Danah Boyd on glocalization

September 20, 2006 at 8:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Danah Boyd gave a great talk on glocalization (she does point out how ghastly that word is) at a March, 2006 O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference.  She discusses how local culture and globalization collide in the area of social software design.  The social software examples she looks at (MySpace, Flickr, and craigslist) all have “embedded observation” from the designers of the systems.  These organic communities with embedded observers can be quirky, individual, and “real”; they can also be exhausting and frustrating for the embedded observers/creators, especially as the communities grow.

“Embedded observation takes into account the cultural forces that can not be systematically tested or modeled. As a result, the designers are aware of social problems when they materialize and can work immediately to try to influence change. Their efforts at understanding culture and evolving the design alongside it create a meaningful bond between the users and the designers.”

Community growth leads to culture clashes as a greater variety of people enter the community and form sub-communities.  “Language barriers make it hard for people to communicate. Cultural barriers make it hard for them to understand each other. Social barriers make them not care. Just because people _can_ connect globally does not mean they want to.”

I also like her statement: “Don’t design for perfection – design for reinterpretation. No matter how perfect you see your design, it will be modified, altered or manipulated in use. If you design for perfection, you will be disappointed in what people do. Design conscientiously but plan to react immediately after something goes out. Make sure you’re able to make changes on the live server quickly and in response to what people are doing. You may have thought something that you threw out there was culturally sound, but it might not be – be prepared to change it.”  I wonder if that could apply not just to social software/communities, but also to more formal spaces such as a digital library?

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