The title of this paper introduces two phrases that are not in widespread use, ?sociable technologies? and ?enterprising sociality?. The choice of unusual terms is by design, so that key concepts are not confused through association with terms that may already have multiple current referents. The word sociality is selected to indicate the interaction of humans in the pursuit of mutual desires. These desires might be comradeship or comfort, familial affection or successful competition. In some cases the desired activities and states may be pursued with an organized economic aspect. In these cases there is an enterprising orientation, and so we introduce the concept of enterprising sociality. This is the social dimension of the human condition as manifested in economic terms.
By sociable technologies we mean affordances that specifically support the ability of people to interact on a social level. If this phrase happens to evoke images of relaxing around the fire in a bistro or office, dormitory or barracks, that would be appropriate. If it also evokes the image of telephones, teletypes and e-mail, that would also be appropriate. In this case, these images should further evoke a picture of people working together toward common economic goals, experiencing virtual togetherness via ICT.
This discussion is partially motivated by the understanding that there are ongoing accountability issues at the intersection of social systems and technology. Information technology has become a key role-player in enterprise settings.2 Significant invention and innovation is directed toward creating technologies that take over responsibilities from human role-players. But when technology takes the place of functions formerly performed by accountable human beings, or introduces functional capability that was not even possible before, the technology itself is not accountable for expected results or unintended consequences. As technology is increasingly inserted into the fabric of our lives, there is accountability that includes both the creator and the installer of the technology. Anyone in the chain from invention to end-use bears a share of the responsibility for those results as they impact individuals and organizations involved in enterprise. Our focus here is on the social dimension of that impact and responsibility.
We approach this discussion from an architectural viewpoint. We use the term architecture in an expansive sense that goes beyond representation, and includes the dynamic structure of the phenomenon itself. The definition here of ?architecture? is similar to Maturana?s when he says that, ?Autopoiesis occurs only when the dynamic structural architecture of the molecular domain in which it can occur satisfies the conditions for its occurrence.?3 In our case we are speaking of architectures within the cultural domain, referencing organizations and technological complexes.
This paper focuses on the architectures of enterprising sociality and sociable technologies, in a way that will allow us to begin to speak of structural coupling between these two domains. Enterprising sociality and sociable technologies exist within an ongoing coevolution process. We can observe the process whereby business advances depend on technology (e.g., reputation system for e-Bay), and technology advances respond to business drivers (e.g., Moore?s law as a mandate for continuous investment).4 The consideration of couplings of respective architectures and characteristics will provide a language to talk about the accountability of providers of technology with respect to the human social systems to be served by various technologies.
Before we get into the domains themselves, we will briefly explore some of the current context that makes this exploration interesting as we find ourselves pretty far into the first decade of the 21st Century.
In order to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding or controversy, we heed Alfred Korzybski when he reminds us, ?Whatever you say a thing is, it is not.?5 The fact that we talk about the social aspects of enterprise and technology should not be interpreted as an argument that this is the only way, or some specially privileged way of talking about those subjects. Viewing enterprise and IT through a social lens turns out to be especially useful and timely for technologists, organizational designers, executives, and vendors. But this is not to denigrate other ways of looking at these subjects. There are many maps for the same territory, so it is important to be explicit about the kind of map being used here.