Looks like Corante’s got another blog (Operating Manual for Social Tools) that I should be following here at POM. Where does David Weinberger find the time to contribute to so many weblogs? Also, I’m a little unclear of the overlap between this and other Corante blogs, such as Many-to-Many (to which danah and David contribute) and at least one other one that David contributes to.
<huffy>Plus why has Corante never asked me to write for them?</huffy>
Anyhow, here’s a taste from the new(?) weblog (quoting from sociability first, technology second, posted by danah boyd):
The ways in which tools for mediated sociability are conceptualized and analyzed must shift. No longer can we simply study how the user interacts with the tool, but instead we must consider how people interact with each other and how the tool plays a part in that interaction. Note: people, not users. The tool is not a actor in sociability, but a tool that mediates. People should not be framed in terms of the tool, but the tool framed in terms of their use.
This means focusing first on the types of social interaction desired and THEN on the technology necessary to instrument that interaction. A technology first approach is a crap-shoot. It can work simply because people may find a way to repurpose the tool to meet their needs. But without an understanding of the social behaviors that should be supported, one should not expect the technology to be valued simply because it is good technology.
Focusing on social interaction does not mean simply focusing on an activity unless you broaden the term activity to include identity construction, play and reputation management. These are all aspects of sociability and part of why people use these tools. Think about the role of an architect. An architect designs a public space not for a limited number of activities, but for an increased possibility of social interaction that will be extensible enough to support the diversity of ways in which people wish to interact. This is the kind of mindset that is needed.
Focusing on sociability means understanding how people repurpose your technology and iterating with them in mind. The goal should not be to stop them but to truly understand why what they are doing is a desired behavior to them and why the tool seemed like a good solution. A park bench wasn’t made for stretching but just because people do stretches on it rather than sitting on it doesn’t mean you should stop them. Taking away the park bench stops the sitters as well as the stretchers. Figure out how to support the stretchers and the sitters so that they are not in conflict but both appreciative of the park bench.