A social interaction is an exchange of "strokes" between two people, and a stroke has a context or meaning.

It could be saying "I'm OK, you're OK", or it could be saying "I'm not OK, you're OK" -- these strokes put people into different roles. If you declare yourself as Not OK, for example, you're essentially demanding that the other person nurture you.

This short introduce to transactional analysis says a stroke is defined as a unit of recognition.

You can think of it as proto man on the African savannah sitting round at the end of a long day, making physical contact, picking fleas. We exchange strokes because it keeps us parasite flea -- but now we've got rid of fleas, we've still got this need to be social.

So exchanging strokes is a bonding mechanism for a group, just as making yourself vulnerable and opening up is such a mechanism, and caring about people.

But tricking people into giving you strokes is bad. That's what children do.

Therefore there's some intrinsic politics in my software. It encourages "I'm OK, you're OK" strokes because glances are anonymous and you can't embarrass individuals into giving more.

(Actually, Gregory Bateson talked about roles too.)

nb. Neil, my friend who is a social worker, introduced me to this.