“When we talk about the “user experience” the main emphasis is often on an individual’s experience with a particular technology. Even with a purported social technology, for example a social networking site, we still tend to create for the individual’s interaction with the site (how does someone find their friend, how do they access this site easily from a mobile device).
However, designing for sociability means thinking about how people experience each other through the technological medium, not just thinking about how they experience the technology. The emphasis is on the human-to-human relationship, not the human-to-technology relationship. This is a crucial difference in design focus. It means designing for an experience between people.
Of course designing for an experience between people doesn’t mean ignoring the interaction with the device, but it calls for taking something else into account. That “something else” is often another person or people. How do we, as developers of communication technologies, make the communications more interesting, more exciting and more stimulating for the receiver? How do we help our users meet the needs of the other people in their social network? How do we create a shared experience that is equally compelling for all participating parties? When we begin to think like this, we truly start to think of designing social software, social applications, social media.
We’re currently exploring such questions in our research on social group relationship maintenance. Ethnographic studies of five social groups around the country, from the southwest coast of California to rural Iowa to the New York City area, are revealing behavioral patterns around shared activities, storytelling, and attention exchange that we can use for applications innovation.”
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