Category Archives: Student post

Kellogg College Design Week: Cultural Capital and Commercial Enterprise

Kellogg student Melena Meese writes about her research trip to Paris, for Kellogg’s first Design Week (1-4 December), to discover the archives of the French fabric company Pierre Frey. 

On a mission with the Kellogg based forum for Decorative Arts and Phenomenology (DAP), co-founder Maximilian Buston and I recently visited the archives of French fabric company Pierre Frey in Paris. Along with a fascinating delve into the archive collections, we also caught up with the company’s creative director Patrick Frey for a lively discussion about the company’s innovative use of archive designs in creating new collections. Pierre Frey is collaborating with DAP on the upcoming series of events being held at Kellogg College, University of Oxford, as part of Design Week: Textiles.

In tandem with the focus on scholarship in the fields of Decorative Arts and Design, one of DAP’s core aims is to reach beyond academia to engage outside cultural entities, practising designers and the broader commercial sector for the exchange of knowledge. Traditionally more prevalent in the sciences, Knowledge Exchange is beginning to gain wider currency in the arts and humanities. Knowledge Exchange can be defined as the process which brings together academic staff, users of research and wider groups and communities to exchange ideas, evidence and expertise. The DAP collaboration with Pierre Frey is an example of this process in action.

Ralph Lauren Flagship

The Ralph Lauren flagship store in Paris proudly perched on Boulevard Saint-Germain. The building in its current glory represents the culmination of a major preservation project undertaken by the company as part of its brand story. 

The revitalization of a number of heritage brands in the retail sector in recent years has prompted the mining of archives for brand history and inspiration, highlighting the vital role of archival work in shaping company communications and product development. Projects involving company archives are just one example of the opportunities for academic collaboration with the commercial sector. Designers often have the same unerring eye for detail (while simultaneously being mindful of its relationship to wider contexts) that also characterises the work of a scholar. Furthermore, successful design-led luxury brands are likely to possess the rare combination of erudition, passion, vested interest and deep pockets necessary to undertake projects underpinned by extensive research. It is worth investigating their potential as not only financial sponsors, but as collaborative partners with researchers.

The retailer Ralph Lauren often integrates historical detail into its brand and has undertaken several high profile conservation projects including a collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution to restore and display The Star-Spangled Banner. Maximilian and I managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the Ralph Lauren flagship store during our trip to view the company’s conservation efforts up close. The stunning building is the result of a major restoration project spanning over four years that involved artisans working with traditional materials and techniques to restore or replicate original decorative features and required prolonged archaeological work upon the discovery of a Roman well beneath the building. The company had a key role in the direction of the research connected to the project.

Ralph Lauren Dining Room

Ralph’s restaurant located in the former stables and carriage houses of the restored 17th century hôtel particulier that houses the company’s flagship store in Paris.

Kellogg College is particularly well placed to facilitate knowledge exchange projects with its vibrant mix of full-time postgraduate students, along with mature and part-time students possessing a wealth of current and past career experience and networks – many of which are in the design, heritage and cultural sectors. Kellogg’s links to the Department for Continuing Education and its architecture, decorative arts and design-related programmes are also an asset. It is hoped that the design week will not only highlight arts and culture at Kellogg, but also spark further collaborations both within and outside of the University.

Melena Meese
DPhil student in Architectural History


Kellogg College Design Week – Visiting the Pierre Frey Archive

Kellogg College’s inaugural Design Week is taking place in College from Monday 1st to Thursday 4th December. In the first of our Design Week blog posts, DPhil student and Junior Dean Maximilian Buston writes about his recent trip to Paris in search of the textiles that will be showcased in an exhibition during the week. 

Sinking into luxury at the Pierre Frey Showroom, 27 rue du Mail, Paris

Sinking into luxury at the Pierre Frey Showroom, 27 rue du Mail, Paris

“Hail, the patrimony lives” (Sophie Rouart) – everyone knows that Paris is a magical delight, especially for the designer. Not only are there the principal showrooms of Charles Burger, Lelievre and Edmond Petit, but also the Musée du Louvre where many original designs of fabrics now produced can be found.
One little known treasure house is the archive room of the celebrated French textile house, Pierre Frey. Both eclectic and classic, Pierre Frey was founded in 1935 and now includes the historic brands of Braquenié (1824), Le Manach (1829), Fadini Borghi (1947) and Boussac (1933). Visiting their head office, Melena Meese (Consultant) and I met with Sophie Rouart (curator) and Patrick Frey (President & Creative Director) to discover how Pierre Frey uses their archive to inspire their new collections.
Melena Meese speaks with Patrick Frey in the archive room at the Pierre Frey headquarters.

Melena Meese speaks with Patrick Frey in the archive room at the Pierre Frey headquarters.

Sophie Rouart opened drawers of treasures (there are some 25,000 original fabrics) including well-preserved damasks over 400 years old, still rich and vibrant. Amongst the collection is the original Les Monuments d’Égypte designed in 1808 at the Oberkampf factory at Jouy-en-Josas. At this time cotton came to be the most important commodity in Europe, fuelling the industrial revolution. The Oberkampf factory printed 1.5 million metres of fabric in 1818 alone. It also gives the name to Toile de Jouy, synonymous to the fabulous printed cottons with narrative scenes.
18th Century Documents, one of which is Choiseul, now available as a wallpaper in the Braquenié collection. Pierre Frey has adapted the colours and scale of the original design for its use today.

18th Century Documents, one of which is Choiseul, now available as a wallpaper in the Braquenié collection. Pierre Frey has adapted the colours and scale of the original design for its use today.

Maximilian Buston and Sophie Rouart examine Les Travaux de la Manufacture c. 1783-84, a toile depicting the complex stages of production at the Oberkampf factory at Jouy.

Maximilian Buston and Sophie Rouart examine Les Travaux de la Manufacture c. 1783-84, a toile depicting the complex stages of production at the Oberkampf factory at Jouy.

Pierre Frey is now known for it’s unrelenting eclecticism, not only do they champion 18th Century toiles but reinterpret them in new materials and colours. Their new fabrics always push at the boundaries and Patrick was keen to mention an upcoming collection, Origins, inspired by the aboriginal art of Australia that is due to be launched in 2015.

Sophie Rouart described the important collection as a “conservatory of fabrics and patterns… that inspires new designs by understanding what came before. Customers from the States like to come to us to discover this… It’s like a dancer who learns the classical positions and creates new combinations for the performance.”

Pierre Frey, in association with Distinctive Interiors, are exhibiting a selected collection at Kellogg College, University of Oxford, in December 2014. This venture is part of DAP, the Decorative Arts and Phenomenology Forum, that was co-founded by Maximilian Buston and Melena Meese in May 2014 as part of their DPhil Research and Distinctive Interiors’ 30th Anniversary Celebrations. To find out more visit the DAP Page.

Maximilian Buston.

“I’m not in Kansas anymore, but I feel at home”

Amanda Shriwise at the Gaudy Dinner, September 2014

Amanda Shriwise at the Gaudy Dinner, September 2014

Kellogg student Amanda Shriwise is studying for a DPhil in Social Policy. In this article, Amanda shares her experiences of life in Oxford and what it means to her to be a student at Kellogg College.

It was rather hard not to be aware of Oxford’s history  of academic excellence  when I applied to read for an MPhil in Social Policy  over four years ago.  However, I began to realise how truly special this place is when a friend of a friend  at Oxford sent me a book in the post upon hearing that I was offered a place. The book was entitled ‘Oxford: an architectural guide’, which
seemed like a sensible reading suggestion before turning up in the ‘city of dreaming spires’. But the connections run deeper than that. The book was written by Geoffrey Tyack, a fellow of Kellogg College. As fate would have it, Kellogg became my college home for both my MPhil and now my DPhil studies. Further still, I have had the pleasure of meeting Professor Tyack and following him on a tour of both Oxford and Kellogg’s grounds, and the friend of a friend who sent me the volume is now a dear friend of my own. I could not have foreseen any of this when I received the book in the post, but I sensed that my life had changed when I opened the package.

During my time at Oxford, Kellogg has been the point of origin of many such connections. Just a few weeks ago, I reminisced with a fellow Kellogg alum at a conference in San Francisco over the whereabouts of those who attended an American-style Thanksgiving dinner in what
was then my basement flat in Kellogg’s accommodation at No. 7 Bradmore Road. Every time I walk by Christ Church, I remember meeting other Kellogg women (more than one of whom has now rowed for the University) at Tom Gate for an early morning rowing outing. While submitting paperwork at Oriel College last spring, I opened an office door and was pleasantly surprised to find the first person I met at Kellogg upon arrival several years before. Over dinner at Kellogg, I met the Vice-Chancellor, who happened to know a couple of chemistry professors from my undergraduate home in Kansas. Experiences like these have presented opportunities to repeatedly connect my past with the present, which makes me feel at home.
Serving as Kellogg’s MCR President in 2011-12 gave me the opportunity to aid in facilitating these connections, which I believe are at the heart of why Kellogg is such an outstanding community. It was a pleasure and privilege, topped only by how rewarding it has been to watch the student body continue to thrive under strong leadership in the years to follow. While I realise that 25 years amounts to a rather miniscule amount of time in the life of an Oxford college, my experience serving in this capacity made me realise just how much we have to celebrate in this year’s anniversary. Some might be inclined to attribute this overly celebratory (and dare I say emotional) instinct to my American roots. While this may not be an entirely unreasonable assessment, I believe the cause for celebration is based in something more substantial. Since 1990, the College has moved to its current site and has continued to expand, accommodation has been added and refurbished, the number of fellows and students, both full and part-time has increased, research and financial support for students has grown, and it has continued to further its commitment to life-long learning – all while holding seminars, conferences, formal meals, and even an annual ball!

As the college grows in numbers and years, I hope that it continues to deeply value and foster the connections that it facilitates by remaining organised around the notion of home: a place open to all of its family members both past and present; a place where we thrive, make mistakes and continue to learn and grow as individuals; a place that encourages curiosity and an eagerness to make a contribution to something bigger than oneself. I am very grateful for the rich connections, friends as dear as family, and the home I found at Kellogg, and I look forward to seeing how it carries on in the years ahead.

Amanda Shriwise

“The biggest difference between those that attend Oxford and those that don’t ….”

amy price

Amy Price at her graduation, with President Jonathan Michie and Kellogg’s Senior Tutor Carl Heneghan

Kellogg alumna Amy Price tells us about her experience studying for the MSc in Evidence Based Healthcare and also what it means to her to be a part of Kellogg College.

To graduate from Evidence Based Health Care with an MSc is a special honour and I count this as one of my life accomplishments. My friends dared me to apply to Oxford and so I did. I have never looked back. My progress and the award would not be possible without the wonderful people I encountered on this journey.  In Oxford and at Kellogg (my college) there is a vibrant and supportive community that develops from people who want to make a difference. I have made friends here that will last a lifetime.

My experience at Oxford has helped me bridge the gap between caregivers and care seekers with real information and tools to help. I am intimately familiar with this gap due to a personal event that could have been a tragedy but instead has turned into a vehicle for influence in the corner of the world in which I communicate.

In 2003 I was advised that I was incapable of working or learning due to extensive damage to my body and brain. Pre-crash I tested in the top 2% for IQ and post-crash the lowest 3-5%. My former travel into low-resource environments to provide assistance was no longer possible. I decided to rebuild my destiny. After two years of neuro-rehabilitation, I enrolled in Open University and later at Oxford. It was challenging but daily I worked towards my goal of building a bridge between the public, science and healthcare. My experiences in a varied spectrum of settings (from low-resource to developed nations) are infused in the way I approach projects and interact with people.

I was recently accepted into the DPHIL for EBHC and I am excited to be able to develop my project PLOT-IT with the guidance and expertise of my excellent supervisors Professor Amanda Burls and Dr Su-May Liew. The Public-Led Online Trials Infrastructure and Tools (PLOT-IT) is a ThinkWell project supervised by Professor Burls that is creating an infrastructure and the processes to enable people to set up and participate in their own online trials of interventions people can do for themselves.

PLOT-IT turns the current model of health research on its head by crowdsourcing research ideas and health data (with academic health researchers providing a support service to ensure that the research is ethical, methodologically sound, clinically safe and that personal data is protected). Research trials conducted over the internet are experiencing exponential growth with little methodological research to inform their conduct.

Oxford and Kellogg College have been very good to me. Here I have received the best teaching and training in the world and as a research student at Kellogg College I am profoundly grateful for being able take advantage of the College’s excellent facilities. This is a learning and mentoring climate where there is room to follow your dream. In the MSc for Evidence Based Health Care at Oxford you will be equipped with the tools and knowledge to do the job well and to expand your horizons. You can learn to analyse the literature and to put evidence into practice. Most importantly, I want others to know that when you do your best you can make it farther than others believe that you can go and as my wise daughter said to me before I applied to Oxford, “Mom, The biggest difference between those that attend Oxford and those that don’t is that those that do filled out the application!”

Funding at Oxford: The changing relationship between student and university

Katie Crabtree, May 2014

Katie Crabtree, May 2014

Kathryn Crabtree (MSc Education) tells us about her current research examining the relationship between the university and the student where hardship funding has been allocated. Does funding affect a student’s integration with the university? Katie is looking for volunteers to share their experiences of receiving, or administering, hardship funding. If you would like to participate in this research project, please contact Katie (details below).

Tuition fees, domestic and international, are an unyielding force since I joined Oxford for graduate study from my undergraduate degree in the United States. This undoubtedly stirred my interests in higher educational studies. As students increasingly fund their higher educational career out of pocket, or their parents’ pockets, or their future pay checks, I think this fundamentally changes the relationship between university and student. In regards to rising university costs, most attention is devoted to access and the removal of financial barriers from tertiary study. For the English system, this has resulted in a complex system of bursaries, fee waivers, and access agreements. My research interests, however, go beyond the point of access. My focus is on financial obstacles that occur once students have already been matriculated: hardship.

This particular facet of financial need highlights the numerous tensions at play in a higher education system in which having the financial means to substantiate one’s studies is a deciding factor in who ultimately obtains a degree. It showcases the expectations of students from their institutions and of institutions from their students when acute financial need collides with hard budgetary lines.

What my research project aims to find out is how this particular interaction between student and institution affects students’ sense of belonging at the university. Student integration is typically understood in an academic or social sense. As financing one’s studies grows in importance, I contend that financial transactions between students and their universities are similarly crucial for integration. Situating this element in the context of hardship funding is a unique perspective to take; it is urgent financial need experienced by students for whom a small amount financial assistance from the university can mean the difference between rustication and continuation.

In order to answer this question I have chosen to situate my study at none other than Oxford, which anyone here will beguilingly tell you is a “complex” place. In terms of hardship funding, this is undoubtedly the case. Oxford and it colleges, with their remarkably high provision for hardship funding, high retention rate, and their criticism for exclusivity, offer a unique platform to examine the effects on student integration when students look to the institution for support in times of financial difficulty.

To get an in-depth view of what goes on, I am interviewing students who have attempted to procure hardship funding from the university or their colleges to explore how that affected their views of the institution and ultimately their place within it. Additionally, I am carrying out interviews with staff and fellows who administer or make decisions on hardship funding to explore their perspectives of how it affects students beyond monetary support (in doing so, I get a sneak peak behind the gates of other colleges which was a rather selfish reason for deciding to carry out my study here!). So, dear readers, if you are of either ilk and are willing to donate 45 minutes of your time to share your experiences with hardship funding, it would be invaluable for my research. Students, staff, and faculty who have experience applying for or administering college hardship funds, the Access to Learning Fund, or the University Hardship Fund at Oxford are welcome to contact me at to find out more about participation.

Since beginning my studies at Kellogg College, I have found that student funding is a passion of mine that extends beyond my research. This passion influences my work in my role as the Development Officer of the Middle Common Room (MCR). During my time in this role I hope to launch the Kellogg MCR Award for Excellence. This award will be funded by donations of graduating students and will be granted to an on-course student the following year for academic merit and outstanding contributions to college life. The Kellogg MCR Award for Excellence will be unique from other scholarships awarded at Kellogg in that it will be awarded in Hilary Term so that both Master’s and DPhil, and part-time and full-time students are eligible. This award is based on the Student Legacy Scholarship of my alma mater, Grand Valley State University, to which I donated upon completion of my undergraduate career to support future students like myself. Instating a similar tradition at Kellogg will enhance our College’s emphasis on community and academic pursuit. It will also be an opportunity for graduating students to leave a legacy of support for future students.

My time on the MCR Committee has shown me that Kellogg College is certainly the perfect collegiate fit for me. Its prominence in socially relevant academic research renders it an encouraging environment for me to pursue my research on hardship funding and student integration. Its inclusivity and egalitarian values allow me to pursue my initiative to create an innovative award on the MCR. Not to mention, its dining hall is an excellent place to share a meal with friends and fellows. Hailing from the wheat fields of West Michigan, where our namesake’s W.K. Kellogg Foundation originated, definitely helps me feel at home under our college crest!

Love and Labour on Pins – Student Research

Our student and Junior Dean Maximilian Buston (DPhil Archaeology) writes about his current research. 

The reader may ask, and I have often asked this question myself, if I ought to have spent so much love and labour on pins, but it just happened – the words of Paul Jacobsthal (1956) on Greek dress pins found in tombs and sanctuaries, 3000 alone from the celebrated Argive Heraion.

My subject matter, fibulae, were gradually adopted in the Aegean in the 13th and 12th Centuries BC during the peak and collapse of Bronze Age palaces such as Mycenae and Knossos. They were worn by men and women to fasten cloth and cloaks. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of the invention of the spring – and thus ancient safety pin – where before things were fastened with string or a straight pin. Indeed whole new fashions of dress were enabled, even affecting cultural traditions such as dance and sitting, hence ladies sit on chairs (rather than the floor) in Greek vase paintings. Moreover it is their dedication as votive offerings that betray deeper social diversity and interaction across the Aegean. My interest is not only the social diversity within communities but the spectacularly divergent political and social institutions that are later found in the Archaic period (8th-6th Century BC).

A heavily corroded fibula from the Knossos North Cemetery

A heavily corroded fibula from the Knossos North Cemetery. At the end of March 2014 I studied 50 fibulae in the Stratigraphic Museum at Knossos on Crete.

ivory spectacle fibula

A characteristic ivory spectacle fibula of the 7th Century BC found in an Early Orientalising cremation urn at Knossos. These have been found across the Central Mediterranean and North Africa.

Another part of my research concerns so-called ‘defensible sites’ that proliferate in Crete at the beginning of the 12th Century BC. One site, Pandanassa Veni, a table-like mountain in the Rethymnon Isthmus is of particular interest. The summit measures c. 1000 x 400 m and houses a city occupied for 1000 years that is yet to be excavated. The neighbouring site of Thronos Kephala (3 km as the crow flies) has been associated with the fabled city of ancient Sybrita, but it does not hold the astonishing views and sense of power that the landscape of Pandanassa Veni readily projects.

The table-like mountain of Pandanassa Veni

The table-like mountain of Pandanassa Veni, some 750 masl, Crete.

Now back in Oxford my focus will turn to studying fibulae in Oxford’s Ashmolean before a trip to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens next year. Whilst I was away the short-term accommodation at Kellogg, 12 Bradmore Road, was finally made complete in that a celebrated wallpaper designed by Louis-Hippolyte Lebas in 1818 was hung in the guest washroom. This is my favourite room in the building and can be found under the stairs on the basement level. The wallpaper depicts vignettes of Paris and over it I hung a picture of Oxford c. 1860 that I found amongst Kellogg’s art collection. For the neighbouring living room feel free to browse my blog at Distinctive Interiors.

Les Vues de Paris, designed by Louis-Hippolyte Lebas in 1818

Les Vues de Paris, designed by Louis-Hippolyte Lebas in 1818 with sheer stripe Roman Blinds from the USA, in the guest washroom in 12 Bradmore Road. Framed is an Oxford engraving c. 1860.

Maximilian Buston, Junior Dean

The evolution of social networking sites: the rise of content-centric platforms which favour the perpetual present.

Socio-technical trends and their underlying theoretical perspectives shed light on likely developments in store for mediated communication. Vyacheslav Polonski finds that in the coming years, new design norms will overhaul current metaphors, marking a shift from profile-centric to content-centric interactions. In the increasingly ephemeral live-streams of receiving and broadcasting information, Polonski predicts we will be able to transcend the stale antinomy of online and offline lives.

Over the past two decades, one of the most dynamic developments related to digital media has been the rise of social network sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram. Since the launch of the first social applications in the late 1990s, they attracted over a billion active users worldwide, many of whom have incorporated digital social interactions into their everyday lives.

Image credit: Jason Howie (CC-BY)

Today, social technologies dominate the zeitgeist, spawning new communities, where there were once just distributed individuals, and amplifying the size and significance of various publics. This has set the stage for unprecedented collective mobilisations, protest movements and open-source projects that have left their marks in the brief history of the Internet. Given the current buzz around social media, 2014 is expected to be a critical period for the genre of social network sites, when both users and businesses will have to cope with the challenges posed by the changing nature of social interactions, design choices and privacy norms, as the Internet continues to rewire more and more aspects of our social lives.

The first major development is the rapidly evolving design of networked communication platforms. From the past we know that a majority of humans have an anxious relationship to bits and bytes. Lacking an intuitive understanding of the abstract, binary, invisible data structures underneath, we have come up with physical metaphors and analogies to make sense of this complexity. This is why new media technologies have often taken the familiar visual interfaces of their predecessors to help users adjust to their associated novel consumption patterns. The widespread use of such skeuomorphic metaphors could be seen in a series of design choices, such as the carryover of the typical theatrical proscenium arch to modern cinemas, and the integration of familiar, hardware-like design elements into mobile applications.

Similarly, this can be seen in the seemingly omnipresent use of the word friend or, more generally, the metaphor of friendship as a social cue that signifies connection in a networked world. While disagreement remains around the usefulness of skeuomorphism, it is evident that a more advanced understanding of new technologies and digitized interactions would eventually eliminate the need for such metaphors. Thus, in the coming years, it is expected that new design norms will eventually overhaul past metaphors, in order to support more communication-oriented affordances and lower the barriers to interactions. A key design choice heralding the beginnings of the changing nature of virtual encounters of the next years is the emphasis on transitory technologies. For instance, many social network sites currently follow the established metaphor of the photo-album – in an abstract sense, a static collection of images exhibited to an audience that can be viewed by any member of the audience in an asynchronous fashion. Now, let’s look at the massively popular photo and video sharing service Snapchat. At its core, its automatic self-destruction feature renders images ephemeral, as they vanish only few seconds after being seen by a bounded audience (which is reminiscent of Snapchat’s ghostly logo).

As a consequence, a platform design choice like this has a powerful effect on our perception of digital interactions: it divorces the digital photograph from the comforting notion of permanence of the image. This establishes a greater degree of temporal co-presence, encouraging more real-time interactions, and leading participants to ascribe more meaning to their ephemeral encounters. To paraphrase Wired magazine’s founding editor Kevin Kelly, the web is becoming more synchronous and “alive”: if an interaction isn’t happening in real-time, it doesn’t count. Thus, the substantial shift from experience-for-exhibition to experience-for-itself will be integral to the platform design choices of future social network sites.As these socio-technical dynamics begin to unfold, users of social network sites will be presented with new ways and channels for performing their identities online. In this regard, the second major development will be the granular verticalization of self-presentational practices – from unified presence on  one major platform to a diverse range of networked communication platforms. As the expert on the philosophy of information Luciano Floridi remarks, social network sites are egopoietic technologies that facilitate the construction of a presentational self for others, significantly affecting who we are, who we think we are, who we might become, and who we think we might become. This implies that users can actively shape how they would like to be identified within the boundaries of a social network site, and this virtual identity may or may not be related to their real self.

Nevertheless, as social technologies become broadly adopted across a wide range of demographics, users appear to find it increasingly difficult to discriminate between different audiences, resulting in context collapse – the discomfort of sharing the same information to overlapping social circles. That is to say, users may be inclined to share status updates with certain social groups, but not with others. Inasmuch as both groups may have ties between each other, context collapse becomes even more complex and problematic. New empirical evidence from a number of academics suggests that a new level of social complexity can lead to the conscious refusal of social technologies in general. It is easy to see how this might become a major source of concern for Facebook and other large social network sites: the repercussions could be severe, as more and more users are tempted to migrate to niche communication services to be able to send differentiated self-presentational messages to multiple strictly separated audiences. Each of these audiences independently monitors specific compartments of users’ identities, and responds to users’ specific personal and professional goals. By way of example, it is easy to see how Internet users would display their morally impeccable “public front” on Facebook and their professionalized side on LinkedIn, while sharing photographs through Instagram, chatting with friends through Snapchat, and posting potentially incriminating content to anonymized platforms, such as Reddit and 4Chan.

This verticalization of self-presentational practices will continue to unfold in the near future. While it is likely that Facebook will remain a dominant platform, providing the infrastructure of the social graph for other applications, it might lose its cultural relevance. At the same time, it is expected that every 3-5 years a new specialized photo and video sharing service will emerge to respond to the playful social needs of a younger generation – the future Instagrams and Snapchats – replacing the hitherto overhyped platforms, as their (mostly teenage) users come of age. To remain relevant and sustain user engagement, both established and nascent social network sites will need to innovate and repeatedly re-invent themselves to capitalize on the cyclical nature of this social ecosystem.

Within the next few years, we will see another critical development in online social interactions which is also related to the trends of ephemerality and verticalization: the systemic shift from profile-centric to content-centric social interactions on social network sites. Previously, users had to browse their friends’ profiles to discover updated content. With the introduction of Facebook’s newsfeed, Twitter’s homepage and other aggregated, algorithmic content-streams this logic has been fundamentally re-configured. As the social media researchers Nicole Ellison and Danah Boyd point out, users of social network sites now tend to predominantly consume, produce, and interact with dynamic streams of user-generated content provided by their personally curated list of connections and other system-level data, which also serves as a point of departure for other activities.

This trend is going to spread rapidly across other sites, gaining further significance with the introduction of original technologies that afford simplified, instantaneous sharing of content, such as wearable computing. Think of the vast amount of real-time updates you could directly interact with through wearable computing devices that are built for “always-on” augmented-reality applications. Though, embedded in this scenario is the assumption that products like Google Glass (or, potentially Google contact lenses?) will proffer innovative interaction potentials based on the additional data that is readily available on places, people and promotions around us. Imagine going into a bar and knowing exactly who you need to talk to (after mapping the social relations of all guests), being able to choose your personally tailored drinks deals (based on all your previous transactions and your search history) and, all of this, while broadcasting a first-person live-stream of the event to your friends at home. Given the rise of new pay-for-gaze business models, you would be probably also getting permanent, highly relevant and mood-adapted ads in the periphery of your vision.

The public acceptability of these kinds of privacy violations may ultimately depend on the value consumers are able to derive from this, even if the corporate reality mining process remains largely obfuscated. It is possible to envision how we could willingly provide large Internet corporations with insights into our intellectual pursuits, instant moods, and intimate desires, if our reward for this data exchange will be utmost convenience and a nearly perfect, contextually relevant gratification of our needs and wants through deep personalization. In fact, we have already quietly embarked on this journey, by accepting the data-collecting protocols of cookies to make our online lives more convenient.

As such, an argument can be put forth for the additional benefits of connection, better transactions and socially relevant interactions over the outdated concerns of privacy intrusions and data security. Thus stems the recognition, infamously expressed by one of the founding fathers of the Internet Vint Cerf, that privacy may in fact be an anomaly – essentially, a side effect of people not being sufficiently connected. Depending on your political orientation, you could even argue that the end of privacy is already here, as powerfully articulated by Edward Snowden in his 2013 Christmas message: “A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all, they’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought.”

In summary, the exposition of current socio-technical trends and the underlying theoretical perspectives shed light on the likely future developments of computer-mediated communication; our constantly connected and fully transparent selves will be engaged in multiple differentiated performances of identity between distinct, cyclically emerging communication platforms. In the increasingly ephemeral live-streams of receiving and broadcasting information, our selves will be able to transcend the stale antinomy of online and offline lives. There will be no past and no future – all of our social interactions will happen in the perpetual present through the prism of augmented social technologiesYet the crucial question remains – in the near future, what will reality feel like when we decide to disconnect?

This post originally appeared on the London School of Economics Impact of Social Sciences blog and is reposted with the author’s permission.

About the Author

Vyacheslav Polonski (@slavacmis a DPhil student at the University of Oxford’s Oxford Internet Institute and Kellogg College. He is also a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum. He received his MSc degree with distinction from the University of Oxford and his BSc degree with distinction from the London School of Economics and Political Science. In 2013, he was a TEDx speaker at IE University in Spain. Vyacheslav’s current research focuses on network science and the sociology of the Internet, exploring network effects and the collective dynamics within online communities.