Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reading-and-sharing: nurturing the ties that bind

Photo credit: amateurgourmet.com
My friend Amanda was talking me through the woes of reading a(n actual) newspaper from her hotel bed. Despite being free, she had become so accustomed to the immediate gratification of sharing content during/ after reading that it left her news-intake experience incomplete.

This shouldn't be foreign to anyone.

While some "bumper-stickering" occurs with certain article-sharing (people making identity claims via social readers, for example), we can all relate to the idea that some content makes us think of specific people that we want to reach out to in real-time to experience the content with. It enhances the experience: a primitive form of augmented reality, maybe.

I think it also serves a more evolutionary purpose: social network management. This is analogous to the link between gossiping and grooming

I've blogged before about Wegner's notion of the transactive memory, a concept I love about how we get information into our heads (encode), arrange and add context (store), and eventually access when needed (retrieve) *as a group*. In my mind, this is underpinning of the success that Twitter is. It also helps explain this tendency we have to read-and-share as a means to coordinate our social network. That is, by sharing certain content with specific people, we more effectively encode, store, and retrieve information as a social network. Think of it like really effective curating. Simply by sharing links, we're making sense out of our expanding networks. 

But something else happens when we read-and-share. We create virtual spaces. As the great sociologist Ray Oldenburg might say, we create "a third place." Places, really. Salons. Sharing links creates places for us to meet and talk about our shared interests. Traditionally a "third place" is a place of refuge. It's not your home, not your job. So these virtual salons we create let us escape-- or augment our reality-- while performing social network maintenance: clustering and categorizing our network.

I mentioned this to Stowe Boyd the other week-- our tendency to create 'salons' by sharing links (and related information). He likened it to the new form of passing out business cards. A form of saying, "meet me there" rather than "shoot me an email!" This works-- think about what's running through your head when you tweet out an article.   

Like visualizing a race course before running it in order to be better prepared at racetime (i.e. to better predict and control differences in terrain and speed), reading-and-sharing better prepares you for future social interactions. I think it lets us escape while strengthening our metamemory of the knowledge that binds our networks.

Is that how you would characterize how you were feeling, @mercerthompson?


Amanda Thompson said...

I think when an article or blog post really strikes me, I automatically want to share it with someone else - someone who likely popped into my mind while reading it. I get this from my mother pre "share this" days who would often cut out newspaper or magazine articles and mail them to people (full disclosure: she still does this).
I could have never come up with the angle that you have, but yes, I'd say this is what I was feeling! Great post.

Bob Carltom said...

love the connect to 3rd spaces idea

my only add'l thought on this is the contrast between thick & thin ties. link sharing can often start with thin ties, but ever so often we can fall into think ties

thanks for the thought provoking insights - and for a link I'll surely share

kate said...

Thanks for the inspiration, Amanda! I miss the days of clippings when I would get random articles from each of my parents and grandmothers-- usually with big circles, arrows, and my initials indicating exactly the part that made them think of me. This type of annotation would be a cool add-on (e.g. highlighting certain parts and adding people's twitter handles as metadata!).

Thanks to you too, Bob-- good to hear from you. Yes- I was wondering if I should further complicate things bringing in network ties and strength of association... Definitely plays a role. A third dimension!