Just what is Social Networking, and can we learn about society by studying this phenomenon?
Just by looking at the titles to read, it is plain that the beginning of our blogging starts at – the beginning. While this may seem simplistic to some, it is a vital art of setting the stage for the articles that lay ahead. As communicators, it is always a great idea to lay everything out so that we are all on the same page.
My reference above to laying everything out was definitely confirmed when I began to read Boyd’s definitions. More specifically, I always wondered about the term “social networking” it almost gave me the impression of working to socialize with people you do not know. I always felt that this was not an apt identifier for blogs, Facebook and the like because as we know, these sites are most often utilized between people that already know one another. Our text agrees when it says “…instead, they are primarily communicating with people who are already a part of their extended social network” (Boyd, 2).
The site that most accurately fits this description for me is LinkedIn. Here I have not only linked to others in my own industry, I have made connections to people that I have yet to meet.
It was quite refreshing to see how many references there were to the actual development of Social Networking. The internet itself did not develop into this full-blown entity over night, and neither did sites like Facebook.
The references made to the fact that “…servers and databases were ill-equipped to handle its rapid growth…” (Boyd, 6), are so accurate. I remember early internet usage being so frustrating due to the hardware issues at many different sites not to mention providers themselves. But, we didn’t know any better and most often took it with a grain of salt. If these same issues would happen today – it would get quite ugly.
Networks and Network Structure:
I have to say that the most interesting section for me was in the Boyd paper under Networks and Network Structure. At the very outset when the author states: “Social network sites also provide rich sources of naturalistic behavioral data” (Boyd, 10), I got a glimpse of some of the ways automatically collected data could produce interesting sets of information. What concerns me about this data is its credibility. Can we really rely on this information when the people providing it are hidden from our view and used to putting on a show? Or, is it the show that provides for the best data?
On this note, I found an amazing video featuring Jon Kleinberg, the Tisch University Professor in Cornell’s Department of Computer Science. This speech was recorded on July 20, 2011 so has a great deal of relevance and immediacy.
In this 1 hour 22 minute video: What can Facebook, Amazon and Google teach us about society and about ourselves? Jon provides insights not about what the “answer” to the question is, but to how to think about the question to obtain answers.
On a Personal Note:
My first experience with a social networking site was MySpace and I only became interested in it because I was monitoring what our teenage children were doing on the Internet. Prior to this, the other social experience was with Microsoft’s chat rooms and online games. I was what was considered a “sysop” for the
community along with my husband. We were empowered with special tools throughout the system. Our job was to monitor openly and in a hidden mode, the gaming chat rooms to be sure that codes of conduct were followed. Our toolset allowed us to gag, kick and ban people from these rooms.
In addition to the job at hand, I also spent a great deal of time “training” other sysops. This entire structure fell apart as the internet grew more sophisticated. Eventually (not unlike the Musketeers) our ranks were disbanded and technology took over.
This was an early trial and error attempt at social networking. I can only look at where we are now, and wonder where we will be tomorrow.