Threadless As a Network and Social Capital Tool

20 May

Today’s groups presented on the use of LinkedIn as a communications network, and on Threadless as a network and social capital tool. Both presentations were very interesting, but my interest was piqued a bit more by the Threadless preso – mostly because I’m not very familiar with the site. Sure, I’ve heard of it, but the group offered a very interesting perspective on the site as a tool for building networks and social capital – not exactly the plain old e-commerce T-shirt shop I thought it was.

Of course, that is what it is – but its more than that. Artists submit their designs, and the community votes on them, with the top designs ultimately being selected by the Threadless execs, but the wisdom of the crowds is certainly influential as well. But the group also framed it as a community where new artists can become what they called ‘cultural entrepeneurs’ – that is they develop their own social capital through participation in the community, supporting fellow artists, giving constructive feedback and on a more personal level, how they promote themselves and their work. While in most cases the ultimate goal is to achieve some form of financial capital, the overall exposure one can create through Threadless is also an interesting value proposition.

For these presentations, there are groups within the class that are assigned roles as the ‘client’ – a fictional role which the presenting group assigns prior to their ‘pitch’. In this case, I was assigned the role of a soon-to-be graduate of the Alberta College for Art and Design and my presenters were Employment Counsellors offering us information about what we might want to consider doing when we graduate – in this case it was simple: Expand your network, love what you do, work hard to promote yourself and always have fun.

All in all, the presenters passion and excitement in the presentation was what really sold it for me. While I might have different feelings if I actually where an ACAD student who probably knows more about the employment opportunities and what the industry is like right now in terms of security, from where I was sitting today, it was a very insightful, thoughtful presentation propped up by great enthusiasm and solid theoretical applications around social capital, cultural entrepreneurs and the nature of work when it actually becomes your life.

And it doesn’t hurt that I won a T-shirt for being able to answer the name of another site run by SkinnyCorp, Threadless’ parent company. For some reason, “I Park Like an Idiot” stood out in my mind when they were discussing it. I got laughed at for that, but comm’n, how do you forget a site with that kinna name?  And FYI – the site sells Bumper Stickers. How kewl is that?  😉

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