If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’m glad to be chatting with you again. I don’t know what all I’ve missed and I don’t have a lot to say about how things are going in my life because I said it all earlier this week. So I’ll just get weird today.
Diana and I have used a lot of metaphors for social media interaction over the last couple of years. I framed my kickoff posts as a startup announcement and played it for laughs. I often think of Sourcerer as a ship — that’s why all the pirate humor. When we talk about building a social network while we figure out how to get big web traffic and make things go viral, it’s a plan for world domination.
These metaphors are important, because they allow us to communicate serious ideas in non-serious ways. They turn what could just seem like a big bunch of work into a sort of game that anyone can join in. They help us stay (somewhat) organized without an actual organization.
Since I’ve got a background in political science and I’m also a fantasy geek, I tend to think of social media networks most often as territorial units. In one sense, a social media account is just a communication tool. But they often feel like places. Here’s how I conceptualize my three favorite social media networks.
Facebook is a huge dystopian metropolis ruled from above by a remote, arbitrary government. Personal timelines are domiciles — glass-fronted tenements that lots of people can see into but few people actually look. Because when everyone’s living under glass, the transparency becomes part of the background. Groups, depending on how they are constructed, are like neighborhoods, clubs, or in some cases, venues for public events.
Standing on a streetcorner and yelling at everyone doesn’t get you much on Facebook, because every streetcorner has dozens of people standing on it and screaming. The communication on Facebook that matters happens in out-of-the-way places. Foggy alleys, dark corners, closed rooms.
Twitter is almost entirely exterior. It’s like a massive arena or a noisy commons. It’s also governed from above, but the powers-that-be on Twitter either rule with a lighter touch, or are a lot better at hiding their manipulation. A Twitter account is more a persona to be worn than a space to be inhabited.
There are no streetcorners on Twitter, and being noisy there will get you a lot more if you do it right. But there’s a catch. Because of the character limit and the way tagging works on Twitter, the more people you try to communicate with in a single tweet, the less you can say. This is one of the things I like most about Twitter.
Blogs are all sorts of spaces. The potential for diversity in the construction of blog space is limited only by the imaginations of the people building them. A blog can be a kingdom, a city, a commune, a salon, a meeting hall . . . The possibilities are endless.
And blogs have borders, oh yes they do. Part Time Monster, Sourcerer, and this blog are contiguous territories. Well, this one is probably an island in some small body of water bounded on all sides by the other two. There are shared borders with Comparative Geeks, Infinite Free Time, Things Matter, and several other blogs there somewhere. And all those other blogs have other neighbors. Given enough time, I could put several dozen blogs on a fantasy map, and it might be pretty cool to look at.
During our first year of blogging, I thought of Part Time Monster as the crown territory of a larger unit. Not an empire — a confederation, perhaps. Sourcerer was the one and only duchy. My personal blog has never been anything more than a private estate, and that’s probably all it will ever be. Sourcerer has since emerged as an independent state, but what sort of unit it is, I can’t say. It doesn’t feel like a kingdom, but it’s more than an estate.
And every blog can be conceputalized this way — in terms of neighbors, friends, allies, visitors, antagonists. It’s an interesting metaphor, and it only gets more interesting as you push it logically toward absurdity. What this has to do with anything, I don’t know. I just felt like sharing a little geekery with you today, and I am interested to see what, if anything, you think about my metaphors.
It’s good to be back to the coffee share. Don’t forget to add your coffee post to the linkup at Part Time Monster and share it with #WeekendCoffeeShare on Twitter. And if you’ve not noticed yet, the Monster has a new look. Do take a minute to poke around and let Diana know what you think of the redesign and the new logo.
Have a great weekend!