Online Place and Person-Making: Matters of the Heart and Self-Expression

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In recent years, there has been a substantial take up in social software, but other than translating the vocabulary and arranging suitable payment facilities, little or no account is taken of cultural sense-making in the global deployment of these systems. We report on two studies of social software, an online dating site and a social network blog. We show that people need ‘places’ because it is only there persons can meaningfully be (re)presented. Further, ‘cultural’ perspectives greatly influence and shape the metaphors and models of communication. In our recommendations, we suggest that multinational participants’ metaphors about ‘place’ should be used as tools-to-think-with rather than be implemented literally, and thereby used to enrich a feature set for global services such as online dating and blogging tools.

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