Friday, June 08, 2007

Women Business and Blogging conference - Meg Pickard

Meg Pickard kicked off the first session at the WBB conference this morning with a plenary entitled: Whose Web is it Anyway? The following a whistle stop summary of her excellent and inspiring talk.

Her main focus followed these questions:

  • How is content changing?
  • How is web publishing changing
  • How are communities changing?

She suggested that users can interact with content in different ways, based on a continuum of consumption, interaction, curation and creation, all of which have different degrees of intensity with different levels of ease and creativity. In detail of each of these is glossed as follows:

Consumption: here the creators here do all of the work, and readers do not control this, they 'simply' read this. But, what does content look like in the wild? If seen through RSS feeds without visiting the site, the reader moves further away from the source of the information. The reader does not necessarily see the changes to the full web page context.

Interaction changes, though, through commenting functions. However this is not always polite and can be 'rowdy'. This still remains on the creator's territory (they can switch comments on or off). Content interaction also changes where other bloggers can cite your text and even talk about you but on their sites. But this is out of the original source control - a second level of creation or intertextuality.

For me this raises the question of the public and private divide that all bloggers face.

Attention data is also significant, and influences content just by clicking on it. Consumption therefore influences the profile of content. But does it influence the content itself or just the process or profile of consumption? Surely this is to do with status rather than the text itself?

Content curation: a new way of thinking about people engaging in processes of collection (social bookmarking, folksonomy. This changes the notion of authority and widens the way that sources are brought together.

Content mash ups: Meg argued that this was being creative not with particular sources but with the concept of content altogether. She claimed that content is not just editorial tone but the editorial metadata that goes with it and how this can be used to create a more embodied, localised sense of the data.

Content creation: Meg set this against citizen journalism, defining content creation as vocal witnesses to experience. It is not chasing down leads, but rather individuals giving their own testimony. Altogether, these examples of 'microjournalism' can be collated together in a montage or mosaic. The underlying principle is democratic - we are all witnesses of our own experience.
'User generated content' (eg Youtube, Flickr, Blogger) where on independent sites people are creating content for themselves. But how do the users think about their content? Meg claimed that they think about it as acts of storytelling, told for their own audiences.

Meg then asked what makes a blog different from other net genres? Is it the formatting, design, technology, dating, archives, commenting facilities? Or is it the editorial tone and proposition? Is it technology or the conversational potential (interaction). What's the difference between a news article and a blog post? The first is authorative and answers questions, the second asks questions, string together ideas and concepts, are open-ended, non-definitive and provoke comment.

This returned to the question of subject matter. What are blogs about? Can you define a blog in terms of central theme or subject? And while a blog might not have central content, it does have a context, and that is the user themselves.

Meg then interrogated the notion that 'content is king' She proposed instead that Context is king. The context is the vital why that shapes the content itself. Examples to support her argument include, myspace and facebook. The platform is enough and drives the way the site is used.

When the boundaries between users and creators of content change, what happens when things go wrong (grayblog). What happens to property rights? Who has the rights to use and take information without asking permission? 'If you don't want it to be used, why did you put it out there?' Does putting something online mean that you don't mind if it gets used? How on earth do you control all of that?

Meg proposed that the answer to this is the concept of creative commons.

She ended by talking about community. What does 'community' mean? Is this the same as commonality? Is a bus queue a community? The individuals don't relate to each other, but to the bus stop. How do you move from the metaphor of a '1+1' metaphor, but 1-2-1 interaction. Meg's central point is that interaction and relationships

Jake McKee's definition emphasises regular interaction around a shared context.

She posed the question, 'Why is community important?' answering it as follows:
Because they increase relevance
  • They increase emotional connection to the experience
  • The increase social connection to each other
  • (Blog commenters talk to each other, not about the subject)
  • They add depth.
  • The make experiences more relevant, human and personal
  • They importove the quality of content
But communities need nurturing and care...

How do we do this?
With human solutions (moderation, policy, consistency)
With technical solutions (flagging, cerating profiles, peer recommendation, ratings, feeds)
Editorial solutions (proposition, the framing of debate, tone of voice, reward, interaction) 'Prevention is better than cure'.
How do authors involve themselves in their communities?

She argued that the changes between content, context and communities must then change the way that people write.

She proposed a cycle of engagement (casual, connected, committed) which mapped on to her continuum of content engagement: consuming - interaction - curating - creating and then back to consumption again.

She closed by arguing that we are now moving from experiences 'on the web' but 'of the web'. I wonder if we can go further in teasing this out? And a nice touch, she closed Michael Wesch's 'The machine is us'.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems like I missed out on the women business and blogging conference! will there be another?

6:56 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home