Facebook has just announced a new function that allows you to download a copy of all your information on their site. I suppose would probably be useful for people who want a copy of all the media they have donated (yes, I say ‘donated’ because, like it or not, Facebook owns all the pictures and videos you’ve uploaded) to their website. It would also probably be useful for people looking to jump the Facebook ship, and wanting to a copy of all their online activity thus far. I personally don’t see a need to put this function to use any time in the near future, but we’ll see what happens.
In the same address, CEO Mark Zuckerberg also announced the new Groups function on Facebook which allows you to choose who you want to publish information to. Quite literally, we will be able to group our Facebook friends and decide who gets to see what.
I think all this is fantastic. I see Facebook turning into this increasingly interactive magazine for your social life, where you get to dictate what and when you receive information. Let the haters keep on hating. I think it’s great.
Cade Metz’s article gives us a very comprehensive idea of the Web experience of the future, and the various directions that the Web and new media in general can (and probably will) be moving into. From the “sharing and collaborating” nature of Web 2.0, future Web promises a more immersive experience, where the web does the work for us and the online space is redefined. I would pause at this point and remind myself that Web 2.0 is still developing and evolving as we speak, but that doesn’t mean that future Web hasn’t begun to rear it’s mysterious head. Metaphorically speaking, Web 2.0 is like the hip young yuppie who is trendy and stylish and goes out every weekend to socialise and party (these two may or may not be mutually exclusive). Future Web is like the three-year-old prodigal son who can already play the piano, guitar and drums and makes little colour-coordinated Lego cities complete with an extensive theme park (underwater roller coasters included) and an impressive physical infrastructure to withstand Haitian-sized earthquakes.
Metz talks about the different areas that the Web is developing. There is the Semantic Web, where machines are taught and programmed to think multi-directionally, much like human thought. Essentially, it will produce search results that are most relevant to us (weighing results against our personal preferences, calendars, buying habits etc.). Then there is the proposed 3D Web that allows us to physically be immersed in a virtual world, much like Second Life. The Media-Centric Web proposes to let us search for media with media, rather than keywords. The Pervasive Web is a full integration of the Web and real-life. An example given was how your windows at home could be programmed to respond to weather changes, opening and closing as directed by the Web.
All these Web systems encourage us to think about different modes of using the Web, and of inputting data that can in turn be translated to fit into these new systems. How quickly can this catch on? More importantly, what does this tell us about the state of social media marketing? I think it is safe to say that we can expect the Web experience to be much more personal and intimate, and I should expect that it would come to a point where a brand can literally talk directly to their consumers, as one would with a best gal pal. These new Web systems are already under development and there’s no telling what new technology we are going to be privy to next month, next week, or even tomorrow. New media marketers must therefore allow themselves to imagine the impossible and think laterally. Understand that information is no longer being consumed in a linear top-down fashion, but instead, is a fluid, organic system of give-and-take between media consumers and producers.
I have been doing some reading about virtual communities. There has been much debate about whether these virtual communities can and should be called a ‘community’ in the traditional sense. I found a great article by Wellman, Salaff, Dimitrova, Garton, Gulia and Haythornthwaite (1996). They say: “Members of virtual communities want to link globally with kindred souls for companionship, information and social support from their homes and workstations.”
They quote Kiesler (1964):
“Limited social presence may also encourage people to communicate more freely and creatively than they do in person, at time “flaming” others by using extreme, aggressive language.”
I do agree with this. We do tend to see a lot more ‘flamboyant’ personalities online than in real life: Gary Brolsma of Numa Numa fame and the cross-dresser who re-did Lady Gaga’s Telephone on Chat Roulette. I have also personally noticed that people in general tend to be braver with their comments and feedback on their computer, rather than in person; especially when contact is made so much easier through the World Wide Web.
A great example of this is Justin Bieber’s presence on Twitter: by which I don’t mean his personal presence. This 16 year old ‘pop sensation’ (please don’t quote me on this) has risen to fame through YouTube and has recently been making Twitter headlines worldwide. Hundreds and thousands of people have been discussing him and his music on Twitter, giving birth to dozens of (potentially hilarious) internet memes. On Twitter, it seems he is getting more flak than praise. There even is a hashtag dedicated to haters: #JustinBieberSucks. Some of the gems I managed to dig out from the Twitter archives:
Hashtags are a fascinating concept on Twitter. They, alone, are able to motivate people to create their own little interest groups (or in this case, hate groups). Would I go as far as to call these ‘interest groups’ communities? After some thought, yes, I think they can and should be considered a community.
We note that the definition of community must evolve to better suit our social environment in this Web 2.0 age. Preece (2000) writes:
“Initially, comunities were characterized mainly by their physical features, such as size, location and their boundaries. During and after the industrial revolution, cheaper transportation made it easier for people to move from place to place and physical characteristics provided a less reliable basis for defining community.” (p. 348)
Preece, J. (2001) “Sociability and usability in online communities: determining and measuring sucess’, Behaviour & Information Technology, 20:5, p. 347-356
Wellman B., Salaff J., Dimitrova D., Garton L., Gulia M. and Haythornthwaite C. (1996) ‘Computer networks as social networks: Collaborative work, telework, and virtual community. 22, p. 213-238