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Social Interaction Design

Social Media: Paradigm Shift?

Is social interaction a paradigm shift in web and online media design? Or less a paradigm shift and more just a nudge in the direction of the social? Though it doesn't really matter how or which we characterize "it," it's a change in approach. For the designer it's a shift away from individual user practices to social practices, from discrete software interactions and the software application's satisfaction of user transactions to talk and communication, which are ongoing and may not be "goal oriented." Human factors in social media are social factors also. The software's mediation of interaction and presentation of users through activity and profiles, posts and appeals involves user psychology, imagination, and the mediation of audiences that can sense presence across space and time.

Shift of paradigm

  • From individual users to social practices
  • User provides content, and content is people
  • Grounded in the personal, biographical, and the everyday
  • Personally and socially meaningful activities and mediated forms of talk and interaction
  • New modes of organizing attention
  • New forms of value and differentiation
  • New channels for messaging
  • New means of capturing audiences

The Social Paradigm

  • User as a social Self
  • User as self-interested and interested in others
  • All activity is social (visible to some others)
  • Interaction is Participation
  • Participation is a form of talk
  • Talk has new forms and languages
  • New forms include posts, comments, reviews, ratings, gestures and tokens, votes, links, badges, video
  • New forms are distributable and communicable

Social is represented

  • Social media must create and represent social interaction and community
  • There are no direct faces or interactions — only text, images, video, audio, and structured activities captured in media of re-presentation
  • Users behave according to what they believe is going on and what they believe matters to the audience
  • Users establish a relation to the audience and community based on its users, themes, and identity

Social networking

  • Social networks are the maintenance and sustaining of personal and professional relationships on social media
  • Social networks limit content access to known, familiar, and trusted associations
  • Relationships embody trust in the first degree
  • Relationships extend confidence in the second degree
  • Social networks expand content access while limiting results


  • Social = anti-social
  • Communication = non-communicative
  • Self = Self Image
  • Other = Imagined Other
  • Presence = Absence
  • Identity = Changing
  • Personal tastes are highly social
  • Utility can be useless

Home page messaging

  • Social media sites have to show and tell what they are about
  • The social media site's theme describes its social practices, audience, features, content with familiar thematic language, visuals, navigation, and features
  • Users want to see what other users are up to
  • Marketing language may describe the platform, but newcomers are usually more interested in who's using the service, for what, and how it's doing
  • Users are interested in the site's success and popularity
  • The brand is out of your hands and in the user's, where it's always been. Marketing messages on the home page should be combined with real user content

Token Gestures

  • All cultures practice the exchange of tokens that bear and carry meanings, communicate interest and count as personal and social transactions
  • The token gestures common among social media are a form of language and belong to a kind of social interaction
  • They cue, signal, indicate users' interests in one another
  • They indicate users' interests in social media content, and like badges, can be accummulated to communicate personality quickly
  • They can be used to distinguish among user and content qualities and characteristics
  • Some are given, some earned, some collected
  • Simple gestures are approval and affirmation, acceptance: variations on a vote "yes"
  • Expressive gestures signal affection, interest, curiosity, a desire to connect, or to communicate: variations on "I like you" and "Do you like me?"
  • Tokens that can be passed around, given, shared, and accepted form a special class of social objects
  • Have recognizable and stable meanings to competent users (may be common or specialized tokens)
  • Accompanied by ambiguity of intent and motive (the token's meaning may be codified while the user's motive for using it may not)
  • This can double up the meaning of interaction and communication, allowing the recipients of tokens to respond to the token or to the user behind its use
  • Their use and circulation can be easily counted, tracked, and measured
  • They can qualify relationships and social interests
  • Tokens may be limited or limitless, counted or not, private or public

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