What are the benefits of the Twitters?
Why should I care about social media?
Who cares what I had for breakfast?
These questions slide off the tongues of my colleagues, friends and neighbors when they learn that I teach courses in social media. I usually answer with an explanation of my own perceived benefits, but recently, I had a realization. The misperception exists that I teach people how to use social media.
This isn’t the whole truth.
I study and teach about media and the ways that a user might experience media, in a variety of mediums. Thus, the communication strategies of speeches, newspapers, advertisements and built spaces interest me in the same ways that Twitter, WordPress and Foursquare do. Each medium communicates its messages to us and we process those messages, consuming the pieces that help us make sense of our experiences.
This information design approach makes me a scholar of social media in the same way that I study all media. The question for all media, for me, is: “How does it mean?”
How something means might be answered by answering the questions:
How does a user make sense of his experience?
How does she gather and organize her information in this medium?
How does this medium act on those who experience it?
These are questions of literacy.
Can we read the information in the designs of documents, buildings, speeches and tweets? Can we write information into the designs of documents, buildings, speeches and tweets? How does this information mean?
These are the questions I study.