Social networking Web 2.0

Stutzman on monetising social networks

Fred Stutzman with an excellent post on monetising social networks.

Obviously whilst there are problems with old advertising and economic models being applied directly to social networking applications, there are many new opportunities here – MySpace branching out into selling songs is a good way of them utilising content, for example.

This is timely given the warnings over advertising.

Our first attempt at a social networking application was in 2001 when we built the now defunct Soundbyte. Soundbyte was a site for students and teenagers to create and share music that they had made in class. The revenue model was based on the site acting as an attractor for physical visitation to the museum’s Soundhouse lab – where visitors can learn computer music production. The site was quite successful although hampered by government limitations – its greatest success was in greatly increasing the profile of the Soundhouse lab.

Social networking Web 2.0

Simple example of Web 2.0 in a museum

One of the best examples at the Powerhouse Museum of Web 2.0 thinking across the museum (not just the web services team) is in fact our Preservation Department’s use of

This was such a simple idea – but with profound impacts on internal processes.

Preservation get a lot of enquiries from the general public and also from small regional museums about preservation techniques. We needed quick and low-tech, dial-up friendly solution to offering the best and up-to-date information on preservation methods.

Traditionally this sort of issue would have been resolved with fact sheets and perhaps a static set of links. Both of these solutions would be time consuming but worst of all, ‘finished’ when they went online – and probably not updated for several years.

Using a account communally shared amongst the Preservation Department staff, staff can all bookmark websites of use to the public in answer questions about ‘how do I preserve . . . ‘. Each site is tagged with the type of object that it refers to.

Shortly the Museum will be presenting these aggregated links on the Museum’s website under a ‘recommended preservation resources’ section.

Rather than build our own bookmarking system Preservation opted to use because of its ease-of-use and social features. All the resources dedicated to the project have been from the Preservation Department who can work incrementally and add or edit a few resources at a time in an ongoing, continuous project requiring micro-efforts rather than a singular focussed time-limited effort.

Rather than fact sheets – which still may be produced from time to time – by pointing to other online resources we save reinventing the wheel.

And, as is all text based it is great for those in regional areas with slow internet connectivity.

Social networking

Social networking academic research summary

danah boyd has posted a very useful starting summary of academic articles related to social networking and internet communications.

danah’s work in this area has been very useful in considering and bringing some sense of rationality to the hyped media interpretations of the MySpace phenomenon. Others, particularly Stutzman and Ellison who focus on the more ‘confined’ and ‘purpose-specific’ Facebook are also worth investigating.

I’m of two minds when it comes to applications of social networking tools within museum and gallery environments. On one hand, such tools could feasibly allow museums to become the nodal point for specific community interactions around their collections – for example, at the Powerhouse Museum, it would be logical to set up a system to facilitate online interactions between railway enthusiasts and our substantial actual locomotive and also model railway collections. On the other hand, though, my research and theorising leads me to agree with boyd (2006) and others that the primary function of social networking tools is communicative, not informational. If this is the case, then with regard to railway enthusiasts, we would be more likely to end up having to manage and maintain a communication nexus for such audiences with little return to the museum in terms of information sharing and acquisition etc.

The other issue for museums setting up their own systems is that of promotion. How does someone choose which, of many, social networking services to use? The answer, I think, lies in a mixture of application, geography, and existing real world networks. Facebook works because it is very specific in application (keeping track of friends) and geography (your college or high school) and it draws on the real world networks of these to pull you in – if your friends weren’t already on Facebook then you would be less predisposed to join (and you couldn’t join if you weren’t at college).

MySpace works because of the massive-scale subcultural promotion of the resource combined with the even more massive mainstream media hysteria over it (see Thornton’s classic work on moral panics and subcultures in Club Cultures, Routledge, 1996 – actually I see a lot of parallels between acid house and rave moral panics and the current moral panics around MySpace). MySpace has very broad application and geography, but it is more than likely that your friends are already there so peer pressure draws you in.

It needs to be noted that even with MySpace there are significant differences between UK MySpace users and US MySpace users. US MySpace is inhabited by teens and is, at the moment, dominated by their internal communications where as in the UK it seems that MySpace is more used by music labels and bands to communicate with their fanbase. Taking a long shot, could it be that this is in part a result of differences in the availability, especially in the late 1990s, of cheap and plentiful webhosting in the UK. UK bands and labels have taken up MySpace primarily for its hosting and promotional facilities, whereas in the USA for pure hosting there were (and are) a vastly different and cheaper range of alternatives for simple band hosting.

Social networking Web 2.0

Stutzman on Metcalfe’s Law and social networking

Some very interesting thoughts from Fred Stutzman looking at how Metcalfe’s Law is too simplistic when applied to social networking.

This notion of “full value” makes the mathematics of network value calculation quite appealing. If everyone on the network gets the same value from using the technology (everyone has the same options – i.e. call or not call on the phone), then valuing the network is absolutely possible. When using Metcalfe (or Reed, or Odlyzoko and Tilly’s refinement) to value a network, the core assumption is that the value we derive from the network is binary – this works for things like ethernet and telephony, but the mathematics prove to be overly crude when applied to social network technologies.

Therefore, the fundamental flaw in applying Metcalfe to social technology is its inherent lack of nuance and granularity. When people join the network, they are given more options than simply connecting; the network is worth the sum of associations and actions that are allowed in the network. We must instead think of network value in terms of a network effect multiplier, as the actual value a network adds to an application is under the direct control of the application designers.

Interactive Media Social networking Web 2.0

South Korea as broadband testbed / social networking update

Two excellent articles on South Korea following on from other pieces around the traps.

O’Reilly’s piece summarises a range of positions and posts on the way South Korea is a ‘working laboratory’ for broadband services, and how usage patterns, trends and services of the future can be seen in a fully fledged working environment.

Fred Stuzman (found in the comments of O’Reilly piece) looks at 5 new social networking services that he feels are strong contenders for the next-gen of social networking. Of particular interest are his examination of new social networking services which he argues are becoming content-centric (rather than just for the sake of it), and opening opportunities for micro-payment models (transferred over from the world of MMORPGs and online gaming).

Folksonomies Social networking Web 2.0

More on prod-users, Wikipedia and the like

Excellent and wide-ranging perspectives and commentary at The Edge in response to Jaron Lanier’s essay of Digital Maoism.

Essential reading.

A short extract of the summary –

Projects like Wikipedia do not overthrow any elite at all, but merely replace one elite — in this case an academic one — with another: the interactive media elite.
— Douglas Rushkoff

Our new tool for communication and computation may take us away from distinct individualism, and towards something closer to the tender nuance of folk art or the animal energy of millenarianism.
— Quentin Hardy

Networked-based, distributed, social production, both individual and cooperative, offers a new system, alongside markets, firms, governments, and traditional non-profits, within which individuals can engage in information, knowledge, and cultural production. This new modality of production offers new challenges, and new opportunities. It is the polar opposite of Maoism.
— Yochai Benkler

The personal computer produced an incredible increase in the creative autonomy of the individual. The internet has made group forming ridiculously easy. Since social life involves a tension between individual freedom and group participation, the changes wrought by computers and networks are therefore in tension. To have a discussion about the plusses and minuses of various forms of group action, though, is going to require discussing the current tools and services as they exist, rather than discussing their caricatures or simply wishing that they would disappear.
— Clay Shirky

Wikipedia isn’t great because it’s like the Britannica. The Britannica is great at being authoritative, edited, expensive, and monolithic. Wikipedia is great at being free, brawling, universal, and instantaneous.
— Cory Doctorow

Social networking Web 2.0 Young people & museums

More thoughts on prod-users/pro-sumers, engagement, interactivity & media literacy

[some slightly muddled late night thoughts that will be expanded in coming weeks]

Nicholas Carr issues one of his familiar missives railing against the almost automatic discarding of the old [books] in praise of ‘new media’ and ‘interactive fiction/writing’.

[A friend] describes a visit to an internet company where he watched a demo of a new web service that allows people to create mashups of movies, combining scenes from various films. “Until now,” his host blathers, “watching a movie has been an entirely passive experience.” Gomes comments: “Watching a good movie is ‘passive’ in the same way that looking at a great painting is ‘passive’ – which is, not very; you’re quite actively lost in thought. For my friend, though, the only activity that seemed ‘active,’ and thus worthwhile, was when a person sitting at a PC engaged in digital busy work of some kind.”

Gomes hits on one of the more annoying characteristics of the web philistine-utopians: they’re need to create false dichotomies about the products of creative work. In this case, the false dichotomy is between “passive” and “active.” If you’re not “actively” fiddling around with something, you’re being “passive,” and passive is, of course, bad. But as Gomes points out, there’s nothing passive about reading a good book or watching a good movie or sitting down with a good newspaper. If someone feels that watching a good movie is a passive experience, that says more about his shortcomings than the work’s.

The other popular false dichotomy is between “static” and “dynamic.” A completed work of art or craft – a book, a painting, a movie, an encyclopedia entry – is “static,” and static, like passive, is bad. A work is only “dynamic” if it’s some kind of open-ended group production – art by committee. Again, though, these terms are fake. A good book is anything but static – it gives to the active reader a wealth of meanings and connections. It’s the mashed-up products of committee culture that tend to feel static. The more a mob messes with something, the flatter, more one-dimensional it becomes. When it comes to creative work, the individual mind is more interesting – more dynamic – than the mob mind.

What’s particularly sad, and dangerous, is that these false dichotomies are infecting mainstream thought and discourse. They’re becoming an accepted way of looking at culture. A recent Library Journal featured an interview with Ben Vershbow, a fellow of the Institute for the Future of the Book, which is connected to the Annenberg Center for Communication and is funded in part by the MacArthur and Mellon foundations. Vershbow sees books as being static, and the reading of them as passive. He believes that the promise of books will only be fulfilled when they come to have “social lives.” “Soon,” he says, “books will literally have discussions inside of them, both live chats and asynchronous exchanges through comments and social annotation. You will be able to see who else out there is reading that book and be able to open up a dialog with them.” The model is Wikipedia, which, Vershbow says, “is never static, always growing.” [emphasis mine]

Carr’s points echo a lot of what I have been considering in relation to music criticism. Simon Reynolds, in discussing the race-to-the-bottom struggle in music journalism and blog circles between rockism and popism addresses the problems with the kind of cultural relatvism that has rendered critics unable to criticise – which seems pertinent in looking at Web 2.0/digital natives/wisdom of crowds type thinking.

As the original title of Frith’s book makes clear, Cultural Studies came out of sociology, and a large aspect of the discipline was the pursuit of value-free understanding of popular leisure—a human science, its research aimed to increase the sum of human knowledge. But, distorting the value-free element significantly, Cultural Studies also came out of socialism—all of the CCCS theorists were left-wing and many were Marxists. Gramsci, mediated by Stuart Hall, was a particularly strong influence. The working class youth subcultures were understood to be unconscious expressions of anti-hegemonic resistance through rituals, attempts to escape class destiny through the symbolic victory of style. As cult-studs broadened its scope, it soon began scanning the entirety of popular culture for buried or encrypted expressions of resistance or utopianism—hence the much-ridiculed micro-discipline of Madonna-ology, the studies of Trekkies, the TV semiologist Fisk who thought that MTV was an explosion of jouissance and carnivalesque energy, a form of anti-repressive desublimation, etc etc.

This approach was based in a left-wing populism that wanted to believe that anything popular must have something good about it—because “the people”, in their heart of hearts, are good. Left wing populists have to believe that the People are (or would be if only they’d listen to “us”) progressive/anti-authoritarian/tolerant/etc. Well, I’d like to believe that as well, but when you look at the world there’s a lot of evidence that people do/like/believe in/behave in all sorts of pernicious things/ways . . . One of the things to acknowledge is that popular culture is where a lot of this non-virtuousness manifests itself—and that, confusing things immeasurably, a lot of what makes pop culture work, makes it good (aesthetically), comes out of nasty stuff, the stuff that is ruining the world—aggression, ego, vanity, status, competitiveness, extravagance, not thinking about tomorrow. Rap and metal are two genres that can’t be properly understood without registering the roles of appetite-for-destruction and destructive appetites. And it goes beyond music of course: porn, junk food, and almost anything that can be described as “junk __” or “the new porn” etc etc. The cultural studies belief that there must be something good about anything that’s popular seems naïve and sentimental. A lot of popular things are reprehensible, or just lame.

The major legacy of cultural studies (which chunters on in academe with a well-past-its-day wan feel about it) as it filtered into rock/pop writing, is the critical sensibility of populist generalism. And one of tics of this sensibility is a squeamishness about the idea of aesthetic vanguardism, which is felt to be elitist, and an accompanying reluctance to describe anything as trash or middlebrow. The pervasiveness of this attitude is pretty unique to pop criticism—you might get a glint of slumming/inverted snobbery/populism idea here and there in film reviewing or literary criticism, but it’s pretty rare, and in other arts it’s non-existent. Outside arts & entertainment, it’s less than non-existent. Few people in our little world would have a problem with the idea that in politics certain ideas/values/policies are more progressive or enlightened than others.

… [snip] …

Obviously these are real evils with stark implications, whereas “bad” culture is not pernicious in any easily proved way or obviously direct way. An example that lies somewhere in between the two extremes and may be slightly illuminating: food. Few with any firsthand experience of school meals in the UK or America would disagree that they are shit, nutritionally and in terms of taste. Yet kids love that shit. I’ve got a six year old, if left to his own devices Kieran would eat nothing but chicken nuggets and fizzy soda. And you can see why the stuff appeals to unsophisticated palates: they’re salty and fatty and tasty in a very narrow sense, the sugary sodas give a “loud”, effective rush. And yet this kind of food is really bad for kids both in the short term (mega-constipative–some kids go two weeks without a shit; affects ability to concentrate in school, moodswings) and long-term (early death). When Jamie Oliver during the series based on his School Lunch project showed the kids what nuggets and Turkey Twizzlers (if you don’t know, you don’t want to know–oh go on then, take a peek) are made from-–a pink gloop of mechanically evacuated meat-mush, chicken lips and turkey perineum—they were uniformly turned off; knowledge made them more discriminating about what they put in their bellies. And having the crap struck off the menu in the school cafeteria forced them to educate their dulled palates and they soon learned to tolerate, then actively prefer, Jamie’s fare.

Now none of this necessarily means I (or Reynolds, or indeed Carr) is advocating a return to some kind of class system of knowledge – hierarchies of access with only a few doing production/writing for the many.

French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, in his seminal work on cultural taste, social hierachies and class, Distinction, is misread if one simply uses him to neutralise any difference between fine wine and cheap wine, fine dining and fast food (yes, these are in part socially constructed judgements of taste) and render impossible any criticism of either. Bourdieu, instead, needs to be understood as revealing the social construction of aesthetic and cultural value – so as to be better able to critique.

Thus it may be better to conceive of Web/Media 2.0, Wikipedia, prod-users and the like as expanding the concept of ‘the few’ – the few who we know were in positions of power/control because of structural inequalities. And ‘the many’ splintering into a long tail of niche readers/listeners/viewers, who themselves may be producers in the same or another niche.

This allows us to simultaneously critique reality TV, acknowledge some of the problems of Wikipedia, take issue with the business model of MySpace, and bemoan some video games, student films and over the top pop music – but at the same time examine the real social benefits of social production, audience co-creation and the like as described by people like Yochai Benkler without needing to, as some commentators do, totalise it to some sense of the future ‘of media’ or ‘of education’.

Folksonomies Interactive Media Social networking Web 2.0

Wikimapia (Wiki + Google Maps)

WikiMapia is a project to describe the whole planet Earth. The developers have combined a wiki with Google Maps to create this amazing resource that allows you to highlight any spot on earth and describe it in your own words. You can even tag these locations so people can find them using keywords. Try doing a search for “Powerhouse”.

Social networking Web 2.0 Young people & museums

MySpace downturn? Monetising issues

Everyone is talking about Scott Karp’s article questioning whether MySpace is experiencing a downturn. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence both from Karp and others, but I think the strongest argument for the MySpace hype eventually running out of steam is that teens are always a very fickle market, and they are getting increasingly fickle.

As I (amongst many many others) keep pointing out in presentations, the real pull of MySpace is/was its stickiness as a communication platform/site. Once you set up a MySpace page then you had to keep going back to it to check if your ‘friends’ had ‘added’ you or you’d gotten mail etc. While this was genius while MySpace was/is ‘hot’ it will quickly become a big turnoff when/if it falls from favour.

The problems with ‘monetising’ MySpace through advertising versus, lets say advertising on Google, is that when people visit a MySpace page their motiviation is purely conversational – versus a Google search which is likely informational/information-seeking. The informational motivation can more easily be monetised through well placed advertising – advertising which offers to make easier your search for information (or cut through the plethora of choices with a simpler option).

Monetising the purely conversational is difficult.

I’d be fascinated to know how successful the advertisements that pop up in those ‘free telephone services’ that were written about a few years ago actually were . . . these were advertisements that interrupted your telephone calls (effectively the advertiser paid for your free calls by forcing you to listen to their advertisement).

Of course, these advertisements that intruded on your phone conversations were not able to be customised/personalised to the conversation topic in the same way that is now possible with conversations over the internet.

Google have been doing this very thing with their advertising that appears in your Gmail account – supposedly tailored to the conversation topics (content) in your email.

But does anyone actually click (or see) those advertisements?

Maybe the value of MySpace for its owners is purely as market research. But even that relies on its continuing dominance.

Interactive Media Social networking Web 2.0 Young people & museums

More on ‘hanging out’ on MySpace

Youth and social network researcher Danah Boyd continues her examination of MySpace in a new talk presented to American Association for the Advancement of Science earlier this year.

The sizeable quote gives an excellent thesis on what MySpace really represents and defines the three types of space that teens use MySpace to recreate.

So what exactly are teens _doing_ on MySpace? Simple: they’re hanging out. Of course, ask any teen what they’re _doing_ with their friends in general; they’ll most likely shrug their shoulders and respond nonchalantly with “just hanging out.” Although adults often perceive hanging out to be wasted time, it is how youth get socialized into peer groups. Hanging out amongst friends allows teens to build relationships and stay connected. Much of what is shared between youth is culture – fashion, music, media. The rest is simply presence. This is important in the development of a social worldview.

For many teens, hanging out has moved online. Teens chat on IM for hours, mostly keeping each other company and sharing entertaining cultural tidbits from the web and thoughts of the day. The same is true on MySpace, only in a much more public way. MySpace is both the location of hanging out and the cultural glue itself. MySpace and IM have become critical tools for teens to maintain “full-time always-on intimate communities” [4] where they keep their friends close even when they’re physically separated. Such ongoing intimacy and shared cultural context allows youth to solidify their social groups.

Digital Publics:

Adults often worry about the amount of time that youth spend online, arguing that the digital does not replace the physical. Most teens would agree. It is not the technology that encourages youth to spend time online – it’s the lack of mobility and access to youth space where they can hang out uninterrupted.

In this context, there are three important classes of space: public, private and controlled. For adults, the home is the private sphere where they relax amidst family and close friends. The public sphere is the world amongst strangers and people of all statuses where one must put forward one’s best face. For most adults, work is a controlled space where bosses dictate the norms and acceptable behavior.

Teenager’s space segmentation is slightly different. Most of their space is controlled space. Adults with authority control the home, the school, and most activity spaces. Teens are told where to be, what to do and how to do it. Because teens feel a lack of control at home, many don’t see it as their private space.

To them, private space is youth space and it is primarily found in the interstices of controlled space. These are the places where youth gather to hang out amongst friends and make public or controlled spaces their own. Bedrooms with closed doors, for example.

Adult public spaces are typically controlled spaces for teens. Their public space is where peers gather en masse; this is where presentation of self really matters. It may be viewable to adults, but it is really peers that matter.

Teens have increasingly less access to public space. Classic 1950s hang out locations like the roller rink and burger joint are disappearing while malls and 7/11s are banning teens unaccompanied by parents. Hanging out around the neighborhood or in the woods has been deemed unsafe for fear of predators, drug dealers and abductors. Teens who go home after school while their parents are still working are expected to stay home and teens are mostly allowed to only gather at friends’ homes when their parents are present.

Additionally, structured activities in controlled spaces are on the rise. After school activities, sports, and jobs are typical across all socio-economic classes and many teens are in controlled spaces from dawn till dusk. They are running ragged without any time to simply chill amongst friends.

By going virtual, digital technologies allow youth to (re)create private and public youth space while physically in controlled spaces. IM serves as a private space while MySpace provide a public component. Online, youth can build the environments that support youth socialization.