Monthly Archives: June 2008

So square

So, I’ve got a job.

This Monday, I officially started working at SocialSquare, Denmark’s premier advisers, builders and communicators of all things related to social media. I stress “Officially” since I’ve already spent a month here on a sort of trial-internship to get to know the people, the projects and the processes. In that time, I even helped write the brand-spanking new company website, so you can learn more about what we do, too.

Along with the new website, the company has officially changed its company language from Danish to English, in a brave attempt to signal openness towards a global market. Since the company works to promote the effects of social media and social network services in our daily lives and help organizations embrace that change, they’ve chosen a name that is intended to reflect that mindset.

Now, if you look up ‘Square’ in Wikipedia, you’ll find it to be a very ambiguous name. But you can rest assured that the Square in SocialSquare isn’t referring to any sort of mathematics or the notion of being unhip. Rather, it refers to the Square as a place – such as the Town Square or the Market Square. The central idea is, that the Internet has made it possible for people to reinvent the Town Square of yore, but since that square is no longer related to a specific place, it exists solely through the sociality of the people interacting within an on-line community built from shared practice, interest, or relation. Thus, Social Square.

Well, at least that’s my interpretation. You’ll note the new, hip way of drawing the two words together, which may obfuscate this somewhat, but I feel that my interpretation gets substantial support from the company… well, it’s not so much a logo as it is a map… of a town square (PDF).

So, apart from documenting internal processes and fussing about the company name, what does my job at SocialSquare actually entail?

I’ve been hired to work as an “Ethnographic Researcher” – that means using qualitative methods to gather information – both within organizations and among their external stakeholders and the prospective users of the services they would like to build – analyzing that data, and presenting these analyses in such a way that they can help the companies make informed decisions as to their social media strategy, or inform an ongoing design process where we help organizations build the necessary platforms for interaction, which they may need.

Basically, the job is a totally sweet spot between design anthropology and the anthropology of social media and on-line communities. At least, that’s my hope and expectation. So far, I’ve been involved with two big projects. One of these I can talk about, which is a project we’re doing for the biggest interest Danish organisation for elderly people, ?ldre Sagen. We’re in the initial phase of figuring out how social media can help bring the family closer together in support of weak or ill members of the family.

You can follow our efforts on the new project blog, which opened recently (Danish only, unfortunately). I’ll be blogging there as the project progresses, sharing some of the ideas and findings that we come upon. On top of that, I’ll be blogging at the SocialSquare blog from time to time.

That means that in way I’ll be paid to blog! Just not here, unfortunately. So updates may remain sporadic for some time. Especially in the coming weeks, as I have a lot of interviews lined up. It’ll be a very busy start, which seems to confirm that there is lots to do in this field.

On technological progress

I bought a new phone recently.

Buying a new phone is a big thing for me, since I’ve been holding on to my old phone for ages, and it has served me well. But the reason behind this sudden purchase was not that my old phone had stopped working, but rather that I finally decided that I needed a new camera.

My digital camera is very old digital camera, which I inherited from my father when he bought a new camera in 2004. This is the camera which I brought with me to Manchester, and on all of my field trips since then, and it has served me well. But for the past 2 years I haven’t really taken any photos at all due to its immense clunkiness.

I remember reading in a PC magazine back in the mid-1990s that any piece of computer software or hardware more than 5 years old is to be considered an antique. So in their wording, my camera is most certainly a modern antique.

So I began looking at cameras and thought I’d give these new camera phones a look-over as well. And it was at that point that I realized the extent of technological progress (as one might be tempted to call it) in the field of gadgets in the past few years, which I’ve sought to illustrate below with a picture of my collection of assorted electronic gadgetry:


  • Pictured at the right is my old phone, a Nokia 3510i from 2002. At the time hyped for its colour screen.
  • Pictured at the centre is my old portable music player, a Iaudio U3 from 2005, with 1 gigabyte of memory. Its display has been broken in an unfortunate incident rendering menu navigation very random.
  • Pictured at the bottom is my old digital camera, the sturdy but inefficient Olympus c-700 with its 2.1 megapixels camera, and 32 megabytes of memory in a neat package the size of a fist.
  • Pictured at the top is my new phone, a Nokia N73 from 2006. It has a high definition colour screen, 2 gigabytes of memory, built-in music player and a 3.2 megapixel camera.
  • Now, this may not be news to a lot tech-savvy people, but it is a very new feeling to me to have such a multi-functional tool in my pocket. But despite all of its qualities, I cannot help but wonder whether it will prove to be as durable as the three gadgets that it retires…

    Teaching it

    A long time ago, I wrote a post about anthropologist Michael Wesch‘s concept of anti-teaching. Since then, he has been refining it even further while teaching huge “Introduction to Cultural Anthropology” classes at Kansas State University. And now he’s written a very worthwhile article [.pdf] explaining the concrete teaching concepts that he has developed.

    Wesch is also doing some very interesting work in exploring new ways to integrate social media in teaching:

    I was inspired to use Facebook for teaching by something I saw while visiting George Mason University. Like many universities, they were concerned that the library stacks were rarely being accessed by students. Instead of trying to bring students to the stacks, they brought the stacks to the students, placing a small library right in the middle of the food court where students hang out. We can do the same with popular social networking tools like Facebook. Facebook is not only great for expressing your identity, sharing with friends, and planning parties, it also has all the tools necessary to create an online learning community. Students are already frequently visiting Facebook, so we can bring our class discussions to them in a place where they have already invested significant effort in building up their identity, rather than asking them to login to Blackboard or some other course management system where they feel ??faceless? and out of place.