Happy New Year from the RSA Action and Research HQ everyone, and please join me in wishing a slightly belated Happy First Birthday to the Social Mirror project! It’s just over a year ago that Nathan Matias and I brainstormed the idea of Social Mirror in the RSA’s London offices. Last year focused on ideas and prototypes. This year, we will be testing our ideas and sharing the software more broadly.
Social Mirror is a tablet application that you can use to measure, visualise, and see the potential for change in online and offline networks. It’ll be like having a portable version of me that you can carry around in your pocket, and we hope it will make it easier for all to examine and change the connections that shape their day-to-day lives. We are now exploring its practical use in public services, starting with a pilot in Knowle West, Bristol.
Nominet Trust Funding
This August, Social Mirror received funding from the Nominet Trust to take Social Mirror from a prototype to tested software. The funds are supporting a community-based health project in Knowle West, Bristol that will be testing out Social Mirror from March, 2013, through to August 2013. We will be blogging as we go at http://www.thersa.org/action-research-centre/public-services-arts-social-change/connected-communities/social-mirror and socialmirror.org.uk, and expect to share our results in the last quarter of 2013.
Laurian Gridinoc has joined the team to take our software from a prototype to community-tested . Laurian is a semantic web, data visualisation, and user experience expert, who joins us after a year working at the BBC for the Mozilla Foundation as an Open News Fellow. Laurian will be working with us and our community partners over the next few months to create a robust, usable technology for network surveys and social prescribing.
Social Prescribing in Knowle West
Our new Nominet Trust funded project is testing how Social Mirror might make social prescribing more effective and locally embedded. Social prescribing is when GPs and other health practitioners ‘prescribe’ local activities and/or community resources instead of drugs or more traditionally medical interventions.
By testing the app’s effectiveness in different contexts – such as among GPs or other health practitioners – the RSA will evaluate the impact of social prescriptions on people’s mental wellbeing, their sense of attachment to and participation in the local community, and their use of public services.
We will be releasing our very first publically available prototype this month! It will have a focus on social prescribing for the time being, but should be fun to have a play with. Check out our video for the time being, maybe follow us on twitter, sign up for the newsletter, and we will be back in touch very soon!
It is an exciting time in the RSA’s Connected Communities team. Alongside our academic partners UCLAN and LSE, we are approaching an interesting milestone in our seven-site, five year Connected Communities programme that seeks to understand how community and social connections affect people’s well-being, and how to use this information to best plan local projects.
Having analysed the links between well-being and social/community connections for thousands of people across seven sites (as shown in the map above) we are now getting to the stage where we can take stock of emergent findings, and start planning how to use these findings to help fund-raise for and support evidence-based project in each of the local sites.
We are now finishing up the community playback of findings in each site (click here to see what happened when we went to Mersey to playback findings and discuss new potential interventions) and just held an annual partner’s event to playback overall findings and plan next steps. If you ever wondered what a travellign wellbeign and connectiosn road-show looked like, have a look-see at this here storify to see what happened, tweet by tweet.
So far, so complex, but I am trying to help shed light on the complicated links between well-being and connections by putting together the beginnings of a connectedness toolkit?
Essentially, context matters; each area is different, but similarly so. Key themes emerging are the need for social support, the relative nature of social vulnerability, the importance of how people’s aspirations link to their area and context, the importance of feeling part of something, and the importance of being able to effect change and to see change being effected. Click here for the colourful storified version, and Watch This Space for further updates!
The best things about this job are the wonderful people I work with, and the inspiring projects that they are involved with. This week I went up to Merseyside to playback some of our research findings, and to find out what the local community wants to do with them….
Find out more, by clicking this here Storify link!
As a type this I am sitting on a train that has unwittingly and unwillingly gone rogue. We are a train in search of direction. We are driving; we have a driver; we have a guard; we even have a spare driver. But there is no-one in charge. It is not clear at what speed we should be going, where exactly we are going, how we are going to attach ourselves to our sister train, where we should be stopping and at what time we are supposed to arriving, wherever it is that we are aiming to be.
Here in the first carriage we are party to the confusion that happens when something is put in motion – in this case a train – before anyone is quite sure of where and how it will end up in whatever becomes its destination. London is the aim, but apparently the route is now completely scrambled: via the valleys, not via the coast, to the chagrin of whoever it was who may have been heading to Horsham.
Now, in the case of this train, it is quite clear that it was quite unwise to pack us up on our merry way without having a clear plan of how the track-side fires (!) were going to disrupt our progress. Cue very stressed workers, many frantic phone calls to locate the elusive signaller, and, no doubt, some pretty angry passengers who found they were on an entirely different journey to the one they had signed up for.
In the case of community development on the other hand…. well this train-ride feels pretty apt. You generally have some vague idea of where you want to end up – the final destination a thriving community – but all tend to disagree on what the stops will be along the way, and how the various bits of the map join up to form the picture as a whole.
Back on the train, the complexity continues. If we stop at three bridges, how will we connect to our sister train in Hayward’s Heath? Will there be more fires along the way? Will the elusive controller ever show up? Real-life often feels like this. Conflicting priorities and schedules that all glue together – or not – in ways that are often unclear at the start, and likely to change once we are in motion.
If you want people to be happier do you focus on connecting people to volunteering opportunities – shown to improve well-being – or maybe try and include major employers in project design? Do we have the skills to attract the employers we need? Would a young person’s project now make all this easier five years down the line? If you highlight a great local person as a local champion will it make things easier for them – maybe through recognition and funding – or will you just over-burden them with continual requests for unpaid Big Society mongering?
As it turned out, the rogue train was faster that it would have been, scheduled; order was eventually restored and fires – one hopes – finally put out. But community development? Well that all feels rather rogue at the moment: entrenched difficulties, little funds, conflicting versions of what will work… I suppose that the secret is that when it comes to the ultimate aim – flourishing communities – no-one is actually charge. There is no manager to complain to. So what are we going to do about it?
I think mapping is important: it would be useful if everyone trying to change a given situation is a least clear on the ‘you are here’ side of things. I think being honest about what you can and can’t do is important: no-one can solve everything, and that is ok. The RSA is interested in the idea of viewing public servants more as facilitators than as solvers; at encouraging experimentation instead of labouring away that the same projects that do not quite work. What do you think?
It’s not just your legs that benefit from a good work-out: they say that learning new things is the key to keeping that most treasured possession: your mind. How often do you give yours a good work out? How often do you learn new things, challenge your known things, challenge your assumptions and your words? My word is ‘networks’, my assumptions leftish by way of human rights, and I know that I do not challenge these enough.
One of the wonderful things about working at the RSA is that you are always learning. Indeed there are so many ideas and experts and projects and concepts floating around that sometimes you feel a need to stop learning; to draw a protective line around that which you do know – mother hen-like – and say “stop, these are my known things, stop muddling them up!”
As it never pays to count one’s chicks (however well-known they may be) it was interesting to read Paul Ormerod’s new book – Positive Linking – and chair his RSA talk about it. We have very different takes on what exactly a network is, and it was fascinating to see how he got to his. As someone who went from being a social historian, to Latin Americanist, to human right-ist to sociology-tinged social network scientist of the Portes-ian school, my understanding of networks is as follows:
“Networks are not a thing; they are a way of understanding and representing the world. A social networks perspective seeks to understand the way in which discrete units – nodes – are connected and affected by the relationships between them.”
But whilst we may pretend otherwise, social network analysts do not have the monopoly on the network, be it social or otherwise. Facebook and Co stole it to mean ‘online platform where we steal all your data and you get the illusion of having friends’; Economists have long meant ‘Network Effects’ to be ‘that value created by economies of scale on the demand side’: my mobile phone becomes valuable when everyone else has one; often Network just means ‘group of people somewhat interacting with each other’.
What is clear is that whatever you understand a network to be, human beings tend towards connecting, interacting and sharing, and this tendency shapes the human experience to a large extent. Human beings, connected, are often good: we are forever creating on the shoulders of giants, and creativity, sharing, generosity and compassion make our human experience the wonderful journey it can sometimes be. Human beings, connected, are also often bad: the more we hear something, the more we believe it to be true; sometimes leading fellow human down twisty filter bubbles in which we – us – are all that is good in the world, and they – them – are all that is bad.
So to help keep my mind active, and to use the good things about human beings connecting tendencies to challenge the bad bits – excessive reliance on my filter-bubble and my known things – I’m helping out with a (non-RSA) project that is trying to break down filter bubbles and share knowledge outside, around and between our little Silos: The Thought Menu. We’ll be covering everything from Revisioning Europe, to totally sustainable mobile phones, to what exactly the New Aesthetic is.
It kicks off this Friday with a jam-packed evening of a communal soup dinner and talks about everything from teenage trust online, meditation in prisons, how creativity can help with climate change, and how to get great projects done for little or no money. Given the tile of this post, you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m most looking forward to Dr Tamara Russel and her talk on ‘What happens when I train my brain: The neuroscience of meditation training’.
Please do feel free to come along, and please tell us all: how are you training your mind?
Now the HRA basically put the European Convention on Human Rights –drafted by UK lawyers – into domestic law. The UK has one of those funny dualist legal systems where the government can sign up to *any* international treaty, but until domestic law is drafted, those treaties do not apply domestically: see discussion here.
This is why Pinochet 1998 was such a big deal. As the UK had only incorporated the prohibition on torture in 1988 there had to be proof that – in a dictatorship lasting from 1973-1988/89 – there had been actual torture occurring in 1988. Before that the UK would not have had any legal provisions that would have seen the prohibition on torture as the jus cogens – a law that trumps all other laws, such as diplomatic immunity or territoriality – that it is now seen as being, and laws cannot be used retroactively.
In any case, I digress. My question is: what do you think are *actual human rights*? The HRA only covers political and civil rights: as in to life, freedom from torture, to a just legal system, to free and fair elections etc… The main debates are generally around over Strasbourg’s slightly kinder understanding of ‘the right to family life’ and what actually amounts to ‘cruel and inhuman treatment’: for housing, for example, the House of Lord’s test used to be irrationality – only if a local authority was irrational would they step in – now it *should* be reasonableness.
Personally, I do not think the HRA goes far enough: the UK has consistently refused to accept that Economic and Social Rights are justiciable – something you can fight for in court – and frankly, it should.
Over to you.
A quick 250 words I whizzed together for a Guardian ‘people’s panel’: what do you think? Is Facebook good for you?
Ask me in the pub, and I’ll probably tell you that Facebook has been good for me. I have bits of friendships and bits of heart scattered across the globe, and if I could get my 87 year old Italian Nonna to join Facebook or – gasp – embrace video-chat, then I would. There is only so much love you can put into a badly formatted SMS, and global warming feeds my guilt every time I step onto a luridly orange plane. But ask me at work – with my social network analysis ‘expert’ hat on – and I’ll tell you that I do not know.
As part of a balanced, calorie-controlled social diet, social networking is great. I watched a friend I trapezed with as she debuted in a Chilean soap; I see my friends’ kids from Sud-Tirol to Santiago; and those kids will grow up knowing there is a hell of a world out there. But people relying on the internet for social support do badly: like relying on desserts and chips for all your nutritional needs. The internet is not as democratic as it’s painted: twitter obeys power-laws, and you see the full extent of the twisted rabbit-holes that people’s minds sometimes fall into.
We have a maximum amount of people we can be close to: too many friends can be as harmful as none at all. If Facebook is the cherry on top, you’re probably doing fine. If it’s you main meal, you need to get offline.
What do you believe in? What would you go to the grave to protect?
I believe in human rights for the very reason that human beings can be very wrong. I believe that we deserve human rights with or without God, or Gods, or any divine purpose. Not because human beings are good, but because we can be very, very bad
I believe that we deserve human rights with or without God, or Gods, or any divine purpose. Not because human beings are good, but because we can be very, very bad
Below is the opening chapter I wrote for a crowd-sourced and crowd-funded book on ‘the future we deserve’: 100 essays by 100 people who answered to the following tweet: “@leashless I’m putting together a book called The Future We Deserve, open brief, 500 words, sign up at http://www.appropedia.org/The_future_we_deserve.”
Please comment, forward and help ensure that the debate about the kind of future we want, is a debate had by all.
“It would, of course, be a little odd that there should be such rights attaching to human beings simply qua human beings… There are no such things as rights, and belief in them is one with belief in witches and in unicorns…” (Alaisdair MacIntyre, 1981)
I believe that we deserve human rights with or without God, or Gods, or any divine purpose. Not because human beings are good, but because we can be very, very bad. Humans need rights for the very reason that these rights do not, in of as themselves, exist. I believe that human rights pertain to and are necessary for our current conception of human beings, just as laws pertain to and are necessary for our current conception of society. Laws are not a priori transcendental truths, and neither are human rights. They are societal constructions rendered necessary by our current mode of existence. Without rule of law and monopoly of force, this structure breaks down.
I am a secular human rightist who subscribes to an essentially pessimistic view of human nature. I believe that any idea of inherent human dignity is socially constructed, that we are equal in being essentially meaningless, and that science has stripped us of all but our flesh and blood. By the same token, I believe in kindness, empathy and human beings’ amazing capacity to create and thrive through ingenuity and tenacity. Human rights cannot be seen to be an externally verifiable truth; they do not exist in the same way that a person exists. However, they are a representation of something inherently human: an idea of fair and ingrained empathy, however opportunistic.
Alasdair Macintyre’s critique of human rights – the “failure of the enlightenment project” – charts the two broad arguments used to uphold man as ‘moral sovereign’ when morality loses links to theology or divine law. On the one hand, we have rights as justified by societal utility; on the other, “the appeal to moral rules as grounded in the nature of practical reason”. MacIntyre argues that this appeal to reason leads us to a paradoxical contemporary moral standing where we are told that man has an autonomous morality that must not be interfered with, yet we spend our lives trying to manipulate lest we be manipulated: “The incoherence of our attitudes and our experience arises from the incoherent conceptual scheme we have inherited”.
This does strike a nerve, for without religion or other cosmological or metaphysical schemas of the world, human rights believers are stuck in Habermas’s ‘striking cognitive dissonances’. They may be “suffuse[d] … with a glow of certainty,” but still human hacks human to pieces. Human is mere means to economic speculation, human is an anonymous face on which to exert power, human is an anonymous cavity from which to extract pleasure.
The critique of reason as overarching rationality is one that attacks not only human rights, but also the whole of our enlightenment inheritance. The appeal to reason is indeed circular: man reasons that he has reason/rationality; man reasons that rationality is man’s defining characteristic; man reasons that man’s rationality is so noble or moral a thing as to warrant a transcendental dignity; man reasons that man’s inherent dignity, due to his rationality, means that man has inalienable rights.
With fallen Gods and fractured reason, I would turn to fair
So without divine mission, and still reeling from the 20th century bankrupting of human reason, where do we turn? “We hold that these truths are self-evident,” yet we know there are no self-evident truths. The twentieth century has perpetually called into question what it means to be human: the progressive codification of a human rights regime concurrent with the failure to act in Rwanda.
With fallen Gods and fractured reason, I would turn to fair. The idea of fair can be traced as a recurrent thread throughout human history – lost, sullied and broken at times, often selfishly motivated, but to be found even in babies. Beyond humans it is to be found in dogs and monkeys, just as empathy’s mirror neurons were first discovered in chimpanzees.
Our understanding of fair is mediated by our understanding of society: if one man has the God-given right to rule, it is fair that he should. Fair is that distribution of benefits and duties that reflects our conception of human beings. If we understand all human beings to be equal, then that distribution should reflect this. If a woman is worth half of a man, then so too is her testimony.
This understanding of fair provides a unifying thread: Major religious texts such as the Jewish Bible, Buddhist texts, the New Testament and the Koran “incorporate moral and humanist principles, often phrased in terms of duties”. These tend to be phrased in terms of duties, not rights, although a commonly accepted argument is that these can be interpreted as implying each other – thou shalt not kill becomes the right to life, and so on. Although a direct correlation between rights and duties is difficult, it helps establish the idea of a common good and consequent idea of fairness in ancient texts.
The oldest surviving code of law, the Babylonian Hammurabi codes, is a good example of the utility of this concept of fairness. It contains the principle of eye for eye, tooth for tooth. However, the reciprocal nature of crime and punishment only apply if the offender and victim are of the same status. If a freeman injured a commoner, he would pay money, not in kind. On the other hand, doctors were paid according to whom they treated: a freeman would pay more than commoners or slaves. Here we find that the codified rights (to health) and duties (to give redress for a crime) were mediated by social relations.
By stripping all levels of status, meaning and mission from human beings, we essentially make them pounds of flesh: in a secular society, these pounds should be equally of value or not value, lest we be accused of being unfair. Given existing power relations and the perpetuation of status, we find that some pounds of flesh become more equal than others. To maintain our understanding of human beings as ends and as equals, normative human rights become necessary.
If we strip human beings of divine rights, moral purpose and higher reason, we need this concept of human rights, hinged around a concept of fairness, lest we all become mere bones, blood and sinew.
↑ A. Macintyre, (1981), After Virtue: a study in moral theory, Duckworth, p. 62.
↑ A. Macintyre, (1981), After Virtue: a study in moral theory, Duckworth, p. 68
↑ C. Gearty, (2005), Can human rights survive?, Cambridge University Press, p. 17
↑ M. MacDonald (1984) p. 26 in Jeremy Waldron (ed.), Theories of Rights (Oxford, 1984)
↑ Micheline R. Ishay, ed, The Human Rights Reader: Major Political Essays, Speeches, and Documents From the Bible to the Present New York: Routledge, 1997 p. xv ↑ Micheline R. Ishay, ed, The Human Rights Reader: Major Political Essays, Speeches, and Documents From the Bible to the Present New York: Routledge, 1997, p. xv
↑ see Raz, Joseph (1984). “Legal Rights”, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 1; reprinted in his Ethics in the Public Domain: Essays in the Morality of Law and Politics, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994.
↑ Micheline R. Ishay, The History of Human Rights (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004) pp. 19-20
↑ Ishay, 2004, p. 34
The Guardian and the LSE have just published findings from their research on the riots. This is really really worth a read and a watch. However, anyone with any experience of youth work with marginalised young people will not be at all surprised. This is a bit of a reflection of some of my own work and a call for better ideas!
A digested read, digested, of the topline tells us that “Widespread anger and frustration at the way police engage with communities was a significant cause of the summer riots” with deep-rooted “distrust and antipathy toward police”. A feeling of injustice and alienation pervaded the various reasons cited for the riots- from lack of jobs and opportunity; to scrapping the EMA; to how they felt they were treated compared with others.
It was acknowledged that the form the riots took (e.g. looting) was essentially due to opportunism given a “perceived suspension of normal rules”- people felt this was an unusual chance to get away with it. Social networking sites were seen as mere corollaries to the main facts – although Blackberry messenger was seen as being crucial – and it was found that far from being centered around gangs, the riots were actually a reflection of an unprecedented ‘truce’ which allowed people to cross postcode lines.
“Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
This all took me back into work I conducted in Camden on young people’s social networks with the fantastic charity PanArts. The social world inhabited by the young people in the Synergy project – which aimed to unite young people divided by endz gangfare- was typical of this. If they wanted young people from, say, NW5 to go to a youth centre in NW3, they needed a mini-bus.
The young men that took part in the arts projects were incredibly affectionate between themselves – playing with each other’s hair and clothing – but untrusting of others: “they do have to look over their shoulders all the time” (PanArts worker, 2010). They were never still, always on the look-out for danger, and always in friction with the police.
This friction might be expressed in police de-facto stopping youth club meetings by imposing a curfew on the area, or the anger-inducing story of a young man who left all his friends and networks behind to go on to bigger things, yet found that once he had left Camden to learn new skills, Camden could not leave him. Whilst in the centre of London attending a prestigious arts training course he was stopped and searched by police who informed his new friends who knew nothing of his background that he was a ‘repeat offender’ who they should not be spending time with.
Youth culture has historically always been about forming identities… Gangs are not the problem
As expressed by PanArts in an interview with me at the time:
“ A lot of the kids we work with don’t have that belief that society is working ultimately for their good, so those micro-systems [of trust] are what they latch onto, well possibly because it is all they have got… and because they like being able to trust people… and tell their secrets and have fun”
Human beings need identities, and when they are shut out from mainstream society, they form their own. Youth culture has historically always been about forming identities: our identity is what we barter our social capital on. Social capital is not always ‘positive’, it merely describes human interactions. A sense of community is not solely about geographical proximity, it is about who we recognise as ‘like us’.
Gangs are not the problem. What is worrying is marginalised groups who feel they are not part of mainstream society, who feel that they are treated different to everyone else, handed a rawer deal than everyone else, who experience suicidal levels of disinterest in what happens to them as they feel they have nothing to lose. Anger at police, is essentially anger at how representatives of the state interact with you. Researchers for the LSE/Guardian reported being repeatedly asked “This is nothing to do with the government right, this is nothing to do with the police, right?
We are seeing the formation of “some neighbourhoods that are effectively somewhere else from the rest of society”, and we can all see the cracks in the perfect offering of a supposedly meritocratic ‘open-opportunity’ society. The question is, what are we going to do about it?
We’re looking for ways that technology – particularly the web – can play in helping young people: whether it’s helping them access advice and information, seek support from others, or connecting them to hidden job and training opportunities
I would love to see what would happen if we were to run a service re-design project with young people affected by the riots or gang violence. Co-production has been used to great effect in many arena: what happens if you ask people “Right, this is our budget, these are all the people we need to provide for: how would you do youth services? How would you ensure something of a fairer deal?”
Or maybe you have a far better idea: the RSA has just launched a interactivism challenge with Google “ asking people of all backgrounds – software developers, young people, professional practitioners, teachers and policymakers of all levels – to put forward innovative ideas for how the internet and technology could support young people.” What can you build?
We have heard the bells, and we have seen the cracks. Is it maybe time to let the light in?
RSA Connected Communities has started a new project with Nathan of the MIT Center for Civic Media to create a new, cost-effective way to measure the social impact of public services and civic interventions and to allow people to see their own personal networks. We’re designing a mobile and tablet app for recording real-life social networks: your friends, families and contacts. The open source software we build will also be useful to journalists, ethnographers and anyone trying to make sense of rapidly changing social phenomena. Here I illustrate how we are currently recording this data, and why I think it is important that we change the way that we do it.
What is data?
Data is a rushed researcher putting together a survey to capture the full extent of a human life on paper. The scales are based on someone else’s testing. The newly combined scales are then re-tested on new people. Any newly invented questions can change as a result of piloting; the old questions – based on someone else’s testing – must remain constant. These newly tested combined scales – with the odd bit of cut and paste – are then recalibrated and re-launched.
A community researcher goes door to door. “Hello! My name is… “ Door shuts. “Hi! I’m… Some version of a person’s social network and social world is transferred from local person, to community researcher’s ear, to RSA paper survey. Interesting anecdotes and unusual answers are scribbled in the margins, for few paper-based-surveys have the space to fully annotate human complexity.
Back at the RSA HQ a data entry scribe enters these reams upon reams of human data. Comment boxes are full of the annotated scribbles, although some anecdotes are lost to time, bad weather and even worse handwriting. Data entry becomes data book; data book becomes social network; social network might become a Guardian Society supplement.
We have found that allowing people to see their own networks and understand them allows them to feel they can change them.
And so what? Your social network, your human network, is a map of you. And maps need to be used in the now, not in a year’s time when the roads have changed and bridges have been broken. The social app I am working on with Nathan from the MIT Center for Civic Media might allow us to do just that. It will be a means of researching somebody’s human networks and then playing it back to them, in real time.
Here in the RSA Connected Communities team – when not dealing with 4000 peoples’ worth of social networks and wellbeing, community health networks and the innovation networks of various councils – we are trying to help social network analysis become a real life tool. For this to happen it needs to make sense to people.
We already know that people with more diverse networks are healthier and happier. Our human networks help us to find work, with those with more diverse networks tending to have higher status and better paid jobs. We have found that allowing people to see their own networks and understand them allows them to feel they can change them. Poor networks are a real form of poverty: lack of mainstream social capital slows you down and closes off options.
You can paint me your social picture and I can ask “Does this look right, does this look like you?” before I join up the numbers
Through visualisation work to make network outputs more intelligible and the creation of network toolkits that hopefully make the subject more intuitive to people, we are trying to open up social network knowledge so it can be part of every individual’s personal toolkit. I really hope that the tool we are working on with Nathan will be a big part of this.
It will allow researcher and researched to really co-produce.You can paint me your social picture and I can ask “Does this look right, does this look like you?” before I join up the numbers. It will make the data better and it will do what the data protection act tried but failed to do: it will make you own your own data, because you can see, feel and change it.
This might become a way for people to check in on their own social networks every once in a while, or a tool that might measure your isolation and suggest a local reading group or walking club. I can imagine GPs using this kind of tool to help them socially prescribe local activities. Any organisation which acts with social networks – such as the NGO Tostan- could use this as a low-cost way of measuring the impact of their interventions.
Organisations which rely on interviewing broad sections of people to understand new social phenomena – such as Human Rights Watch or any news organisation worth its salt – could use the tool as a prompt in interviews, a means of recording data and a way on ensuring that they have actually managed to ask a diverse group of people and not just people who float in similar circles.
So over to you. These social networks are your human networks. And these human networks delimit that which is possible in your life. What does this tool need to do, if it is to be of real use?