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The Evolution of Computers: Key Resources (July 2013): Social Networks and Beyond

By Kyle D. Winward

Social Networks and Beyond

Social network platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are increasingly becoming akin to the big search engine companies on the 1990s and 2000s, and also as delivery medium akin to the websites of that period.  Much of the recent book literature on social media focuses on business applications, especially advertising and marketing, and their effects on contemporary culture, topics which are beyond the scope of this essay.  David Kirkpatrick provides an interesting account of the development of Facebook based on interviews with founder Mark Zuckerberg and other executives in The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World.  Two online resources useful for their ongoing coverage of trends and activities in social networking are the “Social Media” section of Mashable and the Social Media Examiner.  While both sites focus on business aspects, they do feature articles and reports on history-in-the-making trends and developments.  In Networked: The New Social Operating System, Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman, experts in data and sociology, respectively, explore the impact of what they term “networked individualism” on personal life, work, and society, offering a positive perspective of the many benefits and opportunities afforded by online social networks.

Given the rapid nature of developments and innovation in the computer world, it would be presumptuous to try to predict the future, except to suggest that developments will continue to amaze us and exceed our wildest imaginations.  On the horizon as this essay went to press is the trend toward wearable computers such as the pending release of Google Glass.  An excellent introduction to this topic is “Wearable Computing” by Steve Mann, available on the Interaction Design Foundation website.  And many exciting innovations are predicted with the more widespread use of 3D printing, as reported in “3D Printing” by Christopher Barnatt.  These innovations will continue to transform all aspects of our lives and no doubt also spark debate about their positive and negative impacts on culture and society.