May 11, 2007

Social Network Sites: Public, Private, or What?

danah boyd has a great article in The Knowledge Tree, Social Network Sites: Public, Private, or What?, where she talks about how young people use social networking sites and some ideas on how adults, especially educators, can and should deal with this new reality.

Her thoughts on what makes social networking sites unique:

  1. Persistence. What you say sticks around. This is great for asynchronous communication, but it also means that what you said at 15 is still accessible when you are 30 and have purportedly outgrown those childish days.

  2. Searchability. My mother would’ve loved the ability to scream “Find!” into the ether and determine where I was hanging out with my friends. She couldn’t, and I’m thankful. Today’s teens’ parents have found their hangouts with the flick of a few keystrokes.

  3. Replicability. Digital bits are copyable; this means that you can copy a conversation from one place and paste it into another place. It also means that it’s difficult to determine if the content was doctored.

  4. Invisible audiences. While it is common to face strangers in public life, our eyes provide a good sense of who can overhear our expressions. In mediated publics, not only are lurkers invisible, but persistence, searchability, and replicability introduce audiences that were never present at the time when the expression was created.

And some suggestions for educator engagement (excerpted here):
  1. Create a profile on whatever sites are popular in your school.
  2. Keep your profile public and responsible, but not lame.
  3. Do not go surfing for your students, but if they invite you to be Friends, say yes.
  4. The more present you are, the more opportunity you have to influence the norms.

Some wise words for those of us thinking about the short, medium and long term implications on society and our institution of these sites. And more immediately, whether or not we want to go there, create profiles and directly engage students.


amanda said...

I seem to recall a conversation on similar topics in an airport somewhere... ;) Good advice from a great article. boyd always has something sensible to add to the social media/education discussion.

John Dupuis said...

Yeah, it just seems to be the thing that's obsessing me lately so everything seems related. The article more or less convinces me to try and set up a group for my library and see what happens.

CogSciLibrarian said...

What I wonder about is ... if we spend tons of time & energy in facebook and then the current group of students graduates / grows up and there's a new facebook or library 3.0 or whatever. Our energy will have been wasted and/or we’ll have to do the next thing. The way email has morphed into IM has morphed into facebook.

That said, it makes sense to set up a facebook group & see what happens, imho, but only if you want to and it's relatively easy.

I'm off to ask you to be my friend in facebook. :-)

John Dupuis said...

Thanks, CogSci, you are friended!

You have a lot of good points. As Amanda implied above, we had quite a long chat over burritos in the airport on the way back from CiL. What's worth doing and what's not, is it part of our core mission as an academic library or a frivolous waste of time? Are we chasing the most connected students when we should be finding ways to engage the least? Are we getting into Facebook just as all the kids are getting out? Are we in fact chasing them out?

Lots of questions with very few good answers. All I really know is that I can't let myself become paralysed with indecision. I think you've got it right when you say, "it makes sense to set up a facebook group & see what happens," and I think/hope it is relatively easy to set up and run a Facebook group.