Our first observation at this hangout was that we were using a social medium! Also, that the pluralization of "medium"/"media" was getting iffy with language change and we were liable not to be utterly strict in its usage. We spent a bit of time talking about how to define a social medium. Parameters can differ, and our modern technological definition of social media is not the only usable one.
We listed a few modern technological social media, like Facebook, Google+, Twitter... Morgan also suggested Livejournal. We asked ourselves if blogs could be considered social media. They do allow for comment and response, but are not as active as the ones that constituted our core group.
Social media allow for instantaneous communication over distances, but also allow for an audience that is far larger than a single person. I characterized Twitter as being like "a cocktail party the size of the entire world."
Social media in our modern sense generally allow for both mass and individual communication.
Historically, what were the roots of social media? We talk about letter-writing, which could be a very swift method in the era when a community had both morning and afternoon post. However, the post has changed drastically since that time depending on location.
What kind of message you send depends on the properties of the medium. And that generally means language.
Morgan mentioned how social media provide a mask for people, which leads to both good and bad outcomes as masking can.
What gets communicated over social media will depend on the speed and the size of the message. The Storify service grew out of Twitter restrictions.
Twitter's length restrictions also influence speech and written language. The acronyms and abbreviated spellings are a natural response to a 140 character limit. Also, any service which provides a thumbnail image of the sender (and most do) is likely to promote subject-dropping in English, which normally requires sentences to have subjects.
We often see types of code coming out of social media. Hashtags are an example of a very effective type of code that has a special function.
We also talked about tweeted novel queries, and how horrid it would try to be to get a novel description down to 140 characters. The elevator pitch is bad enough! Query letters are also challenging because of their length requirements relative to the totality of a book.
Che brought up the important point of how social media change what we make public. What is "public"? Are your Facebook friends all "friends"? This kind of language use actually leads to a change in the meanings of words. Privacy is a huge issue. Social media act like a sort of public lottery, where you can't necessarily tell what is going to pop out and become known by all. What goes viral? Some people think they know, but you can't always tell. Another privacy question comes up with parents who share information about their children on social media. They might accidentally contribute to doxxing of their children.
Companies who host online support groups or chat groups can decide suddenly to make ostensibly private information public.
The historical root of social media argumentation would appear to be serial editorializing arguments in newspapers.
It's also important to keep in mind the pitfalls of a written medium that preserves people's contributions. As it is often said, "the internet is forever."
Accessibility is a potentially big problem with social media. It's easy to assume that everyone has access to it, but in fact both distance and finances can contribute to a lack of accessibility. The "room" doesn't contain everyone, and we shouldn't assume that it does.
We talked a bit about the language difference between Facebook and Twitter, and why I personally find Twitter interaction so exhausting. It has a lot to do with conducting multiple conversations at once.
In cyberpunk, the online realm or the computer realm are often portrayed as worlds with their own internal landscape. Che said she wants to see science fictional captains tweeting things like "OMG planet!" In fiction, people often send messages instantly. There are also cases of hive minds, or unified minds like the ship minds in Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice. We don't often see people in science fiction sending cat videos, however!
It's important to remember that not all of our linguistic interaction is message-sending. A lot of it is affective politeness speech that helps to maintain relationships, and cat videos etc. on social media are a lot like the affective politeness of that medium.
Finally, reach and involvement are key factors. Part of the reason it's hard for new social media to succeed is that they have to have an overwhelmingly strong reason why people will want to use them. One of the major properties that gives success to a social medium is the sheer number of people able to participate in it.
As is true with many of our discussions, I felt like we barely scratched the surface with this one. Again, this week's hangout will occur on Thursday, March 24 and we will be speaking with author Fábio Fernandes. I hope you can join us!