Monday, February 11, 2008

1st week's assignment

The different metaphor in Flickr and Wordpress and its influence on user’s perception and use

People put their photos and share them on Flickr. The same thing happens with blogging tool such as Wordpress except that they put and share the articles. The features within Flickr allow the users to upload and share a large number of photo images easily and quickly. Wordpress provides more powerful text editing tool and this feature obviously helps users to upload and share more organized articles. However, the overall features within these two services are basically quite similar. Both services provide the photo uploading feature and text uploading feature, and it is also possible to post a long text on Flickr and a series of photographs on Wordpress. What makes the perception and the use of Flickr and Wordpress different is not the features they provide. What really distinguishes the use of these services is the metaphor they are bearing. Here, metaphor helps highlighting the specific use of the service, but at the same time it hides other potential uses.

The metaphor used in Flickr, which is a kind of a blogging, is that this online service which consists of features for creating and managing data and online storage space is a photo album. The users can get the sense that it is a photo album by noticing the specific labels on the front page such as ‘Upload Photos.” In Flickr, your page(which is another metaphor) is called “Your photos” and the digital photo data are arranged on the page in the way the physical photos are arranged in the physical photo album. The photos also can be categorized into sets, which look like stacks of polaroid photographs. While users can “upload(this term makes the digital data to sound like a physical and tangible thing which can be lifted and loaded to somewhere else)” the photos, users merely can “add a description” even though they can actually put a five-pages-long essay in terms of its function. The label “add” also implies that the textual data would be attached in addition to something more fundamental, the photo. The labels used within Flickr system are specifically crafted and it seems that setting the photo as a dominant content and the text as a minor addition is intentional. This intention is aimed at limiting the potential use and guiding users to focus on specific behavior such as uploading more and only photos. By doing so, the identity of the service which is specialized in image data can be promoted more easily and users also would be able to use the service without being puzzled what to do with it.

In blogging service such as Wordpress, the metaphor is that this online service which consists of features for creating and managing data and online storage space is a personal publishing system. The users see they can “Write a post” although they can technically upload only photos without writing a word. Even when users want to upload only photos, they will notice they have to choose “insert image” feature, which suggests that the image is supposed to be inserted somewhere between other type of more dominant contents, the text. The thing the user is writing and editing, which is supposedly to be an article, will be called “a draft” when it is not ready to set public, and it finally becomes “published” and becomes visible to other users when it is finished. The articles will be “archived” when they exceed a certain number or when a certain amount of time passes. The labels within Wordpress system have to be carefully framed, especially because it does not prevent users from using this service as a photo album. There is no functional restriction in Wordpress when the users want to put only a photo on the article, while Flickr restricts putting only a text on its photo album by not providing the feature. So, in Wordpress’s case, the intention of labeling aims at comparatively weak recommendation on what to do with the service, writing, and this recommendation also slightly forces the users to be more serious about using the service than uploading series of photographs at a time. The labeling of Wordpress is literal and it ties up the metaphor of publishing with the online service. But, at the same time, it is still reasonable to say that Wordpress maintains more balanced use of two main types of contents--text and image--and can get privileged by more versatile use by adopting the metaphor of publication, which also involves more versatile editing tactics and contents these days such as video clips, hyper links, and instant polls.

The similar highlighting and hiding effects happen in where the blog is labeled as a channel and people run the channel with a certain attitude of a broadcasting station, and in largest SNS in Korea) where the blog is visually represented as a personal diary and people post fairly personal and trivial essays. The linguistic and visual cues are efficiently highlighting--or restricting--the perception and use of the services which have seemingly similar features. On the other hand, is not so widely used as Flickr or Wordpress although it has abundant useful features and powerful photo uploading tool as well. The reason might be found in the fact that it emphasizes too many potential uses by providing too many metaphors of similar weight--diary, photo album, recipe book, etc. It suggests the users too many things that they could not get clearly highlighted visions about what the user can do within the system. And finally every potential uses become all hidden.

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