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Andrew Teman

How Nothing May Be Something

A few years old, but a brilliantly simple little examination of phatic messages, and why these little nuggets of nothing, matter in social spaces.

This is communication with little hard, informational content, but lots of emotional and social content.  Phatic communications doesn’t get much said, but it has social effects so powerful, it gets lots done. 

Sometimes content is complex, and sometimes it’s simple. Sometimes communication (especially within a social network), is merely about making sure the mic is still on, and reminding everyone that you exist.

The phatic messages “stack” nicely, each message presupposing and building on its predecessor.  These messages are:

1. I exist.
2. I’m ok.
3. You exist.
4. You’re ok.
5. The channel is open. 
6. The network exists.
7. The network is active.
8. The network is flowing.

When I use Twitter or Facebook to say that I am entertaining my cat, no one, I’m pretty, sure gives a good God damn that I am entertaining my cat. But they are reminded that they have someone called Grant McCracken exists in their network.


Credit to Noah, to linking this article in a recent Percolate post.