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Broken webs: imagining an Internet for introverts

Introverts are people who do not generally demonstrate an enthusiastic social appetite. Most Internet interfaces and applications assume a voluntary and natural tendency for social bonding and seem to reward behaviour that fits these assumptions. What is our understanding of people who would broadly identify themselves as introverts? Can this inquiry inform our design efforts and guide us in reconceptualizing ways of working?

This forum will try to understand the position of the introvert and their actions. How do the questions of access and representation in context of attention reconcile with our desire to sometimes be quiet? Being quiet, because silence is comfortable, there are things that need to be said, but only if we remember or because it is necessary to speak, write. Being as introverted as we choose to be. Without a need for attention. If we are to understand the attention economy of the web as it exists and as it is being shaped, understanding the invisible -the shadow-players in the system- is crucial. How can we measure and value actions that might never have been done? Would the systems, design paradigms and business models we take for granted, change with a better understanding of the introverts? Is it possible to strike a balance between showing and hiding, between spectacle and subtlety, privacy and transparency?

Known to be the "great disinhibitor," a zone which sees people expressing more openly, the Internet also sees a lot of role-reversal. People who need more diverse tangible and sensory cues to start talking or those who are more comfortable talking to people they know and can count might actually be clamming up. People who are asocial or are considered social misfits on the other hand might be riding the "disinhibition wave" happily.


1.Designing communities which are not centred on expression and an invitation to contribute. Which could be more synchronised ways for a collective experience of community to happen.

2.Conceptualize how we can communicate ideas effectively with non-lingual cues, is it about being more tuned and sensitive or about using high-technology to extend our senses?

3.In the "networked jungle" of now - what is the optimal size of a community to feel intimate and still have the richness of diversity?

4.We all know that apparently "information wants to be free," but what about the information that doesn't want to be free, are we willing to imagine "introverted data"?


1.Tag blogs of people you know are introverted with "news,intrvrtd" at delicious.com.

NOTES: Commenters are encouraged to think beyond text-based comments for this forum. Video comments would be sweet. You can just upload at youtube and paste the link here.

CONFIRMED AND INTERESTED PARTICIPANTS (alphabatical): Navras Jat Afreedi, Beatrice Catanzaro, Uma Chandru, Shruti Chamaria, Abhishek Hazra, Priyanka Kodikal, Sophea Lerner, Namrata Mehta, Nisha Nair, Manjushree, Sharmila Sagara, Nirali Shah, Kaustubh Srikanth, Akshay Surve, Neha Vishwanathan, Yashas Shetty, Noora Zul You can join the conversation by posting text or video comments to this post.If you choose to be anonymous, that's fine.


Writing itself is an introverted activity

There are some of us who can think better while we write. The spoken word does not come as quickly, as wittily, or sometimes, even as truthfully as the written does.
Maybe because the introvert is a person who needs a certain amount of privacy, space and silence to collect his thoughts and then to express them in an interesting manner.
Writing also allows for revisions and reversions.
While the extempore talker is lively and spontaneous, almost seventy five percent of all entertainment, films, plays, music, tv serials, are born of the pen.
We writers know that our muse talks through us only when we are not talking.


introverts - silent genuises.

i have been sitting in front of my screen, wondering what to contribute to this forum, not because i am an introvert, but because i am not. the idea of the dis inhibition wave works in reverse for real life extroverts-internet introverts. this is born out of the idea that introverts are inherently more creative because they can express themselves in ways other than talking - everything the internet is about.
there is perhaps already an internet for introverts - one which many introverts probably had a hand in creating.



I have often found people percieving introversion as a negative asset. A simple google search leads me to websites on "How to understand an introvert", "How to overcome it" or even "Caring for the introvert"! Who is the introvert? An introvert could possibly be someone who is well aware and knowledgeable, but doesn't feel the need to share that knowledge verbally. As opposed to an extrovert who depends on collecting and sharing knowledge. Yet it does not mean that the flambouyancy of an extrovert can prove that they are more curious or enthusiastic to know more.
There are different methods of collecting and sharing knowledge, amongst different kinds of people. However now that the world is becoming more flat due to the increase and betterment of communication, we tend to assume that everyone is a participant of the large picture. So who are we leaving out? I purely believe that everyone has a valid opinion and perception. Probably the introvert looks at the world from the third persepective, and has a clear and diplomatic outlook on the whole. Hence, I do not see introversion as a negative asset, but a trait by which one could listen more than they speak. A quality for which one is more observant, sensitive and even creative.
Looking at the world wide web, Introversion is disguised as privatization. When there are passwords, codes and zip folders to follow, we are automatically segregating an entire group of people and information from the rest, creating a sense of introversion. Now that the world believes in transparency for the betterment of all, how would this effect us and our security?


Jerry Seinfeld

They say Jerry Seinfeld is an introvert.



so-called introverts

first off, i'd just like to say that I don't really believe in the term "introvert" or "extrovert". It was formed by personality psychologists who really really wanted to be able to classify human behaviour into simple binaries based on written testing. In reality, human behaviour is subject to an array of externalities that are constantly influencing an individual, and some criticisms of these terms have shown how they do not hold up.

anyway, without going into too much detail about that, I am with Namrata on the fact that I am what people might call an "extrovert" at a glance, but I also find it difficult to "get involved" online, mostly because of the pressure of writing something that doesn't fit into the category of "online garbage information". I'm sure there's a jargon word for it, but I can't remember it...actually, this is a good example of another reason why I rarely feel like contributing: there's often the risk that you will be judged by a community of savvy users who have no way of evaluating you than the words in your posts or maybe a scant user profile. For people who's "forte" and experience is more anchored to the physical world, that can be kind of scary and often limiting as well.


Some Invisible Monologues

Like Anonymous asks in "Introversion as negative," how can you overcome something you are not sure you want to overcome? Or as Namrata says the Internet is a hangout for introverts anyway, but people who experience a role reversal.

Will some of the conversations the participants had with me on e-mail and chat end up here soon?


The issue is far deeper than it seems to be...

I would love to discuss this at great length. I'm working on making a transition myself. The way the web is shaping up, there are way too many issues of privacy, understanding, freedom, prejudice, innocence and honesty. So quite so many times it does makes one feel left out and unconnected and "unwebbed". In fact, depending upon how you introvert and isolate yourself, things can get difficult.


Internet or Inner Net?

Introverts and extroverts ebb and tide as their environmental waves trip over one another, and carry them into varied socio-political & cultural spaces. Hence an introvert in one social set up, might become an extrovert in another. It also changes with the time and phase of one's life. Hence firstly, I feel that the judgment of an introvert/extrovert is not a 'constant' but constantly shifting.
Secondly, I feel that it is not possible to have "meaningful" relationships or creativity spring entirely from "Internet" interactions. However, I confirm that the internet serves as a forceful tool to strengthen those offline bonds and ideas to deepen and sprout, respectively. But it cannot replace first hand interactions in person, where 'being present' is essential. The internet is still very 'mind driven.'
Lastly, I found it truly intriguing to read, "How can we measure and value actions that might never have been done?" Because the lack of an action is also an action. The decision to not write something or not make that click - also has a strong and permanent impact. Once again, I feel a limitation to explore this to its full extent over a comment on this blog :-)


Those who spend a lot of time

Those who spend a lot of time with computers rather than human beings and like coding are often viewed to be "introverts." Besides being a web surfer, I am what you call an addict to long emails and posts on facebook. People have asked me to convert my rather long mails to blogs, but while I am willing to make rather long posts on forums, I don't like the "publicness" of bloggging, I am however, getting addicted to long and frequent posts on facebook.

So am I an introvert or extrovert? I am certainly by no means what people refer to as an "introvert" Quite the opposite, is what people who know me will say. Should we instead, be viewing these two terms as relative and not just as a continuum. Does it vary in terms of the face to face reality, whom we are with, and/or the avataar one assumes online? Are the two terms really positive and negative ones? And which is which? is this a issue of individual or group judgment or is it defined differently by those who are considered 'introverts" and those who are considered to be "extroverts?"

Do people get offended for being called an introvert or even extrovert? Although, I always considered myself to be sensitive and politically correct, to my chagrin this afternoon, I was chastised by someone i know professionally for using the term "schizophrenic" to describe a person we both knew had schizophrenia. I was requested by that person to look back to the change we had all made years back about not reffering to a person who had leprosy as a 'leper", and avoid labels like 'schizophrenic," or "autistic." He pointed out that we should even avoid the label "diabetic." I had no contention with his argument and merely felt embarassed at how conditioned and insensitive I hsd become. Later on in the evening, I emailed another friend who works with people with Autism about this. He pointed out that such labels are demeaning. However in the same mail he inadvertently used the term 'autistic' to refer to a person with Autism. How easily we slip into this. Perhaps we should rethink labeling someone as an introvert or extrovert.

Moving on to what would be the optimum size that a community would feel intimate and still have the richness of diversity- wouldn't it would vary with the type of individuals and/or the type of social or cultural group. Although i like to communicate with a smaller group on line who have common interests, I personally find it quite interesting to make posts in larger groups where there can be more active debate and new knowledge generated/shared.

Your idea of imagining "introverted data" intriques me. Can you please expand?

Uma V Chandru


In context of the abovementioned subject:

Enough said. (Has left the building)

SNEHAL NAIR, Writer and Filmmaker, Alumnus - Dept. of Direction and Screenplay Writing, SRFTI.


lurking is not 'doing nothing'

lurking and introversion are not the same thing, but i wanted to contribute some thoughts about lurking to this discussion because it seems relevant to the questions of exposure and participation that have arisen here.

how did lurking come to be seen as an antisocial activity on the intrrnet?
when BBSes had only one modem coming in then tying up the line without contributing anythng was seen as hogging resources, somewhat parallel with the concept of leeching in todays filesharing communities. taking without giving.

lurking is still largely framed as non-contributory non-participatory, not community minded – nevertheless the entrepreneurs of the web 2.0 user generated content revolution have found ways to profit from the activities of less vocal members of the communities whose content sits on their platforms. just by watching videos you could be contributing to the 'most viewed' statistics and influencing the placement of advertising.

on discussion lists there are always a few who do most of the talking – i think that when people delurk it is usually with some conviction because they really have something to say which will probably be a counterpoint to the discussion which the usual suspects have missed. the position of lurkers as readers who take the time to follow a specific discussion, out of all the reading material they can choose from when they get online – and to possibly share the ideas from the discussion in other contexts – should be valued. if everyone is talking, no-one is listening.

and sometimes you want to know who is listening. open publishing is a valuable model but sometimes working within a network of trust can be a more fruitful dialogic process.

since those of us who do not desire becoming 'internet famous' have voted with our mice to be elsewhere it's not surprising that it has taken the twittering classes some time to question the overvaluing of overexposure. however conversations like this one are popping up here and there. questions are being asked about reading and listening. will lurkative media be the next killer app?


The Internet of Introspection

If the net's origin's can be traced back to literature, then the labyrinths of Borges' mind would be good place to start-a lonely Buenos Aires librarian, an introvert of the extreme kind, living with his mother for most of his life. If we trace the technological origins of the net we have to go back to MIT's Lincon laboratory,where its founders envisioned an hypertextual tool for augmenting the self and its intelligence-It's funders,The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, had something else in mind, for them it was a communication device meant for the political and military elite and the apocalyptic nuclear winter they envisioned.

The early games of the network==Space Invaders and Pong were for the introverts not just any introvert but the extreme of the species, the one's whose relation to the abstraction of the machine, far overides any other abstraction, primarily social ones.

The early user's communication addresses had unpronounceable glyphs @ and abstractions for human emotions :( :) . They constructed imaginary worlds and labrytinths with their MUD's.

The internet has always been the playground of the introvert,The INTP's of Myers-Briggs would far outsrtip any other personality trait,what we are now dealing with web 2.0 is not a rejection of the introvert but a retaking of the web by the extroverts,the one's with the social skills- the ENTPs, ESTJs retaking a domain that the painfully shy had constructed for themselves.

The question, then,is not about introverts or extroverts but a deeper question of privacy and this question becomes more intense as most of us wake up to find out that the once beautiful geocities page we so lovingly built for kicks, now matters when employers google to find out who you really are, when the web now demands that we construct an identity that is on a one to one correspondence with the "real" world.

Is this a problem?Some of us might think so, Prior to the construction of the web or even the Internet,as we know it, data mining was a flourishing business--IBM's tabulating machines were accused of providing census data to Hitler, Shift to the web 2.0 era and we lovingly put ourselves on facebook.

In many ways, this co-relation of identies on the web and the world outside could be a problem as a 19 year old blogger found out when the Supreme court of India refused to protect him for starting a community against the Shiv Sena.What happens when Wikipedia accuses a mild 78 year old retiree of being one of the conspirators of JFK's assassination?

What a web for Introverts would look like is like asking what the real world is for introverts looks like, they navigate the real world without any problem,save occasional embarrassments at Super Markets and wild parties. Sometimes the powers that be are even generous enough to build technocratic institutions.universities and disciplinary boundaries-"engineering","science" and "fine art" departments to cater to them.

The question then is not of these webs for introverts but of privacy, when someone is looking at your wallet AND your photo album AND your diary-It doesn't matter if you're an extrovert or an introvert.


Thinking asocial

Think asocial, think of structures and entities which invite participation through a mix of intuition, synchronicity, coincidence and random impulse. The call for participation, the call for contribution, the design of systems which are open and have the potential for possible mass access are dissipating and leaking energy by being expectant, by being hopeful and by waiting.

So, besides privacy, boundaries/borders and introspection, introverted systems will essentially be frugal. Frugality as expressed through the design of systems that are not open or welcoming by default, they are open only upon investigation, upon cajoling and negotiation.

Responding to Uma's interest, introverted data is all data which isn't organized for easy, transparent and universal access. Data which is difficult, which is not flexible, which is opinionated and insists on uses arising only out of conversations. So instead of intelligent interfaces and inter-operability and consistent standard we are then talking of interfaces like speech, touch, smell, sight and hearing as the points of access.

What Sophea calls "lurkative media" might well be media designed to listen to gestures, breath patterns, eye movements to complete feedback loops. And this is not a very futuristic concept, besides other things priority sets in here. Which interactions and by whom do designers prioritize when they do and why?

Introversion is not a pathogenic phenomenon, it is not a personality type, it is a state of mind which changes the rules of the social game we play for some time, in some places and in groups of certain size.

What Nirali describes is the persistent need to connect with people face-to-face in spite of all the technology to connect remotely. I think this fact needs to be repeated again and again because of the presumptuous claim of technology to be futuristic, to be the next stage of evolution which negates every thing which existed before.

Soon, this forum will extend into a workshop which will make design proposals for "introverted structures and interfaces."


I was looking around for

I was looking around for information about networks for people with Aspergers syndrome (an Autism spectrum disorder) when I came across this post. I find the idea quite interesting, being something of an introvert myself, but also having experienced the joy of 'disinhibition' that the web provides.

My personal experience is that at some point in their lives most people I know have experienced feeling or being asocial or being social misfits. What is considered being social or not is also a cultural thing. By that I mean the form of being social, if you smile or not, if you shake someone's hand, ask about them, or if you stand apart but are tuned into or aware of the people around you. What constitutes being social?

The terms 'introverted data' and Broken webs are interesting in the context of this post. Is there such a thing as 'introverted data'? I'm sure there is information about ourselves that we share only with people we are close to. Perhaps there are somethings about us known only to close friends of family, sometimes perhaps things that no one else even knows. But the moment someone knows about it, does it remain 'introverted' or secret in some manner.

The internet being an anonymous medium allows access to places, spaces where I can discuss things, no matter how private or personal. What I term as private or personal, ultimately becomes that about me which I am trying to hide in some form. Say shame at something that happened to me, or something that I did. Or a view point on things which go against the grain of the 'social norm'. In either case the internet has allowed for spaces for discussion on any topic under the sun. Quite literally nothing is 'taboo' any more. There is something in this that is actually quite humanizing, in the sense that by finding others who think similarly we no longer feel isolated, or alone. We find a connection, a web, we feel part of something.

To me an interesting question is how we navigate these various broken webs. Personal, physical ones of friends and people we see day to day where we are or have to be cued into a lot more about them besides what they are saying. Their posture, body language, tone of voice etc, and a space like the internet which allows for lesser channels of communication.

Which is what brings me to my interest in Aspergers syndrome, and trying to see if it is possible to create systems that allow for people to navigate both these online and offline spaces or these broken webs if you will.