Special Preview: Social Media by Thomas Erickson

Interfaces.com was given a free advanced preview of Thomas Erickson’s report and videos on social computing. The videos are very well produced and provide an interesting point of view and good insights on social media. Below are few of my notes based on the video content and ideas discussed on this blog in the past (my former students should find these familiar).

Social Media Definitions & Ideas

Social Computing: this is really about groups working together using ICT (Information Communication Technologies). I think this is a broader definition then the one offered by Thomas Erickson, as it includes all forms of ICT.

Social Scaffolding: we all have a set of social scripts — culturally-specific, socially constructed norms of behavior — that help us navigate group interactions and allow for self-organization of crowds, at least shot-term and for a limited goal (like crossing the street). [Please watch Dr. Erickson’s example of street crossing in “Video 4.3: Social Computing video 3 – Face-to-face Interaction as Inspiration for Designing Social Computing Systems”.]

Product design needs to create opportunities for social interaction — these scaffolds have to be built into the system: meeting spaces, places to sit down, well-lit areas, easy communication tools, games, social events, voting opportunities, markets… Users need tools with which they can reach out to each other, engage in communication or other social activity. And users need context that gives reasons to be social.

I particularly liked Dr. Erickson’s point on manners and politeness: “Allow people to lie.”

Opportunistic Behavior: we all engage in opportunistic behavior, using tools for what they were not designed to do, solving problems creatively with tools that are available on hand. For a more detailed discussion of opportunistic behavior and product design, please read this: Advancing the New Machine UCLA Law Forum Presentation.

Conversational Interaction: social interaction where people negotiate information and its accuracy. Dr. Erickson gives Wikipedia as an example of Conversational Interaction.

Market Place Interaction: social interaction where people negotiate value of products and services. Dr. Erickson gives eBay as an example of Market Place Interaction.

Familiarity Continuum: social interactions form a continuum of degree of closeness between individuals. On one side, the interactions are Intimate — all parties know each other, share a history of socializing, have a short-hand for common experiences, even posses language short-cuts to express ideas or invoke concepts. On the other side of the continuum, there’s Anonymity — people enter the social interaction without prior knowledge of its members and without access to the true identity of individuals involved. Different social scaffoldings have to be built for different points on the Familiarity Continuum in order to support successful social interactions.

Time and Duration of Interaction: social interactions can be synchronous or asynchronous. Again, this is a continuum: how spread out are the asynchronous communications? In order to be meaningful (support the goals of individuals that are engaged in the social interaction), asynchronous communication tools have to be carefully designed. For example, it should be easy to recap the gist of the communication and individuals’ positions. For more on this, please read Jury & Group Dynamics.

There’s much, much more in this special preview and I encourage you to take a look at all of the videos — a time well spent!