SxD in Theory: Users
The user is the beginning and end of any web designer's practice, even more so in social media. But in social media it's the user's interest in him or herself, how s/he thinks others see him/her, and what interests him/her in others. These concerns are addressed by social and communication theory, by psychology, media theory, and more. As we use social media to further our own communication and social interactions, be they personal or professional, we create social objects, images, representations, lists, clusters, and, of course, relationships. Social media are supplemental, are a means of production and of consumption, and as they help users into markets, markets are forced to adjust to their presence and participation. These are dynamic social systems, rooted in forms of talk and representation, and where best practices tell us what works and has worked, theory can offer guideposts for what will work next, and best.
Not all social media must deliver a useful benefit — compelling experiences flourish when they offer discovery and serendipity
User Needs = Interests
- Shift from task and goal-oriented transactions common to traditional software use.
- Non-social software: users have needs
- Social media: users have interests
- Social media are relational media: users are interested social participants
- Users not satisfied by success in discrete transactions and actions, as in non-social software
- Users sustain interest in own participation
- Social media: emphasis on sustaining participation, communication, and interest
- The user's psychological interests include acknowledgment, recognition, membership, attention, respect, attraction, citation, compliments, pleasure, self- satisfaction, popularity, etc, and the avoidance of risk, failure, embarrassment, disappointment, etc.
- The user's communicative interests include visibility, attention, organization of place and form of communication, etc.
- 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
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Social utility is at times an oxymoron
The Gift Economy
- Marcel Mauss's remarkable little book The Gift describes this French anthropologist's research into gift economies
- While the book addresses cultures in a time and place unlike ours, and gift economy he maps is incompatible with money-based economies, the concept of the gift and its circulation is still very much alive
- Social media communities have economies, and not surprisingly, most of them don't require money
- Mauss' work showed that the gift is not a gift at all, but a relationship of debt and obligation wedded to an exchange and circulation system that engenders not just reciprocity but also one-up-manship
- Online trades and exchanges, word of mouth and viral campaigns, file sharing, even the circulation of token gestures refer in some ways to the gift economy. Perhaps most striking is that the meaning of the gift is still very much its essence. Mauss' work showed that gifts are signifying. Social media today continue to invent new signifying systems and economies.
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Related white papers
- Reading Notes: Social Media, Mass Media PDF, 45 pages.
- Reading Notes: Eric Berne's Games People Play PDF, 17 pages.
- Reading Notes: Garfinkel, Deleuze, Luhmann PDF, 18 pages.