Friday, 1 August 2014

Information Retention in the Social Media Age

It's again reached Blaugust, so I'm going to post on this thingamajig again. This will serve as fine an introduction as any. Let's talk about something!

A couple of months ago Tigre made a request on Dustloop (the main forum for discussing Arc System Works' fighting games) that boards for Arcana Heart 3 LOVE MAX!!!!! (then recently released) and Under Night In-Birth (then a couple of months away from release) be added. Even though there were already communities for Examu's games at and French Bread by way of, both sites were near extinction and he wanted potential new players to just jump in the threads on the site they were already likely frequenting. Some discussion happened back and forth, and it made me think about what place forums have in the modern internet landscape at all.

If you want information on a fighting game, this is basically the flow of things at the moment:
1. Hop on your local fighting game group, or a dedicated game group on Facebook and ask a question
2. If you have no luck there, throw it out into the aether that is Twitter
3. Someone links you to a wiki or a Youtube video.
4. It leads to another question and the process begins again.

In other words, it's assumed that everything has a wiki or a Youtube playlist to get you the info you want to know. How then is that Wiki created in the first place? Who compiles the knowledge to record into a video?

This is something that forums can still do excellently. Clearly labelled threads and robust archival systems mean that if you set up a layout right, there is a permanent record of a discussion that led to the final product. I can hop on, say, an Advance Wars forum and dig up some joke I made about a Phoenix Wright fan from 8 years ago with little trouble. There's permanency to the information.

Hop on your Facebook or your Twitter or your Tumblr or what have you. Try digging up a post from yesterday. Now try one from last week. Now try to dig up that time Peter Lay said "community is a hard word to define". It's frickin hard. Modern social media is a further extension of the notion that the internet moves forwards at a rapid pace. It's about delivering information to you quickly, and as much as your feed will support at once. This is great for resolving immediate needs, but leads to little room for the past. Since it's so immediate, this approach to information is steadily choking out the older, more archived ways of communicating and recording.

Is there still a place for the old forum, with all its potential for cliques and poor moderation? I think so. After all, the Arcana Heart and UNIB boards have been made. Amusingly the Arcana Heart board is mostly just the few active users from Homing Cancel in a more visible location. The UNIB board on the other hand is a flourishing den of the usual entertaining foolishness that a game pulling in new players leads to.

I think there's lots of potential for research around these ideas. We could see how older internet users respond to trying to find old information versus younger. Whether people want to find older information. What's being done with all this information that's still stored far away and what would happen to social media's fancypants personalised algorithms if we actually started deleting things automatically.

That'll do for a first post. Tune in tomorrow when I talk about big grouchy anime guys with metal claw hands throwing unreal BLACK THINGS.

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