The challenge of multiple contexts

danah boyd has this to say about Facebook’s recent opening to the general public:

I do not believe that social network sites are able to sustain lots of conflicting social contexts. Or, rather, i don’t believe that they can continue as a hang-out space. I know that Facebook will continue to grow but i believe that the core value of it will be lost for the sake of growth. MySpace is already struggling to cope with what happens when teens and parents/authorities are in the same place.

MySpace allegedly has something like 100 million users (although there has recently been controversy about this and other user figures). How on earth do you sort through that many people? And unless you’re just out to search through people’s photos, how can you have targeted conversation?

Take another view on the community – the discussion board. Discussion boards rarelely work unless they have something underpinning the content, be it a shared location, interest in a particular thing, and so on. Facebook did have this, but by opening it up they’ve removed their unique selling point and eliminated focus from the community.

Rather than striving for one giant uber-community, a better model would seem to be a set of user credentials that can then be used to log into a set of communities that represent your interests. Even in terms of the MySpace crowd’s advertising-driven worldview, a more focused community makes more sense (advertisers will pay more if they know users are interested in the kinds of things they have to sell). This way the only context-juggling is the kind that you do in real life, and communities can streamline themselves towards covering a particular thing really well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *