Creating Technology for Social Change

Social Mirror: Tablet Tech for Social Checkups

Social Mirror

Social Mirror is social checkup technology for people and organisations. Last month, the Media Lab’s corporate sponsors used Social Mirror for a social checkup on their connections with our research groups. This summer, I’m testing the tablet software in UK communities in partnership with Gaia Marcus at the RSA, a prominent UK thinktank (you have probably seen their RSAnimate videos).

What do we mean by “social checkup”? We all know that finding and keeping good relationships is a basic human need. The Internet and mobile phones have created relationship overload for some of us and network inequality for many others. A social checkup shows how our network has changed and helps us choose which relationships to focus on.

Social Mirror has the potential for huge impact. It will transform social science research by making offline social network research cheaper, faster, and more reliable. It also empowers participants, giving them control over their own data.

Social checkups can also help public services evaluate their effectiveness. For example, after-school programs can track how successful they are at linking students with mentors and the community. Case workers could perform social checkups to give advice to clients dealing with social isolation or recovering from an addiction.

We think government and organisations can make great advances by applying network thinking to practical questions in society. That broader vision is at the heart of The RSA’s Connected Communities project.