- Series: The MIT Press
- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: The MIT Press (May 23, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0262027011
- ISBN-13: 978-0262027014
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,207,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Social Machine: Designs for Living Online (The MIT Press) Hardcover – May 23, 2014
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A truly engaging and enjoyable read.. it is a work of considerable value and importance. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that is responsible for the development or management of a social media strategy, in any size of organisation. - A P Sutcliffe BCS
"For anyone with interest in this field, either as a technology designer or just as someone who loves beautiful technology, this is destined to become the definitive text. It is eloquent, well organized, and thorough." - Science
Judith Donath's thorough, in-depth look at social media is worthy of detailed, careful reading, but it also wonderfully supports opening at random, then reading and pondering. Want examples? Although interacting with people through technology is not as good as actually being with them, sometimes it can be better. What does it mean to be a stranger in the world of social media? 'The stranger,' she suggests, 'may cease to exist.' What do these observations mean for us as people and as a society? A book worthy of repeated reading, repeated pondering.―Don Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things, revised and expanded edition (Endorsement)
If you use social media and especially if you design social media, The Social Machine is a must-read. Judith Donath has spent years studying, building, and using online communication media and shares what she has learned in a readable, detailed, prescriptive book. The truth of her observations can be verified by looking at the media you use and the way you use it. Every user experience and user interface designer in particular should read The Social Machine to learn what they didn't teach in engineering school.―Howard Rheingold, author of Net Smart (Endorsement)
Delightful, informative, and comprehensive, The Social Machine by Judith Donath provides a sumptuously illustrated overview of important design concepts for the design of mediated sociality. Donath's book will make you look at every social interface anew―wondering what the design process was that produced it and why specific design choices were made. The text informs us but also invites us to engage with the ethics of choices that have been decided and that lie ahead of us. It will make you want to review your own history with social media and mediated interaction, evaluate and critique the current landscape, and imagine future possibilities. As we move into a world exploding with social media and with representations of us in data and in digital form, this is the book to read to understand the history and garner a foundation for thinking about the future.―Elizabeth F. Churchill, Director of Human Computer Interaction, eBay Research Labs, and co-author of Foundations for Designing User-Centered Systems (Endorsement)
The Social Machine provides new insights gathered from decades of research and practice by artists and technologists in visualizing the social landscape. Drawing from her own pioneering work in making networks of human relationships visible at the group, institutional, and Internet scales, Donath succeeds in painting an unusually deep and personal portrait of the continually expanding universe of social media.―John Maeda, Design Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (Endorsement)
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However if you are a practitioner building websites (like me) or a large (pro-/con-)sumer of social media, this books offer nothing but theories, theories and more theories. There is nearly no (new) empirical data. A lot of examples, many of the exiting, but half of them well known and possible worn out if you have read books in the same genre.
The internet allows us to interact with other people in ways that were previously impossible. We can be virtually present with people who are continents away, interact with groups larger than could fit in any room or carry out clandestine conversations in the midst of a public discussion. While these new forms of interaction of possible, they're not always comfortable - we are still learning how to take part in these digital spaces and designers are still learning how to build spaces we understand and navigate.
Judith Donath has been thinking about these problems since she was an undergraduate at MIT's Media Lab in the early 1990s, before the rise of the graphical Web. As a student and then a celebrated professor at the Media Lab, she worked on dozens of systems to visualize online social interactions and make visible subtle, but important, human dynamics like turn-taking in conversations. Her work, and the work of her students, has influenced the design of online community systems for the past two decades.
The Social Machine is both a tour through this work and the work of other designers of social media systems, as well as a set of principles for design of online spaces. Judith urges us to consider the "legibility" on online spaces, the challenges users have in understanding what's possible in these systems and how they should interact with them. This insistence on clarity and simplicity over innovation for innovation's sake characterizes the designs she showcases and serves as a critical principle for all designers of online interactions.
One of Donath's most important points is the need to move "beyond being there". She is critical of online spaces that slavishly recreate the details of physical spaces as a way of signifying how people should behave online - i.e., why create a virtual desk with chairs to signify a meeting room if there's no need to sit in the virtual space? (She's not a big fan of Second Life or other virtual realities that mimic the offline.) Freed from the design cliche of mimicking the physical world, Donath demonstrates that we can make visible other aspects of online communication, offering spaces for conversation and interaction that are richer than are available in physical space.
Concepts like "beyond being there" are the key reason for reading this book - Donath has thought through these ideas in great detail and used her insights to design innovative systems. These ways of approaching design problems will bear fruit for other designers and programmers, and the head start she offers in unpacking these complex problems is a gift for people just starting to ponder the implications of these spaces. The directions these insights can lead in is most visible in Donath's work on portraiture, considering the ways in which we construct portraits of ourselves and others based on data we share and suppress. In an examination that considers both the portrayal of characters in multiplayer online games to the beautiful artistic interventions Donath and collaborators have undertaken, she offers a language and set of concepts likely to be deeply helpful to anyone else exploring the space of profiles and online representation.
The Social Machine is a beautiful object - it is replete with illustrations of the projects Donath is reflection on, her own and those from the broader technical and artistic world. It's deeply satisfying to flip through, looking for provocation and inspiration. It's at least as rewarding for those who dig into the close examination Donath offers of her own work, the work of students, peers and of legendary artists, illustrating a set of concepts helpful for anyone who cares about the future of online spaces.
Donath is a skilled observer and analyst, enabling her to explore what old concepts, such as portraiture, mean in the digital, networked age. In thinking through the transposition of old forms to the new networked medium, she brings us to a deeper understanding of the old, while challenging us to take responsibility for the social effects of our new design decisions.
The book is full of provocative examples, many illustrated with color photographs. For that reason, this is a book that should be held in the hand, not read on a black-and-white Kindle.