Adrian Chan on Slideshare Adrian Chan on twitter Adrian Chan on instagram email me


Social Interaction Design

SxD in Theory

Social theories know people, individually and collectively, in their internal dialogues and on the terms of their interior and psychological interests, but at the level of social organization and communicative practices, too. Practicing social media design is a matter of embracing soical theoretical insights and extending them to the applied media theory. Architects work with mass and volume, load-bearing columns and walls, light, the flow of people, and so on. Social media designers work with profiles, how they look, and how they make their owners look. They work with psychological interests and individual pastimes as well as the social conventions that inform how these are communicated. They recognize the modern forms of economy, product marketing and branding, customer reviews and ratings, and understand how to adapt the world of media to the individual use practices of social media users. Theory helps us find what's true, practice tells us what is right.

Main concepts

In the world of social media, the link is no longer an objective relation but is a subjective association

  • Users of social media have:
  • the ability to become self-involved online, and to relate through social media to others (mediated presence)
  • expectations of future interaction (commitment)
  • a sense of self and a (self) perception of how they look to others (validation)
  • an intention to sharing their professional and/or personal interests (social motivation)
  • relationships they maintain online (social networks)
  • trust and confidence in the system (competence)

The top ten list is more than a list: it's a common cultural presentation of values and social interests


  • Social media borrow from common cultural forms
  • Fashion, news, politics, entertainment, etc.
  • These forms arrange and organize information, events, and participation
  • Which organize how we talk about and show: success, celebrity, popularity, news, trends, relevance, etc.
  • Each social media system is unique in its forms of talk and formats of representation

The mediation

  • Technical media transform talk in significant ways
  • Modern technologies permit us to transcend physical presence and stretch relationships across time and space
  • Social encounters, as communication in (inter)action is disembedded from place and time
  • Communication is not an immediate and direct handling of statements and relationship
  • But is mediated and indirect transposition through a means of production and distribution
  • Online social interaction is a mediated, compressed, and asynchronous experience

The communicative

  • The medium screens out affective and communicative face to face cues
  • Its mediation of communication decouples the utterance from the act of uttering
  • Communication is captured and re-presented using text, images, video, audio
  • Interaction is decoupled from its performance
  • Interaction is captured and re-mediated asynchronously

The sociological

  • Our understanding of user behavior and social practices benefits from the insights of psychology, communication, and social theories
  • Online social interactions are a new kind of talk
  • The social is a figment and an effect of individual user contributions
  • It is observed, tracked, and re-presented through usage and data
  • The togetherness of social media is simultaneous and co-present but always interrupted, stretched, disassociated
  • Social forces and power are transformed by mediation

The psychological

  • Psychological views of identity, the Self, interpersonal relationships, and the organization of social encounters provide key insights
  • Psychology offers insights into how users relate to others, be they familiar or unfamiliar
  • Is valuable to understanding the user's interest in private and public relationships and communication
  • Helps us to value the ways in which users fashion themselves through their online profiles and contributions
  • And how they might become engaged in perceptions, projections, anticipations, and expectations

In tomorrow's web, views will have customizable perspective and history

The temporal

  • Social media organize time
  • Our experience of social time is episodic, eventful, and has duration
  • In communication, it may be deferred, interrupted, stretched, or cut off
  • We relate to this kind of time with anticipation and expectation
  • Social activity is temporal, has pacing and rhythm, speed and intensity
  • Any social technology structures time and is fast, slow, near, far, and so on

Social search

  • Will it be the next big thing? Search by relevant keyword, term, or phrase is simple and limited
  • Search by existing methods surfaces direct links and captures results that correspond directly to search criteria
  • Social search filters results by social criteria, which in theory can be relevant in ways that are valuable to social networks, communities, and audiences
  • Markets are made out of social relevance and flourish when relations can be drawn among affinities that are softer and fuzzier than the direct clear and present correlation of direct hits
  • Where search term search finds the same and similar, social search might find the better, the more interesting, the popular, and more
  • A key to the success of social search is good meta data and data structuring combined with social interaction, communication and participation in content search
  • Social search would use relationships, values, and social qualifiers that better sort and surface the stuff that matters to communities that care
  • Many web 2.0 applications already apply basic versions of social search
  • Community values are a form of social information: a culture's dialog with itself
  • Yahoo Answers intelligently takes advantage of questions as a means of structuring talk around community questions and their best answers
  • Voting, rating, favoriting and use of tokens belong to early applications of social search
  • More immediate and present forms of social search could emerge around chat and IM search services
  • By structuring interaction around content results, social media write themselves through communication

Related blog posts

Related white papers

Social media and semiotics

  • I've described social media as talk systems, but they can also be described with the help of semiotics
  • Semiotics is the study of sign systems, which differ from language in that they have no grammatical rules and are not linguistic: signs signify, languages can be made to speak
  • Social media employ sign systems for signifying, and signaling systems for indicating and signaling. Both are well known by interaction designers as means of signaling system or software states.
  • However, when used by social media users, and particularly when they emerge in new social practices, signs are sometimes embedded in different forms of talk and modes of speech
  • Social media will play heavily on these ambiguities — what does it mean to "poke" somebody, to be bitten, zombified, invited, or winked at?
  • I haven't counted, but possibly one in ten Facebook applications is a semiotic application: a signaling, signifying, token gesture sending and sharing social app
  • These are useful to social media because they are sticky. Stickiness is a function of curiosity, so the signs that signify, but not too clearly, are often the most effective. Embrace the dysfunctional!
  • Facework serves the purpose of handling the relational and emotional aspects of talk in everday real world interactions. It's absence from mediated talk (of which social media is a form) can lead us to sign, signal, hint, and cue others in even more so than usual. And still, the relational work achieved by mutually recognizing eyes and minds will leave behind its residue unresolved — and to be continued yet another day and login

Related white papers

©2007 - 2009 by Adrian Chan. All Rights Reserved. Adrian [ at ] gravity7 [ dot ] com 415 . 516. 4442