Ambient intimacy
Term to describe an experience that she was having online.

Ambient intimacy, dates to Feb or March this year, associated with a photo on Flickr of Andy Budd’s bedroom, when you compare this to other stuff online, that’s not so intimate. We can learn so much about people, much more quickly than we ever could before. So now we’ve got Facebook status, Twitter,, Flickr, Dopplr – gives us a huge amount of info about people.

What’s more amazing is that we’re expending almost no energy at all on getting to grips iwth this info, it’s just there to take it all in if we want. These are the kind of things that represent ambient intimacy that are really lightweight powerful ways to communicate: twitter, flickr, facebooks, myspace, lastfm, dopplr, upcoming, skyype status, IM presence, RSS readers, blog posts, comments, Jaiku…

Ambient – atmospheric, part of your environment, non-directed, no specific purpose, distributed. Not one-to-one, not a conversation but also not broadcast. Messages that are going into a sort of defined area and creating this effect. Intimacy, results in some interesting search terms. Wasn’t thinking about that sort of intimacy when coined term.

Japanese mobile phone research looking into teen usage. Discovered stuff about news generation, personal archiving, etc. But also using text messages to create techno-social system to stay in touch even when they couldn’t be in any oother way. similarto the experiences we have now with these social technologies.

Found that teens were using msging to maintain open social channels. Not important messages, just about awareness of location and activity. This research is 10 years or older. But could be talking about Twitter – using Twitter very similar way to way Japanese teens were using texts 10 years ago.

People have been trying to understand this for quite a period of time. Robin Dunbar has worked on this for a white, but focuses on primate behaviour. Dunbar’s number. Also a great book “Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language”.

Dunbar interesting re: Twitter because we talk about the human imperative to communicate and create relationships. He says that the reason that our brains are the size they are is to track all our relationships with other humans, so we can outmanouvre them to get food, sex, climb the pecking order.

Grooming, picking fleas, is about forming these relationships. But you can only pick fleas on one primate at the time. Language allows you to “pick fleas” on more than one person at a time. Allows us to keep track of lots of poeple and who knows what and who and how they fit together and how you fit in with them. Explains a lot about why she has the imperative to connect the way she does. But our troupes have expanded, from primates to modern world.

Twitter or Jaiku, use to pick each others’ fleas en masse. Gives phatic expressiveness to a virtual space. Phat expression is speech where the function is to share feelings and be social, not about ideas or information. Hey, how are you? Internet has lots of places for our smart idea, but what it hasn’t had until recently, is a place for “hey, how are you?”. Flickr, Twitter, really amazing in terms of ways that they can transcend time and space to give us micro-insight into people’s lives on a day to day basis.

David Weinberger “continual partial friendship”.

Johnnie Moor” about exposing more sufface area for others to connect with.

About overcoming geographical dislocation that’s part of our lives. But it’s a love/hate thing. Notcied that hte more specifically that an app supposts just ambient intimacy, the more polarised people are. People really do hate or love it.

Kathy Sierra worries that such things are false interaction, that our brain needs a full interaction experience, including body language, tone of voice, etc. but Twitter only does a bit of that, and that causes stress to your brain.

If we thought that ambient intimacy was the only intimacy we would ever need, then there may be a problem. But it’s really part of a balanced diet.

Also an issue of information overload. According to New Scienties, there was an article that said ‘infomania dents IQ more than marijuana’, IQ was reduced by 10 points. Again, Dave Weinberger, says, it helps that hte volume of stuff is to great that there’s 0 expectation that you can keep up.

But all of these things, this possible false connectiveness, and information overload, leads us to think what do we get out of it? Why do we bother?

Small Tom Coates moment, who cribbed it from Peter Kollack:

Why people take part:

1. anticipated reciprocity
2. reputation
3. sense of efficacy
3. identification with a group

List represents great insentives: getting value back from your network, increasing your reputations which helps you get more opportunities, and having a crowd to run with. Crowd you run with online can be more and more valuable as you add to it.

Robert Wright – two types of game, win/lose game, zero sum game where everyone wins. (Also a third game, Test Cricket.)

As you build up the network, the network grows smarter, so you can draw on that network back when there’s osmething tha tyou need. When I need ideas or contacts or experience, and the first port of call is Twitter or Facebook, for both personal and professional stuff. Less about egotistically saying what I had for brekkie, but building a high-value network. Feeding into the network, in ways that can be valuable – it’s not wasting time.

Designers need to take responsibility for designing apps that take into account the fact that we human beings are highly distractable, and to try and reduce congnitive load involved in keeping track of our social networks, and maintaining aareness.

Ambience kicks in again – your app has to be undemanding, but at the same time it does need to be intrusive enough that they are able to pay attention to it, it can’t just ben an app that is installed and forgotten about. Needs to be more like the old-fashioned village green, so you walk through the village green on way to do something else, but on the way will bum pinto people. So needs to support hte people that you see, that your’e waaving to, but without getitng in the way of what you need to get done.

Key principles need to keep in mind. top six: not rocket science:

1. Keep it lightweight – it’ not supposed to be the centre of attention, small footbrint, keep in mind that copious functionality isn’t necessarily a good things, keep it simple.
2. stay out of the way – invisibility, your app is about facilitating a social network, it’s not aobut you or your company or your app, so more you reduce resistance this message being delivered and recieved, the better your app is. So if you send an email to say there’s a message on yoru social network, so you have to log in to see it, then that’s not a good way of staying out of the way. Desktop app that shows me your stuff, that’s better.
3. open your API – not about controlling the way your communication happens. Twitter and Flickr do this, once they opened their API, the innovation that developed blossomed.
APIs support openness between platforms, your app is not an islenad, you are not going to hold people in your space. Need to recognise that people use different apps in a suite, so how can you integrate with that group rather than siilo ourselves off.
4. portable social networks – Think that people use different apps all the time, and i fyou usre more than two or three you know there is no joy in maintaining lots of lists of friends. This isn’t about locking peole in, you are part of a greater environment, so look for ways to make use of other lists, or make your list more portable.
5. use the periphery – small movements, just be there hovering in the background, grab attention only when you need to.
6. allow for time-shifting – whilst its about being in the moment, we do need to be able to go back and catch up on stuff.

Twitterific, designed to use Twitter’s API, so when someone sends a Twitter, it delivers through a little window that opens. Colour is very background, it’s transparent, it’s not demanding and distracting, and f you you don’t interact with it, it just fades away as if it was never there at all.

Refinement of IM, or Growl messaging, and it’s better because of timing – IM messages often flick on and off too quickly. Twitterific have thought more carefully about how long it needs to be there to be useful.

Pretty much all of these are in action, except portable social networks, is being done by Twitter and Twitterific.

Ambient intimacy is more than a passing phenomenon. Can also

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