Friday, 5 September 2008

Dimensions of Social Functionality

Social functionality is what I call most of the UGC-focused gadgets and applications both online and off. It’s sort of a catch-all term and I use it very broadly. A user review interface on Amazon is social functionality but so is a piece of mobile social software like Dodgeball (R.I.P.). I even call some entire sites social functionality, for example dating sites or Facebook. There seem to be three fundamental dimensions to the social functionality that has dominated digital "community" thought for the last 4 years or so.

1. Knowledge - we use social functionality to be or get informed, specifically by each other.

2. Connection - we use social functionality for communion, coordination and simple contact.

3. Display - we use social functionality to communicate, truthfully or untruthfully, ourselves to others.

None of these dimensions are hard and fast. They’re like the primary colors. Between them there’s a continuum of variations and I can’t think of a single piece of social functionality that’s all one with no hint of another. For example, most regular Wikipedia users experience it as a Knowledge site, while to editors and posters it has a significant Display aspect. Here’s a gratuitous graphic that lays some social functionality (both pieces of functionality and entire sites) into the space defined by the dimensions. Placement is just my opinion... I’ll discuss some aspects in future posts.

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