Participation in the digital public space

19th Dec 2012

Designing inclusive interfaces and social rituals in the hybrid public realm

In participating or choosing not to participate in something we recognise that there is a society and a culture, a structure and hierarchy of relationship that we opt into, or opt out of.

Within my application for CX, I said that we needed to develop ways of participating that were as " instinctive and universal as coffee and cake with a friend ", but actually, this is not instinctive at all.

My interest is in this interface, not purely the interface between people and ‘the digital’, not just the extension and hyper-development of aspects of our senses and bodies and how they impinge and affect our collective development, but more broadly, how the ability of everybody to participate in the digital public space changes society, humanity, relationships and the function and configuration of wider public and private realms.

Look at the scene in the image, it is incredibly complex, aspects can be simplified and articulated in the style of a 1950s guide to etiquette; instructing you on how to hold the cup, the protocol on who should take a bite of cake first, do you talk with your mouth full? 

This is instinctive, to the initiated! but the composite overlay of social clues, positioning, relationship, etiquette and ritual is a complex social epistemology, passed down generationally and through direct experience.

I’m interested in our new etiquette, in how our expectations of humanity and the human experience is shaped by the cultural objects, tools and platforms enabled and propogated. How using digital public space and digital social interfaces affects our tacit rituals and unconscious interpretation of value and meaning.

The evolution and social change of ‘the internet’ is often compared to the first information revolution, which was Guttenburg. But if we look at the time that elapsed between the availability of the tools of mass production and dissemination of printed media and participants in society adapting and building new social rituals around these new forms of knowledge exchange, many decades elapse from 1746 until those rituals are embedded and our human structures adapt.

Tools and there dissemination are evolutionary not revolutionary, there are moments of transformation but then there are long periods of incremental usage and space for revolutionary advance to become part of our everyday reality.

Within this context, we need to consider the etiquette and rituals we are building around this space. We need to create transparent systems where participants can watch and see the social clues associated with these contexts, we need to consider how we transfer and exchange knowledge within this space and the digital humanities and we need to reflect on the ritual and on our implicit and explicit experience of participating within the digital public space.