Presence in Social Networks

Presence in Social Networks

Scott Wilson (University of Bolton, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-208-4.ch032
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Abstract

This chapter describes the mechanisms of presence in social networks and presents an ontology that frames the purpose, content, methods of production and methods of consuming presence information. The concept of presence in social networks has been steadily evolving along with the Internet. Recognised as an essential feature of all instant messaging services from the IRC onwards, mechanisms for constructing and consuming presence information have become more elaborate, with the addition of more sophisticated mechanisms for producing, consuming and representing presence. A model for systems that offer presence services is developed, and this enables a number of future trends to be identified.
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Abstract

This chapter describes the mechanisms of presence in social networks and presents an ontology that frames the purpose, content, methods of production and methods of consuming presence information. The concept of presence in social networks has been steadily evolving along with the Internet. Recognised as an essential feature of all instant messaging services from the IRC onwards, mechanisms for constructing and consuming presence information have become more elaborate, with the addition of more sophisticated mechanisms for producing, consuming and representing presence. A model for systems that offer presence services is developed, and this enables a number of future trends to be identified.

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The Meaning Of Presence

What is the Message?

There is a possible ‘cultural divide’ in the use of technologies such as instant messaging as being fundamentally either messaging applications or presence applications (Boyd, 2005). For advocates of the presence perspective, presence is not a means for identifying opportunities for communication, presence is the communication; the availability and state of the participants in the network is the message.

For example, while the ostensible purpose of the presence mechanism in a service such as Skype is to indicate availability for communication, the way in which the presence indication is made is also content in its own right; it also provides a communication channel at a different level from that of a full two-way conversation. Services such as Skype, AOL Instant Messenger, and MSN have long offered the “custom away message” or “mood message” to augment the meaning of the standard availability metadata. The “mood message” typically appears alongside the availability graphic as a short piece of text (see Figure 1.)

Figure 1.

Example of Mood Message in Skype

These messages provide a surprisingly rich mechanism for communication, and its therefore not surprising that new forms of “micro blogging” have emerged that extend this property, such as Twitter.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Presence: The discourse, practices and technologies supporting the exposure of the states of presentities such that those states can be perceived by other agents in the network

Passive Cues: The use of listeners and sensors in the physical or virtual environment to produce presence information for a presentity.

Mood Message: A common recurring pattern of presence involving a subtitle or similar used to express the emotional context, activity, or identity of a presentity, produced using explicit cues

Buddy List: A common recurring pattern of presence consuming technology found in instant messaging systems for exposing the presence of multiple presentities known to the user.

Presentity: An identity, e.g. of a person or agent, which produces presence information and about which presence information can be consumed. Presentities contextualize presence information by associating it with an identity

Explicit Cues: A mechanism for the production of presence information about a presentity that involves direct personal intervention, typically typing a short message to be displayed as a subtitle or in a feed, or of selecting a status from a vocabulary of possible states

Microblogging: A form of blogging that involves the production by explicit cues of short activity updates, rather like a mood message, that can be consumed by others as a presence “feed”

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