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Social Interaction Design

Social Media User

The social media user engages through the screen, the interface, its navigation, content organization, layout and so on to become socially involved. Thus his or her needs as a user include a sense for his or her participation. Feedback from the site or service must provide feedback from other users, be this in the form of comments, ratings, page views or what have you. The user is interested in how s/he is doing and how s/he is perceived by a community or audience at large. Social media make this visible and in this are distinct from broadcast media. And sites and services can do this more or less well by writing social participation to the screen, by reflecting user actions and various reflections of audience interest back to users. Our tools and techniques for this are always in development, and we watch and borrow from best practices as a means of finding what works.

In social media, the intentions lost in translation still communicate

People are Content

  • Social media make users visible through their contributions
  • They structure those contributions so that the system reproduces itself out of its own participating members
  • Communication is content
  • Contributions communicate
  • Contributions create navigation
  • Social navigation communicates


  • Social media engage not just by capturing attention but by engaging the psychological: users become self-engaged
  • Users are interested in their appeal to others
  • Users are sensitive to audience response
  • Users are interested in their success and popularity
  • Users seek acknowledgment and reciprocity
  • All of which motivate their participation

Presentation of Self

  • The user's participation in online media is informed by his or her sense of self and self image
  • Individual users actively create, maintain, tweak, and monitor their online Self
  • They have a self interest in seeing their online presence acknowledged and reflected
  • They use social media as an extension of themselves, often telling about and narrating biographical details and reflecting how they would like to be seen
  • May be sensitive to self image, self perception, acknowledgment, status, position, success, and so on

Social Presence

  • Social presence is about seeing and being seen
  • Any social presence sets up the need to negotiate and handle presence availability (to others)
  • Presence can be maintained with a persistent online profile
  • Messaging and updating lend presence greater immediacy
  • Presence tools vary in their organization of self talk, updates, distribution
  • Presence tools vary in their handling of interaction, communication, and availability

Social presence

  • Social presence tools are social utilities, allowing us to notify friends and the public of our moods, activities, location, and availability
  • They are in some ways IM meets blogging meets RSS: personal newswires
  • To facilitate use, social presence tools tend to be unstructured
  • They are light and fast, and work like slow IM or fast blogging
  • They tend not to be conversational, that is, not built around statement-response
  • Their success owes to their ability to satisfy the desire to "be there" and "be seen" while not demanding constant attention (as IM or chat do)
  • They produce a kind of talk that might be described as saying nothing in particular to no-one in particular
  • As users get a sense of their audience's presence — who's checking in and reading — they might post more topically
  • Conversational runs will emerge when users sense social presence — hence the uptick in use during conferences and events
  • These tools include,,,, even Status Updates on Facebook — like shout-outs and mood statements on other social media sites — are used by some with enough regularity and frequency to qualify them as social presence apps
  • We are online everywhere, all the time, and these tools signal and notify the public of our presence
  • Still, these applications provide the user with a projected sense of self — imagine using a twitter if our own messages didn't appear on it
  • Structured communication over social presence tools will emerge soon and promises to create a hybrid of social networking site and IM/chat.
  • Insofar as users participate in social media for a sense of their own presence online, a sense of their friends online, and recognition of both, messaging tools will become more conversational
  • Chat's advantage and disadvantage is its ephemerality. Social presence tools may become slow chat + archive
  • It would be interesting to see a super-structured social presence tool with tags, ratings, voting, topical threading and so on. Social media have been designed around pages. A social media system designed around messaging would be fresh and compelling
  • Social presence tools have a future in social marketing, as opt-in marketing platforms
  • That few users use canned messages on facebook's status update indicates their preference for speaking over signalling
  • Widgetized and distributed social presencing disrupts the audience aggregation of social presence tools and can lead to interesting side effects, as when a user re-updates herself so that her previous post is not left hanging on the twitter badge she has on her blog

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