In Chapter 18: The Social Map, Hinton looks to humanize the digital landscape as much as possible by comparing it with social interactions people are more familiar with. In these comparisons Hinton highlights the differences medium can have, such as the value of his shared information on Facebook.  "My Facebook identity is another version of me online; and around the time of the Beacon experiment, I realized my Facebook identity was being recognized on other sites, far beyond Facebook ” [1]. The implications of Social areas like this using data mining have effects on the digital social architecture. Hilton explains that these digital interactions humans have should be treated with as much thought and respect actual human interaction. 

Conversation Edit

Hinton uses the example of a crowded diner to communicate how pervasive and diverse conversation is. Humans communicate with just about everything and have built some pretty specific rules about how they should do that. The very nature of these rules however are quickly changing as digital landscapes give communication a speed that is unprecedented, the need to learn and utilize these rules is paramount.  

Social Architectures Edit

Hinton looks to twitter to describe the way that conversation is becoming increasingly structured to its format. Twitters length was invented by its origin as a text message program, and the common “DM Fail”, in which a direct private message is posted for all to see, comes from the muscle memory of treating it as a more familiar conversational app. By satisfying in the moment, that is appealing to the message and not the platform on which it is delivered, issues arise because, as Clay Shirky explains perfectly “they lack the social environmental feedback mechanisms available to us in non digital conversation” [2]. Other issues arise when one attempts to be simultaneously present in the different architectures of the various digital spaces they occupy, their Facebook humor and LinkedIn professional mannerisms could collide. These separate spaces constantly change the nature of conversation.  

“Proxemics” as a Structural Model Edit

Hinton describes proxemics as a system of understanding how to better organize and facilitate human environments based off proximity studies through the words of the cultural anthropologist Edward T . Hall. These levels of interaction are important to consider when constructing a digital environment, as one does not want to approach an intimate level of interaction too soon. Intimate allows whispering, embracing, personal face-to-face and high-touch conversations with close friends and family. Social Interactions are with acquaintances or friends-of-friends, such as a handshake, and carried out with the ability to hear one another clearly at a conversational volume. Public performing or speaking in public requires a louder voice and larger gestures. The social architecture of some sights allows one to manipulate feeds based on their perceived proxemics with other users, although this can lead the balance between efficiency and chaos to become unstable, say to the point of editing out information one needs to know for future context.  High-context cultures rely on their environment and knowledge of user to communicate with more of a insiders perspective. Low-context cultures need much more explicit communication; they cannot rely on the environment to help the user understand.  

Identity Edit

The internet allows the user to explore different facets of their personality based on the social architecture of whichever site they visit. One’s identity online is limited to the information displayed or how the site determines the role the user plays.  With a site such as LinkedIn one would act more professionally. While it used to be easy to escape into the internet, now with the frequency of screens and demand for connectivity it can be social suicide to not have and iPhone or keep up appearances on Facebook. These identities become tools for marketing companies to connect data about individuals cross platform, and have become oppressive in terms of necessity.  

Collisions and Fronts Edit

Fronts, as Hinton describes citing Erving Goffman, are social expression humans use to communicate appropriately and controls other’s perceptions. Backstage equals relaxed, Front stage is more outgoing, and Core is internal. These three states are fronts or ‘personas’ that evolved naturally in humans.  fronts must align with their environment.  This way the issues that arise will make more sense and have the correct scenario to contrast against.  Issues arise when platforms like Facebook attempt to categorize one person singularly, the multiple fronts all go to the same place and create collisions.   

The Ontology of Self Edit

Issues arise when social platforms fail to adequately provide the depth necessary to explain the complexities of one’s social status. By limiting the choices discrepancies can birth real issues as increased pressure is put on these online personas. These limited choices however are exactly what data mining companies want, the groups people identify being in. More transparency and regulation on how platforms like Facebook use information is necessary for a stable future of social platform users, as well as an expansion of how users can define themselves.  

As important as digital environments are becoming, there is an increasing need to make sure they take the public’s rights into account Hinton looks to Boyd’s “Properties of Networked Publics” to highlight the uniqueness of such spaces.  

  • Persistence: Online expressions are automatically recorded and archived.  
  • Replicability: Content made out of bits can be duplicated.  
  • Scalability: The potential visibility of content in networked publics is great.  
  • Searchability: Content in networked publics can be accessed through search.  


These reasons lead to the necessity of appropriate social construction and awareness on social platforms.  

Analysis Edit

While technology has created some fascinating digital social environments, it is important to remember the differences they have with real world social interactions and the new challenges it creates in communication. "DM Fails" are only the tip of the iceberg when people consider how much personal damage can be caused by the errors in these digital social places.  

Digital environments already create places with extreme potential emotional impact because humans invest large amounts of real world time in them. Social landscapes are huge networks built for large amounts of casual traffic, so it is fundamentally important that they possess architecture that is aware of the psychology of real world interactions. What may be common knowledge for a programmer on the deep web is not any use for someone who only uses the internet for Facebook. This awareness of the public is essential, as exemplified by the recent film "Steve Jobs" (2015). "I killed the Newton because it had a stylus. It keeps you from using the other 4 on your hand" [4]. The engineered solution is not always the social solution, which is exactly why Hilton looks to Erving Goffman and other social scientists in this chapter. The digital is quickly becoming the real the rules are already set, all that need to be done is a thorough translation.  


  1. Hinton, Andrew, and Peter Morville. Understanding Context: Environment, Language, and Information Architecture. Sebastopol: O'Reilly, 2014. Print. Page 321
  2. Hinton, Andrew, and Peter Morville. Understanding Context: Environment, Language, and Information Architecture. Sebastopol: O'Reilly, 2014. Print. Page 311
  3. Hinton, Andrew, and Peter Morville. Understanding Context: Environment, Language, and Information Architecture. Sebastopol: O'Reilly, 2014. Print. Page 335