Time to give technology an kiss or an ASBO?

3 min readMay 5, 2020

There’s a tension that the virus has created which is between the need for humans to connect versus the need to physically distance ourselves. Physical distancing means people can feel less together or even excluded, by avoiding each other. But we will want to connect more in other ways, with our loved ones we’re worried about.

Social technology is at the heart of what I do and the stories I tell, from romantic encounters on Facebook pages, interaction with physical spaces, the power of mass texting to mobilise for public health, all the way to creating new behavioural scripts like open source or giving us the tools to change our relationship to power.

But, we need to question what we mean by social technology, not just web 2.0 versus web 1.0 or social media versus mainstream media…

We’re all encouraged to be more authentic by the very technologies that take it away from us. They help us manufacture our stream of consciousness so they can sell it to the highest bidder to use to sell products and services back to us.

But it’s not the technologies is it? It’s the advertisers manipulating them. And how do we react. Are we more likely to turn up to sponsored flashmobs so companies can sell more mobiles or stunts to get the banks not to rip us off anymore?

Are we more likely to get involved in civil disobedience crushing other shoppers to get cheap priced clothes or on marches against companies exploiting child workers in sweat shops? Are we more likely to watch Big Brother or protest against the extension of CCTVs deep into our neighbourhoods? Are we more likely to tweet non stop throughout the day or go for a walk with our friends?

We administrate how we order and distribute our thoughts and feelings, as if they were files we had to put into particular folders. We call our social networks the new cities, we visit virtual worlds to recreate shared experiences like the record shops, bars and bookstores.

But ironically, this leads those same physical environments to shut up shop because we don’t visit them in real life anymore.

So how can we truly hardwire the social into technology? How can digital help support our communities as “safety nets”?

As the Relationships Project observes:

“Worship, Choirs, workouts, Cameradoes Living rooms, and Little Villages for young families have all been going online in recent days. We must be careful not to uncritically digitise our relationships, but a rapid uptake in technology amongst groups who may not previously have benefitted from it is to be welcomed. However, many are ‘falling through the gaps’. Two thirds of people aged over 75 are not online and the proportion is highest amongst the most disadvantaged. In many communities this isn’t only about older people. 22% of the UK population overall, 11.9m people, lack basic digital skills and the number is 35% higher amongst people with a disability.”

NESTA has put together a framework to help us make sense of how we can use digital democracy in this environment




Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese