I did a structural and phenomenological analysis of Facebook’s people tagging feature. Just today I was able to create a semi-coherent argument from the analysis. I am curious what you all think of this:
My overall thesis for the paper is that the way that a social networking community (Facebook) is designed fundamentally changes the way that its members take photos. Interaction designers should study and attempt to understand how social networking communities affect the way people act in the ‘real world’ and then design communities that encourage the users to act in desired, ethical ways.
I have 2 examples of Facebook changing the way that people take picture. Both of these changes in photo habits are related to the design of the photo tagging feature. For those of you who are not familiar with this feature, when you upload an album of photos, the photo tagging feature allows you to tag a photo with a person’s name, including your own name, and the photo then becomes associated with that person’s profile.
The tagged photos of someone have a privileged spot in the Facebook profile. The tagged photos of a person is in the top left, and unlike most parts of the Facebook profile, it cannot be moved, minimized, or deleted (different paradigms for Facebook content modules). Due to its location, properties, and content, this section is much more important, and more frequently visited then the photo albums. In one study, 67% of those surveyed said that these photos were the most communicative aspect of a person’s profile. And another 25% said these photos are 2nd most communicative behind interests & activates (Ritcher).
The first way that Facebook’s design is changing the way people are taking photos has to do with establishing shots. An establishing shot is a camera shot usually taken at the beginning of a sequence of photos to establish the setting or context where the rest of the photos take place (citation). Establishing shots are common and can be seen in popular sitcoms such as Friends and Seinfeld, where the outside of the restaurant is shown in order to establish location and context. They can also be found in personal photo albums, where the outside of a hotel or casino is photographed to set up the setting of a vacation of a weekend getaway.
In Facebook, an establishing shot without a person in it does not get tagged and thus does not end up in the photos of the person. This can be problematic in 2 different ways. The first reason is that a person’s travel and activities are tightly tied to their identity they are cultivating and experimenting with (reword, add more information, add citation). Thus not having a photo that establishes a location for a whole bunch of events is problematic for someone attempting to cultivate a specific online identity. The insides of a bar in Toldeo may look similar to the inside of a bar in New York, thus making it important to have an establishing shot. The second way this can be a problem is if the person who is shooting photos is attempting to create a narrative, or a montage of shots that tell the story of an event. These series of photos look fine in the person’s photo album, but when the photos of the person are tagged, there is a syntagmatic violation due to missing photos that are essential to the story line. (Facebook deals with this by providing the link to the album, so I don’t think this argument is as strong as the first one. But do people always click on the album?) Because of these two reasons, people who would not usually include themselves in establishing shots, now do. //Also talk a little more about Bruner and narrative and how people think about how they are going to present it while it is going on.
After this I have another example (which is a good one, but still being formalized from outline form). I was thinking of including sample photos of each example and interviews with people who practice these things. Then I want to provide alternative designs for a photo tagging like function that may discourage these actions and or encourage other photo taking practices.
So – That is my idea so far. It still has to be cleaned up a little bit, but that is the overall gist. I also have 5 pages of me breaking down Facebook photo tagging using all the methods we learned in class. From that I came up with this. Weird, eh. So what do you guys think? Is this interesting? Good enough for a work in progress? Or is too much of a stress to make these claims? Do interviews make it less of a stress? Or is this all too confusing?
Please let me know….