I feel pretty guilty for still being meh on Google+. I was super psyched when I got my invite, but have since found myself unable to figure out what to do with it. The thing is, I’m still trying to figure out its purpose for a lot of different people (especially myself). Its release framed it as sharing done right—making sharing easier, and making the way we share more specific and purposive. I’ve always been interested in how people are circulating (political) information in a digital environment (and in the very fact that they are told to share info, and what that means for how information flows through a public), so this is really interesting to me. In promoting the concept of sharing to such a degree, G+ seems to be saying that proper online engagement fundamentally involves this process of sharing and passing along information–good online citizenship isn’t just consuming information, but sharing it / forwarding it on to others as well.
While this seems really cool, it may have problems.
A lot of people don’t share info on Facebook or tweet, but they consume and engage with the info that others share. G+ seems to be cutting these people out of the loop. I’m one of these lurker types, and I do encounter a lot of content this way. My G+ profile is currently empty, and I feel strangely guilty about it, which makes me not really want to log on…which also prohibits me from encountering the content that friends are sharing there. So, I guess what this boils down to, while G+ seems to be doing a really really interesting thing in promoting the concept of sharing to such a degree—and, I’d argue, providing a model of good online citizenship as meaning someone who consumes information AND shares it / forwards it on to others—does it cut those lurkers out of the informational loop? Or, who does it turn into an information sharer? (That question was directly spurred by the digital shame I’m feeling for not posting, and my guess that I will soon start to do so). That’s obviously an empirical question, and I have a few other things on the docket that trump that sort of test…but both of those things seem like productive elements of this platform to study. And as such, it opens up questions concerning the social role played by people who consume the information shared via social media, but do not share themselves.
I have some more thoughts on explicitly political uses of G+, but for now, will just send you over to some other good discussions of what it can/may be used to do in various campaigns:
A good overview from Colin Delany at epolitics.com.
It doesn’t discuss politics, but all of this article from ClickZ can be translated into the campaign context.