New Social Software Design White Paper

White Paper: Social Interaction Design Guide: Social Media, Social Practices, Social Content 76 pages. by Adrian Chan

I’ve had to take a break from social media blogging lately to work on a few white papers and reading notes. There’s only so much you can do in a short form blog post!

In this recent white paper I take the idea of socio-technical competence seriously. Social theorists wouldn’t conventionally associate technical competencies with matters of social interaction, communication, and so on. Technologies are supposed to be props, objects, things; and as such, not essential to social encounters.

But when the communication runs through a technology, when it’s a matter of user-device-user interaction, then the medium’s role comes into play in a big way. So this white paper takes a look at how social media and social software sites are designed. I assume that users and visitors are able to tell when the contents of a page reflect social interaction. We might even argue that it’s this kind of competence with online media that has made Web 2.0 possible. (If you believe that the social and cultural conditions need to be prepared, or grown, before people can see the value in new technologies, and realize them). I assume that users understand that the etiquette on a dating site is different from the etiquette on a career networking site. I assume that youths are clear about the self-reflective use of testimonials published on their friends’ pages (what they write says something about them). And so on, with further assumptions.

Social interaction design suggests that the architecture, functioning and features, the use of screen real estate, the particular presence of people (faces, profiles), or general suggestion of audience presence (as on amazon, imdb), the organization of content by tags, that all these design decisions are social, not technical in nature. If you have built a television and nobody’s watching, you don’t fix it by adding buttons to the remote control. It’s the same with the design of social media. We’re now very clearly in a paradigm shift that is likely to reverse the roles, disrupt the talent pools, redraw the territories, and fundamentally change the mode of consumption and attention given to social and mass media. This shift affects software and technology design and content production and programming (network TV, cable, movies, radio, etc.) equally.

When media are social, the need for high production value diminishes because other people grab the user/viewer’s attention instead. The possibility that anything posted online might solicit a response transforms content from its form as an object to its potential use in a round of communication or talk. I still believe that all social media are talk systems, including Youtube (in which the “utterance” begins with a video and the response can be video or commentary). And therefore social software designers have to attend as much to the enabling of talk and interaction, on the page and over time, as they to do the elements of traditional web development.

Check out the white paper if any of this is interesting. It runs over much of my theoretical framework and then dives headlong into the organization of content into modules and lists, top tens, most viewed members, and all of the other means of social content organization.

My next white paper, coming this month I hope, will feature new uses of links and relationships at the social as well as object or data level. My sense is that the link is no longer a document link but a view, a node if you will, and that the web 2.0 organization of social content and participation will increasingly permit users to pull together people or pages depending on their preferences, affinities, interests, and so on. And that those, stored within and across social media networks, will create vast opportunities for commercial systems to learn about the associations that make sense and which layer onto objects and data a social and personal appeal. At which point social marketing and relationship marketing ought to really take off, and social interaction design with it.

Social Interaction Design guides and White Papers
Social Software theory Reading Notes

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