Bruce Nassbaum has written here
"Look around and you see people putting up silos around social media. Invitation-only social networks like doostang.com and customized corporate vitual worlds are blossoming. FaceBook folks are putting digital "doors" on their pages, controlling who can enter and for what purpose.
Is the golden age of truly open social networking in decline, as the young race to hide their youthful digital discretions and the rest of us tire of communicating with the masses and return to our own social/economic/political circles?
Yes, I know Twitter is very hot and runs counter to this trend. Yet, something is happening at the same time. Walls are going up. Something is cooking."
I remember working in a company division that was going from a local, country-based organisation to a European-based one. It involved all departments along the value-chain from development through manufacturing and marketing to logistics and suppliers. One of the technology enablers for this change project was the first version of Lotus Notes, enabling groups to set up their own communication and database for each project and interest group. At the same time we were trying to rein in costs so the travel budget was cut.
Picture uploaded by DMBFreakNo41. Used with thanks under CC.
In a matter of months we went from a set of local innovation projects that involved interested countries who would meet regularly in centres around Europe to swap information on progress and discuss how they could contribute or lead part of the action to a city state mentality where if you were on the periphery of a project and it was not obvious you should be in the list of people who could access the particularly Notes Conference as we called them.. you were out. Whereas I would meet people from, say, Italy in my local (British) canteen and be able to join in the lunchtime discussion and offer the services of my group to help with their current problem, I now found out by accident when visiting a supplier who might mention the Italian job they were involved in. I would come back to base, phone around the italian company and eventually convince someone to put me on the authorisation for the Notes Conference. Eventually people gave up and projects increasingly went wrong which encouraged people to be less open but feel more in control; totally opposite to the intention of the technology, reorganisation and common sense.
It is almost as if the elite club of those who are in start looking in and exclude those on the outside. Also the perceived uncertainties of being open to (almost) anyone can be very great and without facilitation and moderation the reason for wanting to be in can be seen to be of less value than staying out, and avoiding the possibilty of conversations that might be less than useful. It reminds me of the model that Matt Taylor created for the knowledge management process here
and which helped me reframe my thinking about how Notes applications should be redesigned, which meant thinking about the overall innovation ecosystem.
Perhaps we should think of physical analogies to FaceBook, etc. Why do we go to social spaces like this?
Picture Uploaded by wonderferret. Used with thanks under CC.
We arrive at a pub or club hoping to have a drink, nibbles, company, enjoy some good conversation, learn something interesting, share something. If its not working out we can slide into another conversation or even go elsewhere. We might even find people come with us to hopefully discover something more interesting somewhere else......or they might choose not to take up the invite as they can't see the point
Does the system we use on the web help hinder or enhance this, what are the downsides? My gut feel is the systems are not complete enough to serve as a platform. A good pub is likely to have something or someone who is larger than life to act as a Strange Attractor - 'something unique that is also compelling'.
There is also a bit of bio chemistry of space that is necessary ..what Rich Gold called Wet Space (hopefully in his book 'Plenitude' just published,my copy not arrived yet; just arrived..no its not!).. In Rich's words:
"What is a “wet space”? Well this room ( in which Gold was delivering lecture) is a wet space. You can smell, touch, feel each other; Pheromones and hormones are swirling; Very “mammal” - pack formations, leaders; Lots of gossip."
"Dampness is new, only since the telegraph (though I get arguments). You are alone in your room; But you are connected via mediating technologies to one or more other people. Hence it has both wet and dry properties......
Damp spaces are “prophylactic” in that they don’t allow everything through. This makes them MORE and not less valuable than wet spaces. The communicative act itself becomes more designed and can actually become art. "
So where does this leave us with respect to social networks? Like being in a pub, the users want to be in control of themselves and who they socialise with. They don't expect the pub owner to tell people at one end of the bar who they have heard about at the other end. When the social space owner decides to broadcast everything heard to anyone they run the risk of everybody uprooting and moving to another pub where descretion is the norm. Webbed social applications need to remember how damp they need to be to attract and retain customers- its the total experience that counts.
The interesting thing is "Do we have two or more personas, say one for work projects and one for private activities? Or do we just decide to be 'me'"
The Timesonline article Lecturers intrude in MySpace includes:
".... prospective undergraduates feel underwhelmed by efforts to communicate with them via online technology such as MySpace and YouTube, according to a survey of sixth-formers by Ipsos MORI. Students regard the virtual world as a place for entertainment, socialising and information-gathering. “[Young people] seem to take the view: ‘This is our space - don’t invade it’,” says Charles Hutchings, market research manager for the Joint Information Systems Committee that commissioned the survey. Students have an “inability to see how things like online social networking can tie in with learning”, he says."
At the end of the day it seems that context is important -same as it ever was...same as it ever was.
I guess my context is I am interested in how we design more innovative innovation networks; but hang on Rich Gold stated