Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Friday, March 18, 2005
Individual in a public space: learning from weblogs and cities
A slightly edited/linked piece from my proposal for Microsoft Research Social Computing Symposium 2005 (and I'm very excited to be invited :) I have been planning to write a proper weblog post around bullet points at the end, but it's not happenning fast, so I just post it as it is and come back to it later.
Although weblogs are perceived as low-threshold tools to publish on-line, empowering individual expression in public, there is growing evidence of social structures evolving around weblogs and their influence on norms and practices of blogging. This evidence ranges from voices of bloggers themselves speaking about the social effects of blogging, to studies on specific weblog communities with distinct cultures (e.g. knitting community or goth community), to mathematical analysis of links between weblogs indicating that community formation in the blogosphere is not a random process, but an indication of shared interests binding bloggers together (Kumar, Novak, Raghaven, & Tomkins, 2003).
Social structures emerging around weblogs are interesting for a number of reasons. Weblogs provide spaces for both individual expression and control, and interactions within social ecosystem; hence providing insights of interplays between practices of networked individuals (Wellman, 2002, .pdf) and social structures where those individuals belong. While some weblog communities mirror existing social structures, others emerge when strangers find each other and connect. Weblogs do not provide a shared space with central topic or activity to be attracted to, nor (often) pre-existing community, but do support emergent social connections.
The nature of those connections is especially interesting, since understanding them can help to design environments to support emergence of social structures without predefining their focus or membership. From this perspective blogging is similar to "life between buildings" in a real city that "an opportunity to be with others in a relaxed and undemanding way". This quote comes from architect Jan Gehl (2001) who discusses how to design public spaces that welcome and support social life.
While reading Gehl's work I couldn't avoid associations with insights about "individual in a public space" from my own research (I study uses and effects of blogging for personal knowledge management). I'd like to draw on parallels between real cities and the world of blogging and propose characteristics of a space that supports emergent social activities:
- comfortable, protected space
- conditions for longer-term activities meaningful for an individual
- "soft-edges", easy switch between inward and outward oriented activities
- opportunities for low-intensity contact: exposure and lurking without a commitment
- "shared space" in between, to move social activity when it grows
These characteristics could be illustrated with examples from other social software applications (del.icio.us, Flickr, etc.) next to weblogs, so I guess they provide a good start for a discussion.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Mathemagenic in 2004: 329 pages
Yesterday I printed out 2004 archives of my weblog (if you need the same for whatever purpose the best way is to print monthly archives: they don't have any navigation bars, just text).
It is surprising: not only the number of pages (329 pages in total - I could write draft of my dissertation ;), but the fact that there are many things I forgot I wrote and even more things that feel like distant past while they are only a year or so old.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Paper - Five Lenses: Towards a Toolkit for Interaction Design
While looking for CFP for persistent conversations at HICSS 2006 I came across a draft chapter from Tom Erickson: Five Lenses: Towards a Toolkit for Interaction Design, which lays out five different perspectives to look at interaction (mind, proxemics, artifacts, the social, the ecological) and discusses multi-perspective approach in design.
It's thoughtful and easy read, so you should do it yourself. The rest are my pickings:
On artifacts (for those who want more references on artefacts and thinking :)
Next we shift our view to the artifacts in the picture [Tom uses a photo of chessplay in a city squareto discuss five lenses]. We see a chessboard arrayed with white and black pieces; off to one side we see a cluster of captured black pieces, and off to the other a pair of chess clocks. These artifacts play a variety of roles, interacting with the views from other lenses. One role of artifacts, that Norman explores in Things that Make Us Smart (1993), is to ease the cognitive load: the board and the pattern of pieces on it serve to preserve the state of the game, enabling players to focus on planning their next moves. Another role of artifacts is their status as objects that are manipulated by the participants. While the manipulation of chess pieces is a relatively simple matter, ethnomethodologists like David Sudnow demonstrate that the ways in which people physically interact with objects is incredibly subtle. In his book, Ways of the Hand, Sudnow (2001) gives an exquisitely detailed account of the process of learning improvise jazz on the piano, and the ways in which his hands (not his mind) learned to traverse the keys. A third role of artifacts is depicted by Ed Hutchins in Cognition in the Wild (1995), in which he explores the view that cognition is not just a property of minds, but can be seen as a global property of systems of people and artifacts. A fourth role of artifacts is a social one, in that the pair of clocks substitute for a human time keeper. This view is explored by Bruno Latour (1992), who eloquently makes the case for a sociology of artifacts, suggesting that it is artifacts which stabilize and extend human interaction patterns. This lens--with the glimpses it gives of artifacts and their varied roles--is important for those who design material artifacts, as well as for those who aim to replace material objects with digital 'equivalents.'
On the role of theory:
[...] two roles of theory stand in tension to one another: the utility of a theory for promoting debate and further articulation of itself within a field may actually interfere with its utility in communicating beyond the field. The requirements for promoting articulation within a field involve supporting the creation of distinctions and nuances that can serve as the ground upon positions can be established, whereas the requirements for communicating beyond a field require the ability to depict the conceptual framework in a few bold and broad strokes of the brush. While the ability of a framework to support the finely detailed nuance is not necessarily at odds with the ability to also serve as a simplifying framework, it often is.
This is pretty much the dilemma I have with my PKM model: I envision it as a tool for communication "between fields" and "beyond the field" which call for simplicity, but I'm not sure that this is something that would be "good enough" for the PhD.
And, finally, the paper is one more sign that I should look at pattern language.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Blogs: individual + networking
Bill Ives puts it nicely:
From an individual perspective blogs offer:
Creation publishing content within a personal voice
Collection managing personal content in a searchable archive
Context applying commentary to content you manage
From a networking perspective blogs provide:
Connection discovering others with your interests
Conversation engaging in dialogs on an organizational or global basis
Community building networks around shared themes
Collaboration finding new business partners
I'd add a big picture (corporate or community perspective): aggregation, emergence of unexpected, tapping into invisible...
Thursday, March 10, 2005
On being there...
Sometimes technology doesn't help and the only way to be there is to be there physically.
Just called my best friend - she is having a party to celebrate her 30. In Moscow.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Archaeology and ethnography in weblog research (2)
Just a quote. Profgrrrrl:
Let's say I'm studying the development of a blog over time. I don't need to follow it while it is developing. Reading the archives later on yields just as much information. Ditto for studying, say, a court case. I'll just get the transcripts/records later on. (Nope, sorry. Misses all of the perceptual data that should be recorded in field notes. In the case of the blog, what if there were a controversial post that was up for 3 days and then deleted. Won't show in your archives. In the case of the court case, how will you know who was in the room, how they reacted, how long pauses were, etc.)
See also: Archaeology and ethnography in weblog research
This post also appears on channel weblog research
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Monday, March 07, 2005
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
The database of blogs...
blo.gs is for sale (via Luis)
- the blo.gs domain name (and all subdomains)
- the weblo.gs domain name
- the database of blogs (and related databases)
- all rights to the blo.gs software*
Having that database of blogs can make life of many weblog researchers much easier... Would be nice if Technorati or Bloglines or PubSub or any other weblog-indexing site could help... Not necessary with a copy of database, but at least a set of APIs that could do something like:
- given a URL indicate if it's a weblog or not (which is not easy)
- given a weblog URL provide it's metadata (title, author name, language, and lots of other interesting things that may be known within the system, e.g. number of incoming links)
- generate random weblog URL
Of course, all these depends on definition of weblog one uses and lots of other things, but still...
Tuesday, March 01, 2005