Club Rights Extended to Visitors; the Open Social Dilemma

  American Kennel Club Hounds 
  Originally uploaded by eschipul

I woke up around 3:30 AM today thinking about three concepts.

  1. Club Rights and their extension to visitors. More on this below.
  2. Familiar Stranger concept (Milgram) and;
  3. Open Social and it’s implications on concepts 1 and 2 in social software.

By the extension of club rights to visitors I am referring to our
tendency to "take into the fold" a stranger based on certain criteria.
So a police officer from Detroit will be given a pat on the back and
treated as "one of our own" when visiting a police officer’s pub in New
York. "Club rights" have been extended to the visitor because of her
status as a police officer.

Goffman on club rights

It is interesting to note that when teammates come into
contact with a stranger who is their colleague, a sort of ceremonial or
honorific team membership may be temporarily accorded the newcomer.
This is a visiting-fireman complex whereby teammates treat their
visitors as if he had suddently come into very intimate and
long-standing relationships with them. Whatever their associational
prerogatives, he tends to be given club rights. – The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Erving Goffman, pg 162

So we "take care of our own" even if they are strangers.

The second concept has been talked about more frequently and it is the Familiar Stranger.
We all have experienced this. The person you see in building year after
year but never talk to. Yet when you stumble into them on the metro in
Paris you are like "wow! How are you! What a coincidence! My name is
Bob. Do you want to travel together?" – so suddenly this stranger is
your best friend given the foreign location. We, as humans, are quite
odd actually. OK, back to the subject.


With both club rights and the familiar stranger time is the
un-talked-about variable. We extend club rights to the visiting fireman
if he is VISITING. If he moves to our town and takes a job as a gym
manager, well, he is out of the club. Extension of club rights is
temporary. If he wants to live here he must join the club.

More after the jump.

One of the challenges we face with social software is the tearing down
and reconstruction of social identities. (I guess all the cool kids now
call it the "social graph") As a twitter user when someone tells me to join pownce I groan. Sure it is a great service, but do I really want to rebuild my social graph on jaiku? Of course not – what a pain!

What Open Social from google promises is portability of the social
graph. My concern is, as much as I hate rebuilding my identity on
flickr again on facebook, that these are different clubs. My status in
these clubs is very very different. And my tenure in these clubs, that
time concept again, varies. I don’t have a solution here. But I want to
be clear.

Mass adoption of Open Social uncorks a sociological problem that is
complex. It throws a wrench into club rights and the familiar stranger
and reduces the importance of time in, or out, of the group. I am not
yet sure how I feel about this. Or even if open social or any software
for that matter can overcome something so innate in human relations.

The photo? An AKC event at the AstroArena in Houston last year. It just highlights that if I know you on twitter, and you are doing dog shows, that in YOUR club I have no status beyond amateur photographer. Social graph be damned.