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This started out simply as a post highlighting a slightly charming picture of my mother walking at Alton Towers, with her mother, and sticking her tongue out at the camera (held by my father, I presume). But looking at it in flickr and thinking about the people involved got me into thoughts about tagging and sociability.
Electronically-stored, people-generated, collaboratively-organised metadata enhances sociability – that’s why tagging has been so hot (or cool – which is it? It can’t be both. Can it?) We get to make serendipitous discoveries of a certain class of social object because of this shift in metadata management. Fantastic.
I was speculating tonight that since so much conversation about such objects is in a question and answer form, the certainty provided by attaching metadata could reduce in some way the possibility for social interaction around a well tagged artefact. When, Where, Who, Why are all frequently asked questions.
But looking at this picture, it’s easy to see that while metadata would be useful, a fascinating conversation could still ensue around this photograph, if it had just been, say, plucked from an old biscuit tin when my mother (she’s on the left) was helping her mother (on the right) to sort out some junk “Oh look at us!” “When was that then?” “Oh it’s Alton Towers” “Yes the day your father got a flat tyre and had to change the wheel” “So how old was I then?” “Look at you, sticking your tongue out. Oh you must have been 18 because you weren’t married there” “I don’t know, didn’t we have Lloyd with us that day?” “No it was definitely before he was born – you’d just got engaged, I think” “Oh do you remember that dress?” “Yes, I got it off Mrs Winters who lived up at the Cotteridge, it was too big for her Janet and you said you wouldn’t dream of wearing that colour, but you do seem to be wearing it…” on and on and on – believe me, I’ve been listening to these conversations all my life (though I should point out that I have no idea whether any of this is true or I’ve just made it up).
No matter how much metadata had been captured about this photograph, the conversation would still have happened and still been as rich – another re-inforced bond between mother and daughter. The bit about “When was that then?” becomes superfluous, but there may well be other details that either or both the participants had forgotten… or not.
I dunno, just in case we ever were getting sceptical about the value of tagging…