Distribution x (Production/Recording) = Value
From a social interaction designer’s perspective, the 2.0 web is a fascinating and somewhat confusing amalgamation of information selection and delivery, computing functionality, social interaction, individual user activity, design, and presentation, all rolled out over time through a medium whose front and back end continuously present and integrate their use. We’re accustomed to polls on television, surveys over the phone, radio call in talk shows, and numerous other participatory media. But only the current web is a social medium whose particpation barrier is low enough to have attracted the highest level of intervention by certain governments and organizations. Low enough to carry talk of the most intimate and cheap kind, available enough to publish it alongside the most official decree and manifesto. A talk system whose dialtone is more up than Verizon’s, whose open-ness to participant can be frustratingly open, and which records and makes available all talk such that the talk is preserved, but also sustained indefinitely. A talk system whose organization across time and space, in other words, is unique, as talk, and as medium.
This is one of a few parts on the folksonomic phenom. I’m not sure how many parts yet. Three maybe. (Not two, unless proceeding to three. Five is right out.)
Online communities vary by the intensity and richness of the relationships and activities they’re built on. A typical social software service like GoingOn, which hosts profiles, discussions, posts, and which enables direct interactions can generate richer community participation than “communities” that exist by virtue of blogrolls and commentary. And it is my view that blogposts plus comments do not equal conversation; message boards would be a more accurate metaphor. Similarly, “community””would be a misnomer for the phenomenon of loosely networked blogs.
Folksonomic participation sites like digg.com, del.icio.us, and technorati.com seek to create value by aggregating individual participation. Not, in other words, through member to member communication. What one person finds interesting, when she adds it to a tagging site, contributes to shared community knowledge. The more other users submit the same interest and site, and possibly tag identification, the more this loose social system can produce “knowledge.” So goes the idea.
There’s no disputing that value is added during social participation, but there is some debate around what that value is, not to mention how to measure it. Tag cultures, for example, are a knowledge system that combines at least two axes of value: categories associated with web site content; and popularity. In much the same way that a lottery jackpot grows more quickly the more it is worth, social media, too, deliver content dynamically updated by its very consumption.
I’m tempted to say that social media uniquely captures participation: a means of production that records its own consumption. And whose consumption is its distribution. Only electronic media can claim this, for it’s only with digital media that consumption does nothing to the original, each product being a copy already.