S., Shorin, T., Lotti, L. (2021) — the authors rightly note:

As builders of a new digital society, we must be equipped with an even more inclusive and visionary concept of what “public” and “good” can mean.

… any definition of public goods presupposes a shared understanding of what is in the public’s benefit, and why.

With reference to Taylor (1977) the authors continue:

Public goods … are objects that satisfy values that are shared.

… in practice, little space has been made for different values to be discussed or enacted. … If public goods are to satisfy shared values, then public discussion of what’s of value matters!

Web 2 has been dominated by a tiny elite, largely living within a fairly homogeneous culture, deciding things for their own profit, mostly through the industrial farming of the users’ attention. Those building the dweb aspire on the whole not to repeat this pattern, and yet we repeatedly see just that hegemonic power playing out. Witness the self-sovereign identity (SSI) community for example setting out to “free” everyone, but requiring that everyone conforms to their protocol designs in the process whether or not it’s contextually appropriate. (See the generative identity website for more on that front.)

Hart et al conclude:

The type of public goods we need are those that can be enacted by digital communities, while avoiding the destructive scaling effects of Web 2 platforms. As Facebook expanded its reach, it realized increasingly negative externalities in the form of propagandist attacks on democratic institutions. Public goods enacted by Web 3 communities should strive to produce exactly the opposite effect. Greater scale should mean greater good as valued by an increasingly wider set of people: the creation of positive externalities.

So the answer to your question pivots I believe on the possibility of “the (d)social graph” delivering greater good at greater scales, and I’m convinced that a singular graph will generate exactly the opposite effect.

So — finally!! — to answer your question. I cannot consider “the [singular] social graph” to be a public good at all. It is very likely to constitute a public bad. Fortunately, our species has demonstrated astonishing capacities for social networking over the millennia without needing a single social graph.

May human connection :kissing_heart: continue to trump graph connection :scream:

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