I’ve had a few discussions on this subject with @tyckr since it’s the thesis for his research at KTH.
I also keep an eye on the work of Jyri Engeström (the founder of Jaiku and Ditto) since most of what he does is specifically based on these premises.
(maybe it’s something Jyri have gotten passed down from his father who wrote a book on activity theory. ”Activity theory takes the object-oriented, artifact-mediated collective activity system as its unit of analysis”)
So what are social objects?
It is the object (the core) that engages us in conversation end encourages sharing.
Any social setting (in real life) is usually full of social objects, but few are ones that a large number of people have as a common interest. But those common interests are what builds communities.
Here are some interesting posts on the subject if you want to dig deeper:
Jyri breaks it down to five key principles to keep in mind when building sites around social objects:
- Define your object. (photographs, videos, stuff you’re selling, things of common interest etc.)
- Define your verbs. (call to action)
- Make the objects sharable.
- Turn invitations into gifts.
- Charge the publishers, not the spectators.
Then it’s (as always) an issue of making it easy to use (UX-design), intuitive, and last but not least, find an emotional purpose for the intended users.
Btw, still loving Ditto, it enables discussions about places, and they don’t always have intrinsic context about what we do. What am I doing in Årsta Havsbad/Haninge (Årsta Havsbad = seaside resort in Sweden)? I could probably swim in the sea, but I could also work (like now). No, you would probably not check in multiple times in the same place to do different things on 4sq/Forecast. In Ditto you can. There is although some features Ditto can take inspiration from Forecast.
The rhetorical question above illustrates that when people are in Årsta Havsbad, 4sq/Forecast have scarce opportunities to present what they will do. The same applies to a workplace, take for example IKEA. If you check in there, you might as well work and shop there. You can of course write about it in the description, but Ditto has potential to collect the metadata that describes what you do around the locations, thus providing users with possibilities to gather around common interests.
It is deterministic to believe that locations shape people, it’s the people that shape places.
@jyri later replied to this post:
There’s a lot in this post! The location coupled with an activity is a rich source of information about the place already. The unstructured conversation around the activity can provide more hints about the location too, although the place itself is rarely the primary focus of the conversation. We opted for the stars rather than the tips, and question-reply form rather than Google Places app / Yelp / Trumpet / Foursquare type place-browsing. We need to tweak Ditto to make it more q&a to make that work.