Interesting notes from social media researcher danah boyd (she seems to prefer lower case letters) from her presentation to Microsoft researchers last month. While many businesses in the arts and elsewhere are seeking tactics and strategies for using social media, Ms. Boyd is exploring the intersection of these technologies with the core dynamics of human interaction.

In these comments, she traces the past, present, and future of social media systems (like Facebook, MySpace, and the like), and she highlights three dynamics that are emerging as a result of their use. Says she:

1. Invisible Audiences. We are used to being able to assess the people around us when we’re speaking. We adjust what we’re saying to account for the audience. Social media introduces all sorts of invisible audiences. There are lurkers who are present at the moment but whom we cannot see, but there are also visitors who access our content at a later date or in a different environment than where we first produced them. As a result, we are having to present ourselves and communicate without fully understanding the potential or actual audience. The potential invisible audiences can be stifling. Of course, there’s plenty of room to put your head in the sand and pretend like those people don’t really exist.
2. Collapsed Contexts. Connected to this is the collapsing of contexts. In choosing what to say when, we account for both the audience and the context more generally. Some behaviors are appropriate in one context but not another, in front of one audience but not others. Social media brings all of these contexts crashing into one another and it’s often difficult to figure out what’s appropriate, let alone what can be understood.
3. Blurring of Public and Private. Finally, there’s the blurring of public and private. These distinctions are normally structured around audience and context with certain places or conversations being “public” or “private.” These distinctions are much harder to manage when you have to contend with the shifts in how the environment is organized.

Useful stuff, whether you’ve dived into Facebook as an individual or an organization, or you’re noticing that your audience is already in the pool.

Andrew Taylor
The Artful Manager

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