Translucent Twitter

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I was reminded this morning of a paper from EPIC 2008 – the conference theme was visibility – on twitter and jaiku use, largely amongst self-employed consultant types. The paper is titled The Translucence of Twitter  by Ingrid Erickson who's at The Center for Work, Technology & Organization, Stanford University

The trigger was a conversation with a soon-to-join-us intern about some potential intervention-based research looking at awareness, presence and social-proprioception amongst older people through the use of some yet to be defined technologies. 

I like the notion of translucence which is approached as a potential design principle for "efficacious socio-technical systems, both formal and informal" (Erickson, et al. 2002). Such social translucence is described as:

"A combination of visibility,awareness, and accountability, socially translucent designs are meant to act like the window in a door—revealing clues to what might be ahead, but without full detail."

The paper draws on socio-technical explorations of organisational systems, classic CSCW terrain. Our interests are unlikely to stray in that direction. Nearly every technology company or interaction designer who has ever got into thinking about technology for independent living has considered, or even built, some form of 'presence lamp' which signals to dyad or triads of people their arrival home etc. So it's perhaps time that this work catches up with developments in the media-sphere, particularly in terms of technologies and tools like Twitter.There is something important about presence but I suspect the research agenda needs refreshing. 

And, as I have argued elsewhere recently, there are some basic, factual gaps in our knowledge of what older people are doing with such technologies. What use are older people making of twitter? What figures are available if any? And, does anyone know of studies, anywhere, that are exploring usage of such technologies amongst older people?