Beijing offline social network experiment

Tucked away in the small district of Caochangdi, Beijing, residents and visitors have dragged the discourse of social networking back from the digital realm. Titled The Real Network, the experiment promotes itself as the “world’s first” true offline social network, which, according to its mission statement, “explodes and multiplies the potential of social networks in an offline dimension.”

The concept was formed by Anna Spreafico, director of Italian design group Esterni, as part of Beijing Design Week, which ended yesterday. Spreafico was partly inspired by observing the clash between tourists and residents in Beijing’s Caochangdi district. “There’s not really a connection between the community and the people visiting these events, so we wanted to connect these two worlds together,” she says. “The main idea was to reproduce the mechanism of social networks in real life — the idea that you can connect with a person, or you can point out interesting things in the public world.”

The process started by participants “logging in” at one of several checkpoints around the district. After filling out a contact card with name, phone number and email address (the amount of information shared was up to the user) participants had their profile picture taken in a special booth. This information was stored to be later handed out to other members at random. They were then given a selection of comment pads and emoticons to post them around the district on walls, notice boards and pictures. The aim was for users to interact with one another via the public walls, posting statuses, comments, and “liking” each other’s posts.

Participants were also given balloons to write on, which could be “dropped” Google Maps style to geo-reference themselves or simply denote an interesting location they visited. “The idea was that you could look up and see the balloon and perhaps discover something new going on there,” says Spreafico.

original article in Wired

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