We are hitting “homestretch” for the nonprofit work, and Jade and I will hopefully have a complete and polished product by sometime next week. The goal for me is to finish up the Facebook and get more photos up on both the FB and the WP site. Good luck to everyone!
I decided to get my theory-fix by reading the assigned article “Integrating Social Media into Existing Work Environments: The Case of Delicious,” by Karl Stolley. This was certainly a challenging article that introduced me to a wide array of technical concepts. However, I think it is very relevant to our projects and the class in general. The article focused on exactly what the title states: getting social media devices to blend in and syngeristically operate in a pre-existing, centralized environment. Isn’t that what the internet is–a pre-existing system of networks and data. In fact, I think it’s beneficial to consider our projects (which incorporate social media devices) as macrocosmic social media devices. That is, we are working to integrate our plans into pre-existing digital environments.
This article uses Delicious as a representative study. Delicious “houses data…[particularly] bookmarks.” Stolley tries to imagine a way that this SMA (social media application) can “subvert and open up a centralized system.” In order to do this, Stolley ultimately claims that digital communicators of all breeds need to be “always mindful of the broader activity that mediating artifacts [like Delicious] are intended to support.” It seems like a good dose of common sense–we aren’t using social media devices as a means to express them in-themselves, but rather to use them “operationally,” or for-something (gotta love the existentialist distinction between in-itself and for-itself…for more see Sarte haha).
Stolley claims that digital users need to grasp the whole horizon of opportunities, which would involve learning code. While I don’t think I’ll be learning code this semester, I think the intellectual orientation is fruitful: what level, or levels, are we “writing” at/for/toward? Might seem like an abstract question, but think about it. When Jade and I are creating the infrastructure of the WordPress site, we are not writing for a direct audience per se, but rather we are writing–or ‘coding’–in order to accomodate activities geared toward a direct audience.
Again, we are working in the seams, trying to make an environment hospitable to “object-oriented activities” of both “individuals and social efforts.” Not only is the website itself being designed for use by general users and the NSCA team, but we are trying to create an artifact (i.e. the WP site) that will integrate into the living environment of NSCA in general. It would be optimal if our creations can simply slip into (or behind) the third level in the Activity Theory.
Activity Theory is compromised of “activities” (which are meaningful, object-oriented movements) expressed through “actions.” The third, and last, level belongs to “operations.” These might include “unconscious,” or purely means-to-an-end acts like typing on the keyboard. Stolley notes how through repetition a meaningful action can eventually become an operation. One might think of physical activities, like throwing a football. When one first starts out, they need to expend a considerable amount of neurological energy to get the desired effect, i.e. the throw. But with repetition (and I mean A LOT of repetition), the throwing motion becomes muscle memory and all that energy can be expended on surveying the field (or thinking about digital media integration). Our goal, in my opinion, is to create a website that includes social media that can fit into the organization’s environment and quickly become muscle memory.
Indeed, as Stolley describes, “mediating artifacts…[can] extend natural human capabilities” and increase the horizon of possible networks and actions, thereby shaping the very perception of the organization. We want to increase the potential of the organization, their reach, their effect, their power, their muscle memory… Sounds dramatic, I know.
But by focusing on “functionality” and “operationalization” we can help the organization’s tools (and the organization itself) “fit in with its broader mediating environment.” We need to think about avoiding “labor-intensive” and choppy features and focus more on “invisible integration” (living and staying within the seams—adding oil and efficiency to the gears).
Alright, I hope this helped and didn’t sound too preachy. But I think this article fits in perfectly with the tenets of New New Media–we operate within a dynamic digital system that can “spin decentralized services using centralized data.” Like the rhizomes (sorry, I can’t resist), the internet is an ever-growing and re-configuring (think the tetrad, too, if you like) entitity that has differeing vectors of force and importance, which are in large part dictated by the users as both designers and participators. We need to think what we want to affect, and then create the conditions for the possibility.