Mobile, social, being in the world with the ‘Internet of things’

Posted on: February 18, 2011

I have used the simple notion of the social object often, to frame, discuss and describe online communities and engagement online.

But to consider the social web in conjunction with the growth of the mobile internet, another concept can well augment it:  Heidegger’s concept of the ‘dasein‘ – the human, ‘being-in-the-world.’

What is a social object?

A social object is something people talk about or form a group around: a discussion point. For example, this January Hovis targeted people dieting and trying to lose weight after the new year. Their Facebook campaign used the social object ‘stop-snacking’ – encouraging people to engage around the idea they could eat Hovis and feel fuller to avoid snacking.

McCain’s recent campaign is currently enjoying success on Facebook, having identified a social object connected to the consumption of chips: guilt. The page has attained over 11,000 likes and engagement has been good, with fans readily confessing ‘guilty secrets’ on its wall – for a chance to win a trip to New York.

Dasein – in the world with others

Heidegger’s philosophical concept of ‘being-in-the-world‘ teaches that our understanding of the world, split into ‘subject’ and ‘object’ is a modern scientific construct unhelpful to understanding human existence.

The attainment of ‘authentic existence,’ according to Heidegger, may be explored by using an alternative set of concepts (ontology) – including that of the ‘dasein’ – the person ‘being there’ in relation to objects in his or her life-world.

Dasein with the social object

Heidegger insists, then, that we suspend the notions of subject and object in favour of dasein (‘being there’).  This enables us to consider the interplay between the social object and the person – precisely as various moments of temporal intersection.

For example, in the image above, the man, in his state of ‘being there’ with the bicycle, becomes a fast-moving cyclist representing the Tomaso brand.

It is the convening of ‘Dasein’ and the ‘world’ which gives definition to both… “Dasein’s facticity is such that its Being-in-the-world has always dispersed [zerstreut] or even split itself up into definite ways of Being-in.

The multiplicity of these is indicated by the following examples: having to do with something, producing something, attending to something and looking after it, making use of something, giving something up and letting it go, undertaking, accomplishing, evincing, interrogating, considering, discussing, determining….”

Roy Hornsby

Mobile, social, being in the world

This notion of ‘being there,’  then, becomes useful for planning activity across social spaces, because it enables deep consideration of the moments in which a person is coming into contact with a social object. And then, conversely, how the social object should ‘be’ in relation to the dasein at that time.

What is the person doing, how are they feeling, what is distracting them, what else is in their field of vision, who else is with them, what sort of group are they in, are they comfortable, professional, excited, bored?

This all has indications for when, where and how a social object is presented, and thus how a person may ‘be there’ with it.

At home golf is a prized collection of clubs, with a group of friends around the tv it is The Open, with colleagues it is an office sweepstake, on the green it is stunning views. For golfing holidays, the social object around that product has many temporalities which may be tapped into differently, for different people, in different locations at different times.

Reaching for the dasein

Crucially, we are always in a certain space-time, perhaps using a certain device, in relation to social objects. We can imagine our connection to them: driving, walking, painting, partying, running, as a function of our temporality. It follows that social media, or, indeed, all communications – sits neatly in that interplay.

My interest in handbags has a temporality: the space I keep them in the cupboard; the ones I use most often and ones I will probably never use again; the places I would go to first to buy one, the places my friends would go, and the friends whose judgement I would trust to recommend a shop. There is the moment I am in the shop, browsing, or the moment a new handbag is delivered, the clothes I will wear with it, the places, events, people, music, that are in my world on each occasion.

As dasein my relationship to social objects continually alters, as does my behaviour and the data I may be producing and consuming in relation to it. Am I complaining about, comparing, replacing, showing off, or hiding my handbag? Am I using it to ward off thieves?

‘Being there’ with an ‘Internet of things’

As mobile social technology diffuses – Heideggerian philosophy provides an overarching understanding of the ‘Internet of things‘ – as the networked realisation of people ‘being in the world’ with ‘social objects’ in lots of different times, places and moods.

It suggests communications planning that taps into the uniqueness of individuals in their particular temporality, with the social object in question.

From the world of designer fashion an example is this real world catwalk show that was livecasted and combined with an online chatroom, where participants could personally interact with a DKNY tweeter with an established reputation, and get access to VIP discounts for making purchases.

Another example is the potential for Facebook to combine ‘Buy with friends’ and Facebook deals (which associate special offers with checking into given locations). This could tap specifically into people and their relationships at given times, in conjunction with social objects and activity in the real world.

Moving over to sportswear – Asics took advantage of different stages of temporality at the New York City Marathon with their use of runners and RFID tags. As participants passed over RFID readers at specific points of the New York Marathon track they were played messages from loved ones on giant screens to encourage them along the 26 mile course.

4 Responses to "Mobile, social, being in the world with the ‘Internet of things’"

[…] About Mobile, social, being in the world with the ‘Internet of things’ […]

[…] people regardless of how they feel… our new communications environment enables us to tap into the dasein… the person, at that precise moment, in relation to the […]

I really enjoyed the blog post. An interesting use of Heidegger for understanding social media. What I wondered, though, is what this tells us about being human. Do we now mediate ourselves through social objects to understand ourselves and others? By that I mean, can we no longer understand or talk to each other without a media interface? For example, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore tweeting each other while in the same room.

If Heidegger is correct, in his view, does that simply return us to a pre-modern era (Plato’s Cave) but put us in the basement of the cave? I know others have used this idea and it strikes me as appropriate given our ability, or rather our inability, to experience nature (what is nature in a mediate world?) without social objects.

I suppose, I should put this directly to ask what is nature, or a natural object, if everything is (or can be) a social object.

I would be interested in your views on this issue and thanks again for a stimulating and thoughtful post.

[…] was fascinated by the idea of social object as used on this blog. The author developed the idea to include the concept of being in the world.  In this idea, our […]

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