Collecting New Media

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09 March
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The Solution to Social Media Fatigue?

Is social media all that social? Brian Andreas asks this question in an article he wrote for Fast Company. He argues that social media is inherently selfish; it boils down to, “pins of things that I want, pictures of food I ate, tweets about stories I read.” There is no collaboration, and little context and emotional involvement. He believes part of the reason we struggle to understand why sites like Pinterest become so popular so quickly and why they are so addicting, is because we ignore the underlying fact that social media is selfish, not social. People produce and curate content in their own self interest to the point that much of it is now done blindly. Andreas thinks we suffer from content fatigue that makes us irritated with one another. He attributes the fatigue to the desire to be involved in social media even though we do not really care to see banal photos and status updates from our friends.
In the article, Andreas suggests a new form of social curation to overcome the fatigue, one that is actually social, which he calls collaborative curation. He compares it to wedding photographers “cull[ing] together separate videos the of bride and groom” or friends chatting over Sunday Brunch. He writes, “Imagine a world where Michelle Obama can collaborate on spring styles with Marie Claire magazine and Tim Gunn on Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter. Or what if MG Siegler and Dan Lyons collaborated on an argument, visually depicting their thoughts. Or what if a musician in Africa and a film student in New York came together to tell a story? What would that look like? “
So what is at stake for Andreas in this article? It is mostly a promotional piece for his social curation site, Tumblecloud. He never mentions it by name in the article, but one can link from author’s biographical information to Tumblecloud. His site is a model for content curation we did not discuss in class, one that is invested in building and retaining the kind of context we are afraid will be lost when social media sites are collected in aggregate.
A cursory browse of his site is promising, but the model he suggests would take a lot more work on the part of the user than just mindless tweeting and retweeting throughout the day. Though probably more useful for users in general, it doesn’t have that instant publishing buzz one gets from other social media sites that makes them so addicting. It is also unclear how content would be shared, and what is private and public.  For his site to take off, he would need to convince users to invest time in meaningful, collaborative curation. The various applications for his site, though, are promising; one can do many more things through Tumblecloud than they can on traditional social media sites.

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06 February
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Window Shopping

The parallels between the Curiosity Cabinets of yesteryear and the digital collecting mechanisms of today have been frequently remarked upon in our discussions. Curiosity Cabinets or Wunderkammern allowed their creators to select and arrange a “jumble of unrelated and artificial objects,” and sites like flickr, tumblr, and Pinterest operate in much the same way. Of course, the key difference between the two is not insignificant. While the curators of Curiosity Cabinets physically possessed the items they organized, the keepers of digital collections don’t actually *own* anything. In fact, it’s unlikely that most users of these sites even personally store the jpegs they have chosen to represent the objects in their collections.

A few weeks ago, a fascinating piece in the Atlantic proposed the idea that “digital bookmarking is becoming the latest method in how we consume products in the 21st century.” In this article the author, Chris Tackett, remarks that, for him, the simple act of pinning or tagging an image can bring about a “pleasant rush of some pleasure-inducing chemicals,” nearly replicating the thrill that he previously experienced when making a new purchase.

Of course, this observation is anecdotal. There hasn’t been a study indicating that people who use bookmarking tools buy less merchandise (many might buy more!) or that their central nervous system lights up as they play around on the Internet. Still, I do think he’s onto something.

I don’t use Pinterest (and this is the first I’ve even heard of Svpply), but I’m constantly saving images of things I’d like to buy, or recipes I’d like to cook, or crafts I’d like to make. I almost never buy, or cook, or make any of these things. Yet, I find it supremely satisfying, almost relaxing to contemplate what I’d buy if I had money, or make if I had time. It’s as if just looking at something, selecting it, and then setting it apart is as emotionally fulfilling as actually buying or making it.

Tackett claims that these new kinds of sites are “encouraging anti-consumerist behavior” which he sees as a good thing given environmental concerns about “wasteful consumption” and quickly depleting resources. He also compares shopping to the “hunting and gathering behaviors we inherited from our evolutionary ancestors,” and  concludes that the Internet merely provides another outlet for this form of “foraging.”

If digital bookmarking really does satisfying the hunter-gatherer instinct, in the future will we still need to buy things at all? Will we own just the bare necessities (we’ll always need food and shelter…right?), and be content to show our taste, impress our friends, and show our status through images displayed online? Is ownership already becoming an antiquated notion?

On an unrelated note, we’ve discussed at length whether James Bridle’s “New Aesthetic” is really anything new. Maybe we can all agree that, new or old, it’s terribly ugly? Ugh, that couch!

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