MAS 963: Designing Sociable Media

fashions in clothing, music and links



What makes a signal about identity reliable? The "Identity and Deception" paper looks at the question in the context of Usenet newsgroups. This paper will also give you the fundamentals of understanding the notion of "conventional" and "assessment" signals and what makes the latter reliable - and why the former still persists.

The other papers this week are about fashion. I would like you to read them while thinking about fashion as a signal of identity. In particular, there is the question of how does a cultural signal - e.g. bell-bottom jeans or Verdana fonts or steel-fronted refrigerators - acquire its meaning and how does that meaning change with time and the propagation of this meaning through society.

This week we are thinking about how fashion is used to communicate identity. The fashion can be in any media - clothing can be a social medium, as can music, automobiles, home furnishings, or, in the online world, links.

Please read the papers. As you do so, think about these questions: how do these media (i.e. clothes, cars, links, etc) acquire social meaning?  How do these meanings change? Why do they change? Can you map out a relationship between differentiation and imitation as forces of cultural change? Can you distinguish between the inherent or symbolic meaning of an object and its social/fashion-based meaning? Does the temporal nature of fashion make it a reliable signal - and if so, of what?

In your writing, discuss examples from both the physical world and the online world. Is there "fashion" online?  How is it manifest?  What do you think the future will hold? 

Please submit your essay by Sunday morning, and spend some time before class reading over the other essays.