Games, Time, and Surface Tension
Just for now, I am going to define a game as a system of interaction with feedback in a positive or negative way that increases over time. Wikipedia is a game. One submits an article and there is negative or positive feedback. The more articles one contributes to, the more that user levels up. There are higher levels that others, such as administrator. More of the code gets known as one levels up. Users who view pages are also playing a game.
Like exploring a cave with hidden coins and rewards, the user puzzles their way through a maze of data, finding more interesting spaces and transitioning through ones that are less interesting to them like corridors. Pages that are looked at with less interesting are the hallways, and the rooms are sometimes played in for a long time.
Facebook is a game because it has +1 friend.There are leveling up system there. The whole point of the game is to build your avatar slowly until it gets larger and more fine-tuned Twitter has a follower system, which makes it possible to become a twitter celebrity. Each follower is like a level up. Each reply to a comment adds to the value of the character. Characters come in different types. Here are forces of evil, such as spam, that one can successfully or unsuccessfully avoid. But because it is an empty system, meaning is defined granularly. Complex meaning forms after micro-creative steps.
What you place online becomes external clothing. Facebook is that uniform where we interact and integrate. On Twitter one is defined by text. Each participant has a chance to interact without 'um's', greetings, and goodbyes. Each edit and profile that is made online creates a copy of the self at that point in time. Taken together, these identities form layers, each building on the last, forming a geological history of presence.
When we read we're thinking more. People can't talk over one another when they communicate in text. Multiple parties can talk at the same time and all be heard by multiple other parties. Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out that one of the differences between American and European conversation was that the Americans were always "waiting for another to breathe so they could get more words in".
Time is a choice. It always has been. It becomes even more important on the Internet. Time can be divided, punctuated, compressed, collapsed, stretched and annihilated. Time can be reconstructed or deconstructed, commoditized or nostalgized, fetishized or depreciated. Time is wasted, time is spent, time is used. Time is money.
Traditionally, one cannot help but stop reading for a brief moment when faced with an explanation point. Socially relevant information works in the same way. It is the punctuation telling a visitor when to stop. The viewer will not stop if the information is not relevant.
Everything has this surface tension and gravity. The minute one logs into Facebook, previous intentions can be rewritten and replaced by a fragmentation of potential action and pulls towards certain types of data. If one slips over a piece of potential data in the search for the appropriate button to click, one cannot help but be redirected.
Facebook's algorithm serves social information that causes extreme stops .The whole thing acts like an enormously addictive run-on sentence, or an endless narrative full of character's in one's own life. Facebook allows one to read their life story, or to expand parts of it. Part of that is very addicting. The most successful digital architectures are those with the most socially relevant information. Facebook's algorithm serves up the most relevant social information.
Interaction takes time. Interaction becomes addicting. Social time becomes addicting. Socially addicting time becomes available only within certain spaces. Thus, time becomes another structure that must be maintained over time.