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Friday, May 2, 2008

Two Notes On Social Capital

For years I have followed small aspects of life that indicate the social capital or help to create it. So while jogging in Madrid in 2000, I thought of the "Angry Dog Index". I understood that the way dogs relate to joggers, shows how much social capital is around (postal workers are a different story, they enter the dog's territory).

It may sound funny, but in the nineties it was rather difficult to find a reasonably safe jogging route in Estonian residential areas since chances were that you got chased by a furious dog, whereas in Madrid the dogs were no more dangerous than sheep.

The reason is actually pretty obvious - the more social capital there is, the more dogs get cared and patted and also, the more social capital there is, the less people train their dogs to be angry.

Social capital can be created also by design. At the moment I am sitting at a cafeteria with a Macbook. The power plug is rather far away, so i had to stretch the cord across my end of the room. In between there are some rather energetic children playing. It is only a matter of time when they stumble in the cord. But since it has the magsafe plug, I feel fine and they feel fine. If I had a pc I would be stressed about the possibility that my pc would lie on the floor together with my orange juice and eggs a la Benedict. I think this small safety aspect creates a lot of social capital that would definitely make world a better place.

Ok, all this may all sound trivial but if it is so trivial and definitely old news to computer users, why there is so much bad design around? And from the other hand, just imagine how much a designer of a product can really do to make the world a better place. A dog patting computer?