I have recently become a ‘flickr pro’ member and started using groups more meaningfully. It is a social networking site that taps into my unconscious, I feel. Frequently I am surprised to see my own connotations that spring up when presented with a new image uploaded by one of my contacts.
I love the daily flickr newsletter and those previews, the mix of them, 5 in a line maximum per contact, every day a visual treat. They trigger unknown associations in me. I click on the one that makes me most curious when I don’t have much time to explore all of them.
You never know, sometimes it’s light and shadows, details in the background, personal tags that add another layer of meaning, a comment by another viewer that is moving. It’s so intense the dynamic, like being pulled into a narrative that resembles a film. A few images tell a story but the story differs from what the person saw who took the shot which also differs from the real story. Interpretation of the interpretation.
Today, TooSix uploaded a simple neonsign saying Kreuzberg – the part in Berlin where I spent nearly 7 years – it made me do what expected least: a German poem-style memory unfolded, I typed without really thinking. I hadn’t been aware this was still living inside me. So fresh. Nothing’s ever lost. Nice. Grateful for the inspiration, thanks TooSix.
Gute alte Zeiten. Sehnsucht. Ratten. Strassenkehrer. Doner Kebap. Best in town. Politische Debatten nach 2 morgens. Ach.
Ein Neon Schild. Nicht mehr. Nicht weniger.
Today’s preconference at the University of Westminster, London, brought together a range of highly inspiring scholars who had re-evaluated Erving Goffman’s work in the setting of the everyday in digital life.
Heather Pleasants, University of Alabama, presented findings related to her digital storytelling project. Her illustrations of digital forms of communication were powerful stories posted on Stories for change and the paper was based on ethnographic observations framed by the works of Michael Wesch(2008), Erving Goffman (1963), Georg Simmel (1950), G.H. Mead (1934) et al. Particular audiences, for instance in education and health care, harness the possibilities provided by digital media, in authentically co-/presenting self and other. Trust, patience and respect in these spaces depend on self-representations and are constituted by the degree of authenticity. Here is another powerful example Life N Rhyme by Relixstylz linked by the Berkeley Language Center in California.
Mark E. Nelson’s (University of Oslo, Norway) presentation focused on the Space2cre8.com project and raised interesting questions. The data analysis had been based on semiotics and appeared to be reductionist in so far as user profiles produced in South Africa had been presented to users in Singapore which were interpreted from within the a certain cultural context. In more or less global networks, though, the idea to refer to one and the same system of symbols and meanings appeared to produce results limited in validity. The social, psychological and cultural embeddedness would need to be acknowledged. Also, representations and narratives may need to be accepted as ambiguously understood. In this sense, understanding would also require the dialogue between producer and audience who, in order to ensure predictive devices such as expressive gestures are understood as intended, will need to negotiate the clues given off in a non-intentional manner.
Sonia Livingstone, LSE, applied Goffman’s concept of the participation framework, production format and participant status to new social media. Goffman’s notion of modes of participations such as co-presence, bystanding, eavesdropping etc. appear to be applicable to f2f social situations as well as to online encounters. Whether participation has to be ratified as suggested by Goffman is less clear. In spaces such as Twitter or Facebook it seems to be perfectly fine to hold endless monologues which may be picked up by automated systems in order to be re-distributed. This may count as machine ratification, an entity not exactly covered in the model of the production format (principal, emitter, animator, figure – united in one agent at times). Reception roles and production roles are not clearly defined in the complexity of online social interaction (c.f. the concept of produsage, A. Bruns – blogpost and presentation
from prosumer to produser ). Impression management in mediated communication may require to address the fact that some communication online is meant to be self-reflection and monologue ‘only’, which, in contrast to offline space, does not require any ratification at all.
An aspect also discussed in Larry Friedlander’s (Stanford University) presentation – the representation as strategic action: never spontaneous, never pragmatic. In social networks the self-presentation is accompanied by anxiety to demonstrate and create status in a careful mix of showing and disguising by applying methods of evasion.
So, is it all staged, choreographed and scripted? Only if we assume people are not able to learn and grow while engaging in online social relations (even if ‘only’ with their self in reflective encounters). Narrating the self involves the negotiation of boundaries which entails self-defence as well as the growing self-confidence resulting from practising, exploring and observing what happens at the knots of connections or interfaces. However, the construction of self involves the negotiation of other, and even if only in observing monologues, non-ratified by the observed other. This complex layer of self-representation may only surface once the process has come to the point where an author determines to express a facet of their complex self.
Today someone had searched for ‘peer review makes me cry’ – and ended up on my blogpost ‘statistics makes me cry…’. Sweet. I love this. Search engines hold the key to secret thoughts, sentiments and moods – how often do I take a look at the statistics of my blog and smile? Yes, I resort to the very same strategy. Whenever the initial search produces rather poor results, I find myself typing entire sentences, in a sort of let’s-see-what-the-machine-makes-of-this mood. Surprisingly often I am presented with very interesting links I would otherwise not have found.
Tagging, categorising and other lablling practices are often subject to temporary and arbitrary, individually shaped, highly selective patterns – or no recognisible patterns at all. What’s beneath the keywords and the hunt for information that responds to my fragmented questions is then, perhaps, a more empathetic approach. I take a step back, focus on what I actually really look for or feel in that very moment, and here we go: someone else thought it at an earlier point. And blogged or twittered or videoblogged about it.
It’s a moment when the machine becomes more human…an illusion, I know. But I love it, this kind of imagined and part-real connectivity.
Stanford University just published the findings of a study that showed that Media multitaskers pay [a] mental price. It appears to be a considerable price actually, as those who find it hard to focus on a small number of channels or switch off entirely while working in one area, end up being “suckers for irrelevancy”. But does it affect all multitaskers equally? A sample of 100 students is not representative, nevertheless, it would be interesting to know what makes some people multitask to such high degree. How do they become attracted to distraction in the first place? On the other hand, equally interesting is to see that low multitaskers are actually doing really well – so is it all a question of getting the balance right between stimulation and overload?
People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time, a group of Stanford researchers has found.
High-tech jugglers are everywhere – keeping up several e-mail and instant message conversations at once, text messaging while watching television and jumping from one website to another while plowing through homework assignments.
But after putting about 100 students through a series of three tests, the researchers realized those heavy media multitaskers are paying a big mental price.
“They’re suckers for irrelevancy,” said communication Professor Clifford Nass, one of the researchers whose findings are published in the Aug. 24 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Everything distracts them.”
Social scientists have long assumed that it’s impossible to process more than one string of information at a time. The brain just can’t do it. But many researchers have guessed that people who appear to multitask must have superb control over what they think about and what they pay attention to.
…continue to read Stanford study: Media multitaskers pay mental price
I discovered this here us.uuuuuu.us the other day on Twitter. It’s a minimalist site that features sound recordings only. The tropical storm in the Bahamas and the all-you-can-eat buffet midis are my favourites. Personally, I am a lot more word-driven in what I consume and produce. I find our contemporary obsession with language can sometimes result in mind-numbing soundscapes of bubbles of noise. We miss the signals among all the noise, not just on Twitter where crap-detection* becomes increasingly the one key skill, but also in real life where it all started off. Sometimes it’s so bad, you need the personalised soundscape, that’s why you see all those folks in the London Underground on a Monday morning with their white or black earpieces. Too much talk, blather, genuine noise in its various disguises – decibel overload. It’s not just calming and inspiring to listen, to tune in into what a chance encounter while cross-country skiing in frozen Norway told me a few years ago: listen to the silence, it’s peace. The lady was right, there is a lot to hear when we just remain quiet. For a long moment or so. The one thing I love about audio is the narratives and visualisations it triggers. There is something fundamentally different in entering an audio-recording compared to reading a text, on the web. To me it has to do with trust. Even though I can exit either of them at any point, the audio experience seems to be a lot more intense, complexer, kind of faster than any text ever can be. I like what it does to me, it sort of abducts me, into another world, within seconds. It also seduces me.
Robb Willer’s podcasts, UC Berkeley, on Social Psychology turned the tables: I started falling in love with a world I was not so very fond of in the past. What I like about those lectures is that Robb is not just very entertaining and great in terms of throwing in bits of research that illustrate and again, that make me wander off in their respective eras and geographical areas, but he is also good in relating to the audience. The one that’s visible to him, so you hear faint questions and comments by those growing numbers who try to get into his class. Imagination runs high, the degree of engagement is considerable, yet, it offers me space to be creative in my own imagination and meaning-making processes. Sometimes, less is more.
*following Howard Rheingold who very recently gave a fascinating talk on 21st century literacies:
Benny Evangelista, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle recently discussed user product reviews in the context of social networking. The sort of thing I keep relying on when buying a product on Amazon for instance, where I want to find out about the reliability and trustworthiness of private sellers – but currently I do miss the interactive bit and remain unable to spot friends or family among the hundreds of pseudonyms.
Brief comments, stars/ratings and ideally more in depth-analyses of a book I take into account when considering a purchase for study purposes. I would not necessarily look for friends and family’s opinion when it comes to study material, though. Rather, I am keen on finding a review that’s marked by critical and thorough summarising, not too poetic in language, not too abstract, strength and weaknesses in balance – and please not at essay-length. I would trust an academic friend’s opinion most in this case. This is different when I look for a camera, for instance, or some other electronic gadget I would be likely to search for on Amazon.
Now, social shopping is what Andy Floyd and his team at Fluid inc. have developed. Here is a taster of their tool
Fluid Social 2.0 that facilitates collaborative buying – which is promising fun, creativity, and interaction. The process is simple: you check out the item, below the photo of the product there is a Facebook application which, once pressed connects and allows users to publish comments, start a live instant message chat and helps to suggest amendments to the model etc.
Not a brand new idea itself but simply taking what we’ve got so far one step further. Amazon reviews are getting more in terms of quantit. Nice. But they do not necessarily make purchase decisions any easier. How do I evaluate 587 reviews and 4.5 out of 5 stars? What does it actually mean? I for one still look for the last critical comment, the last angry customer who awarded 1 out of 5 stars. He or she will tell me what possible problem I might have to expect with that specific supplier. If the problem appears to be based on communication or some minor issue and if it was handled well by the supplier, I go ahead. Usually I even award some mental extra points for such handling, it shows care and that means I trust. But this is not exactly what I think a useful, interactive system in the age of web 2.0. It still leaves the bulk of work/evaluation with me.
Seriously, I just wonder why it took so long to get to this point. Living in London means real life shopping experiences are marked by tiny fitting rooms (often with an umbrella in one hand, exposed to poorly working air conditions), limited selection of items on display (London is madly expensive, shops pay horrendous rents), hence limited sizes available, crowd-pushing, and a tendency towards reducing the shopping experience down to an as-fast-as-possible transaction. Get out here syndrome, I’d call it. In contrast, the last genuinely enjoyable purchasing moment I had was in a skater shop in Palo Alto, CA. A sun-flooded little paradise, full of awesome stuff, relaxed beyond hopes. No stressed out staff. I came out with a pair of Reef flip flops.
Let’s hope retailers pick this up quickly, and understand that shopping 2.0 during recession urgently requires a make-over, not just a glossy façade, piles of cheap items on sale noone really wants to waste their money on, but something innovate and interactive that does lead to customer feedback being taken into account in a collaborative manner. Something dynamic that promotes identification with a brand and customer loyalty the way the California Academy of Sciences (+ San Francisco Symphony, de Young Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, et al.) has shown what can be done by smart harnessing of Facebook, Flickr, Twitter etc. in relation to attracting audiences: making them truly understand what the services are about – and help them come back. I am not just a customer, I have also turned into a fan as you may have noticed.