Constructing a public around social object labels

In their report on the Imperial War Museum’s Social Interpretation project, Giannachi and Tolmie (2012) suggest that QR codes need suitable framing that gives visitors a clear reason why to scan the code and why to share their thoughts. They point out that this requires a comprehensive organisational effort to promote an active and social visitor experience.

A theoretical grounding for this idea is provided by DiSalvo, Maki and Martin (2007), who offer the concept of “constructed public” based on John Dewey’s (1927) idea that a public does not exist a priory but is brought together around a meaningful social condition.

Accordingly, designers should acknowledge the limited scope of any public and carefully consider who the public is and how it came together. This move away from “the public” as a general population towards “a public” as a selective subset of that population primed for engagement has important implications for the design and evaluation of interactive public systems.

In a design context, it presumes awareness of the system’s existence and interest in, or even agreement with, its purpose and aims, shifting part of the responsibility for these aspects from system design to the wider user experience design.

In an evaluation context, it takes into account whether and how a public was created around the system as an important factor in its adoption, going beyond classic aspects such as perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use (Davis, 1989) and perceived social norms (Venkatesh and Davis, 2000) as the main factors for technology acceptance.

How can we construct a public around social object labels?

Davis, F.D. (1989). Perceived Usefulness, Perceived Ease of Use, and User Acceptance of Information Technology. MIS Quarterly, 13(3), pp. 319-339.

Dewey, J. (1927). The public and its problems: An essay in political inquiry. Penn State Press, 2012.

Disalvo, C. and Ave, S. H. (2007). MapMover : A Case Study of Design-Oriented Research into Collective Expression and Constructed Publics. In Proc. CHI 2007, pp. 1249–1252.

Giannachi, G. and Tolmie, P. (2012). Info-Objects: Embedding objects with audience interpretation. Project report. Digital R&D Fund for the Arts. 

Venkatesh, V. and Davis, F.D. (2000). A Theoretical Extension of the Technology Acceptance Model: Four Longitudinal Field Studies. Management Science, 45(2), pp. 186-204.

Star ratings in the physical world

5-star graffiti stencil source

There clearly is appetite to transfer popular social concepts from the Web to the physical world:
Free 5-Star Graffiti
stencils for urban annotation. Source 

prototype v.2 

Electronic alternative developed by ubinote. Prototype v.2 with e-ink screen and Wifi connection.
Connect via QR code, NFC or Bluetooth LE. Get in touch if you’d like to run a trial.

Creative Sandbox content rating

Interesting content rating system on Google’s Creative Sandbox website.
Three distinct and positive categories: smart / fun / cool. Colour coded.

Opening Up the Arts

Keynote presentation by Nina Simon at at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference.

Social object – Boundary object

Social objects somehow resonate with the concept of boundary objects discussed in a technology-enhanced learning context.
 “Boundary object (BO), originally introduced by Starr (1989), is a concept to refer to objects that serve an interface between different communities of practice. Boundary objects are an entity shared by several different communities but viewed or used differently by each of them. As Star points out, boundary objects in an organization work because they necessarily contain sufficient detail to be understandable by both parties, however, neither party is required to understand the full context of use by the other – boundary objects serve as point of mediation and negotiation around intent. Boundary objects are flexible enough to adapt to local needs and have different distinct identities in different communities, but at the same time robust enough to maintain a common identity across the boundaries to be a place for shared work. Boundary objects are not necessarily physical artifacts such as a map between two people: they can be a set of information, conversations, interests, rules, plans, contracts, or even persons.” 

Op-Ed: Objects Aren’t Social

“…Trouble is, I just don’t think that Internet-connected everyday objects have much social value.
Say I tag a book that I bought and attach the following ‘memory’ to it: “I read this book in the summer of 2010, it was a great read. I’d give it a 4/5.” Even if I wrote a much more in-depth review, what value does that have on a single object? If I uploaded that review to, then it’s put into context and gets aggregated with other reviews to form ratings and other ‘wisdom of the crowd’ intelligence.
But on the object itself – my copy of the book – the review has limited value. If a friend of mine happened to scan my book with their phone, they’d see my review…and then probably head straight to to see what other people thought. Or perhaps check out what their own social network thought, via an app like Glue (a social network based on the media you consume). Objects aren’t social, they never were and they never will be. The real value of Internet-connected objects is that they can become part of the network, which means they can connect to one another and they add more data to the giant computer we call The Cloud. But social networks aren’t going to form around single objects, other than perhaps public ones – like the Eiffel Tower, for example. But then you are just talking about a location, which the likes of FourSquare and BrightKite can take care of…”
Source: Richard MacManus, April 18th, 2010. Available: Retrieved 25 Oct 2012.

Jyri Engestrom on growing networks around social objects

Jyri Engestrom’s presentation about growing networks around social objects (december 2006).