Social Software: The Other ‘Design for Social Impact,’ by Gentry Underwood – Core77

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T-shirt by Simon Crowley

Depending on how you see it, social software is either all the rage or so 2008. You know the stuff: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Foursquare…. There’s no talking about the web these days without it—that’s for sure—but social software tools are quickly becoming an integral part of the way we run our day-to-day lives.

It’s not just in the consumer space, either. Companies and large organizations are catching on to the benefits of social networking and improved collaboration tools. They want their intranets to be more like Facebook. They want to use crowdsourcing to leverage employee perspectives and wikis to help people help themselves. They want Twitter for the organization, (or at least they think they do).

Human-centered approaches to industrial and interaction design have long focused on studying human behavior to create informed and appropriate designs. A social interaction designer must consider not only people, environment, and existing tools, but also the unseen elements of the system such as social relationships, power dynamics, and cultural rules.

So there’s a lot of budding social software out there, and a lot of opportunity to design the stuff. But for all of the press and fanfare, most social software is, well, socially awkward.

Take, for example, the satirized look at Facebook by the British improv troupe Idiots of Ants above. Idiots of Ants (the pun only emerges if you say that name with a British accent) pushes the social behaviors of Facebook to the extreme, but it’s hardly the only piece of software they could pick on. Twitter, another massively successful tool, began as an attempt to facilitate text messaging among friends and has morphed into a platform for broad, ad-hoc real-time communication. But while the tool is great for flash mob conversations and celebrity tracking, the one-channel-for-everyone design is profoundly awkward for more nuanced social interaction.

read the full article here: Social Software: The Other ‘Design for Social Impact,’ by Gentry Underwood

…As products become more interactive, the focus shifts to the psychological. And with the networking of devices together, we see yet another shift—this time towards the sociological and anthropological. Now the designer must understand not only anthropometrics and cognitive science, but also ethnography and sociology, for an effective design must ‘work’ at all of these levels at once….

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