Space for People: Suggested Fields
This is an archive of the background to the Govcom.org project, held at the Netherlands Media Art Institute, Montevideo/Time-based Arts, January 2008. The project, Space for People: Suggested Fields, resulted in Elfriendo, the MySpace related service.
Do you fill in the defaults only? What does your form-filling say about you, or what it could be made to tell, if measured in great detail? Database philosophers were once deeply concerned about how field character limits – the number of letters that would fit on each line in the electronic form – would impoverish the self, just like bureaucracy turned people into numbers. People could not describe themselves in such short, mandatory lines. Now there are suggested fields, longer character limits, and free text spaces, with prospects for a more expansive self! The database has more memory. ‘Other,’ that last heading available on the form, standing for anomaly, has become ‘add category,’ helpfully offering a moment of self-definition. The database is warmer, reaching out, asking for more of you.
MySpace, the world's largest online social networking platform, has spawned new professions. For example, Michael Goldstein of Beverly Hills, California, is a MySpace page make-over artist. He redesigns your page to build you an audience. Ashley Qualls is a 17-year-old MySpace page layout designer. According to Fast Company magazine, her templates earn her USD 70,000 per month. Sheffield Quigley, over at black20.com, advertises himself as the world's first and only professional MySpace photographer. MySpace-related services, however, mainly concentrate on the look.
As social software researchers have pointed out, making an impression has more to do with the friends you keep than with the look of your page. At Hyves.nl, the Dutch social networking site, recently active friends appear directly next to you, whilst those who have not logged in recently are a series of clicks away. Thus, in terms of the impact of your page to the visitor, it's the active friends that make the impression. Recently active friends of friends constitute your 'circle of friends' (or your social network), at least for the visitor to your page, who typically browses you by looking over your friends. The impression you make will be based on your choice and maintenance of freshly logged-in friends.
New MySpace related services could have a sensitivity to friends' online activity, and how that activity influences the impression made by your page. When embarking on a friendship drive, to win new friends, which people should you contact? For the purposes of impression management, new MySpace related services should, in the least, suggest recently active individuals.
Internet researchers have pointed out that your extended network -- your friends -- serve as important sources of information about you in another sense, too. A visitor to your page looks over your friends in order to validate the information you have provided in your profile. Your profile, in a sense, is authenticated by your friends' profiles. Friend recommendation, a new MySpace related friendship drive service, should seek active individuals, whose profiles would validate you.
When you receive a MySpace account, you have one friend by default, Tom. Tom has a generic American look, with a white t-shirt and most probably blue jeans. In the unauthorized history of MySpace, a two-part YouTube video, one MySpace user after another is interviewed, and asked, who is the founder of MySpace? All answer Tom, the user's first friend. What stands out for MySpace ethnographers, looking for what may be called demographic aesthetics, is Tom's age: 32. Michael Goldstein, the MySpace page make-over artist is also 32. Anil Dash, the Vice President of Six Apart and holder of some 25 social software profiles, is 32. Perhaps it was Tom who has started a desired male age aesthetic. Thirty-two years of age appears to be an ideal, top limit for men in MySpace, which, if true, changes the standard, roomy age group used in marketing from 18-35, to 18-32. However, looking at 32-year-old men's female friends, one is struck by another age-ism. The minimum age for a woman in the 32-year-old male space appears to be 23, creating a 23-32 year-old set of users. These are ethnographic observations that inform how a MySpace user makes an impression based on the interplay of his or her age, and the age of their friends.
"Thanks for the Add"
Pictures load one by one on screen, and a de-selecting option allows you to choose the friends in your drive, that you feel would validate you. A single click sends the special friending message. You would like to be added as a friend. Automated "thanks for the add" messages are sent to your new friends. Since the friends are active, interesting and selected or de-selected by you, they will gradually populate your circle.
The Project: Elfriendo.com
Taking the work out of social networking
Elfriendo is a new MySpace related service, founded on 30 January 2008, on the occasion of the International Delete Your MySpace Account Day, as a remedy.
These days one hardly has time to fill in one set of fields before another update request comes in. Elfriendo reduces the number of form-filling steps to a bare minimum, without sacrificing quality or depth. People used to neglect their profiles, leaving them stale and deficient. We offer fresh sets of interests and an active look for your profile.
Our business is profilization - professionalizing, optimizing and automating your profile on MySpace, the world's largest social networking site. Elfriendo is a service that keeps your profile active fresh.
√ You can have a profile generated for you on the basis of just a few interests.
√ You can create a profile on the basis of another profile, and that person's group of friends.
√ You can tweak your profile by comparing it to another profile's network, raising or lowering your compatibility.
Elfriendo is a Web 2.0 compliant European start-up company, based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Yes! Take me there FAQ
What is elfriendo?
elfriendo is a MySpace related service. It's designed for people who have no time to fill in a profile, or would like to save time blending in with other fans of a certain interest. You can use elfriendo to measure compatibility of profiles and interests, to make a profile based on your interests, or to have a profile makeover when you feel your profile is no longer properly representing you. The outcomes are suggested fields, ready for you to tweak and customize. more FAQ
Fill Me In
Generate a New Profile - Fill Me In
It's called MySpace, not EmptySpace. Since no one is waiting around for another blank profile, and you don't have the hours it takes to list your DVD collection, we'll do it for you. All you have to do is enter up to three interests, or the URL for someone else's page. FillMeIn does the rest, creating a profile you can be proud of.
Sarah, 23 years old, Junior Public Relations Associate
"MySpace was getting boring! Everyone in my friends list is from school or college, and I was having a hard time meeting new people. Even worse, my friends were no longer checking out my profile page. I'm not much of a photographer, and I don't keep a blog either.
"When I heard about Elfriendo, I thought, definitely! I went for a profile makeover, and now I look so good, better than I expected. I've met some new friends with my new taste in music, which used to be emo : -) But best of all, my old friends were really intrigued by my new interests. They had no idea I was a big fan of Kung Fu cinema, and now I keep getting reactions about it. So... thanks!!"
Compare two interests or display names and check their compatibility on the basis of their friends.
Fit Me In
Get a profile makeover and blend in. Enter your MySpace display name and one or more interests and let elfriendo suggest fresh fields.
Like Elfriendo, Last.fm also has a compatibility check.
SPACE FOR PEOPLE: SUGGESTED FIELDS - The Reader
Part I: Approaches
Mundane Interactions: Ethnomethodology & Symbolic Interactionism
Christian Heath and Paul Luff, “Collaboration and Control. Crisis Management and Multimedia Technology in London Underground Line Control Rooms,” Computer Supported Cooperative Work
, 1, 1992, 69-94.
Christian Heath, Jon Hindmarsh and Paul Luff, “Interaction in Isolation: The Dislocated World of the London Underground Train Driver,” Sociology
, 33, 3, 1999, 555–575.
Other Approaches to the Study of Technology Experiences
John McCarthy and Peter Wright, Technology as Experience
, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004, 1-22.
Part II: Objects of Study
Profiles as Identities
Danah Boyd and N.B. Ellison (2007),“Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship,” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
, 13, 1, article 11.
Liu, H. (2007), “Social network profiles as taste performances,” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
, 13, 1, article 13.
Minutiae of Preferences, Settings and Alerts
Ross Rudesch Harley (2007), “Terminal Immersion,” Visual Communication
Louise Story (2007), “The Evolution of Facebook’s Beacon,” New York Times
, 29 November.