Thursday, October 11, 2007

Culture of the Information Age (3)

Tagging as empowerment

The first day started out with a crash course blogging for two students (see photograph; two girls left) of communication sciences. They created an account with Blogger and started blogging. In the first days they put seven postings to the web. They had problems with uploading a series of pictures, a weak point of Blogger.

One of the presentations was made by Peter Mechant (see photograph), a Belgian researcher at the Media & ICT research group of the University of Gent. He is interested in enhancing or enriching participation in culture through the use of social software features. He started out analyzing Web 2.0 and social software. Web 2.0 consists of three characteristics: sociological, technological and economical. On the sociological side Web 2.0 a word like empowerment is used. Ajax, ruby on rails, lightweight programming models. Syndication is part of the technological characteristic. And the economic aspect looks at user generated content and especially long tail as an economic model. Peter Mechant rather uses the term social software. He put ten definitions to the audience. One of the ten definitions is from S. Butterfield, who defines social software as software that people use to interact with other people, employing a combination of the following five devices: 1. identy; 2. presence; 3. relationships; 4. conversations; 5. groups. Peter Mechand’s own definition is: software that enables communication through digital technologies during which people connect, converse, collaborate, manage information and/or form online networks in a social, bottom-up fashion. Social software has the following characteristics:
- is mediated through digital technology;
- enables communication;
- helps people reach certain goals – it enables content (management), communication, collaboration and community (forming);
- works bottom up;
- is based on principles of social networking and user participation.

He makes it concrete by asking the question, whether you as a jazz fan would like to have a virtual arts centre of the future, where you could:
- listen to the concerts;
- watch video fragments;
- be informed about the latest jazz news;
- keep your own calendar;
- share information with other jazz fans;
- create your own webpage and content repository;
- walk around in a 3D environment, …

The Finnish researcher Ulla-Maaria Mutanen describes the relation between visitor and arts centre:
- reactive consumption: visitor consumes passively what the museum offers, consumption ‘in situ’;
- proactive consumption: visitor consumes actively, he/she consumes information before visiting the arts centre (for example online search for information);
- private production: visitor creates something to reflect on what he/she sees;
- public production: visitor creates something to reflect on what he/she sees and shares it with others.

He has applied the concept to the website of the arts centre Vooruit in Ghent. He and the research group looked at the website and changed this from a static website to a virtual community. Much attention was paid to tagging as tagging is a social and personal act. Tagging is in fact a way of empowerment.

Blog Posting Number: 891


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