Wednesday, June 04, 2008
I'm currently writing about Flickr, and just wanted an excuse to rehearse Engestrom's idea about social objects. In the case of Flickr, the social object is the digital photograph; for Amazon it is the book, and for YouTube, the video. The social object is the focus of user generated content and the resultant interaction that takes place. As objects become of particular interest to individuals, then a social network can develop around them. This is not particularly different to the formation of traditional interest groups - apart from in two aspects. Firstly, because the interaction is online, social networks are often dispersed (time and location are no obstacles to communication), and secondly, because social networking sites allow for varying degrees of engagement, they lend themselves to lightweight engagement and multiple group membership. The idea of the social object not only allows us to predict the likely success of a Web 2.0 app, but also helps us to provide an account for how networking gets organised. Interestingly, though, when pre-existing networks exist, such as friends and family on Flickr, the social tie is primary and the social object secondary.
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