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Social Interaction Design White Papers

Summary: Communication research on the impact of the internet and communication technology on interpersonal communication and society. These sociological perspectives use human factors and communication theory to suggest design approaches to communication technology beyond computer mediated interaction and HCI design.

In an attempt to flesh out the issues and approaches particular to social interaction design, I'm undertaking several case studies of popular social software systems. As each system has its particular theme (dating, social networking, career networking), feature sets, site organization, style, and other UI and user experience decisions inform member participation and produce a recognizable experience. Members know what to do because they know what the system's about. This might seem like stating the obvious, but the way in which designers can steer interactions, communication, and participation is only now finding its language.

Investigations into Technologies of Communication 2003, 464k pdf

This document has been written for marketers, designers, developers, engineers, and those involved in the strategic decision-making process required to bring technology to life. But it has not been written for professionals alone. Thinkers and obsessive conceptual diggers should also find questions of interest herein.

That this document has been written does not mean it's finished. In fact it is far from complete, and I hope to re-issue it periodically.

But I haven't yet said what "it" is.

I'm firmly convinced that insofar as any culture requires the interaction of its members for its own growth and survival, so does ours. And we do it through communication. Unlike many other cultures, we are capable of change and transformation outside of the long- running biological processes that are supposed to keep us up to date. Communication operates on two levels: as a binding exchange between individuals, and as a reproduction of social norms, values, and other cultural "stock."

This project is an inquiry into the social interface between communication technologies and the user. I begin with the assumption that technologies involved in the mediation of interpersonal or social interaction do not simply conduct an operation, or execute a function, as they might in a more purely informational domain. Rather, I assume that these technologies become a "production format" or means of production for communication, and that a technology's "use" is nothing other than the set of practices that emerge around it. Those of us interested in designing these technologies, or in using them for some purpose or another (and this could be online dating or distance learning), must understand that we should look not at the technology but at practices. That said, this is not a collection of examples (that's another project altogether). It's a sampling of questions that scratch at the core of the transformation, where technical and social meet. Why bother? Because if communication is a mode of reproduction as critical as the biological, technology is far more relevant than we understand.

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