Career related networking, twittering or geolocation-based online communities are around for a very short time and already are natural to many of us. It's hard to deny that this is the decade or even century of the networked society. Since printed media is lacking hyperlinks and interactive features like comments, it has in my opinion become irrevocably obsolete. The purpose of this article is to evaluate the nature and positive or negative effects of web-based social networking.
Social PhysicsOne of the interesting questions that I encountered while studying Information and Communications Technologies is weather ICTs created the networked society or if it happened the other way around.
I want to propose that maybe the science of Social Physics according to Auguste Comte can provide an answer. I found an interview of Kyle Findlay, a social physicist, talks about how Social Physics describe group dynamics with the help of chaos theory, systems theory, network theory, physics and mathematics (Findlay, 2010).
Social Physics have a long history and may be regarded as too mechanical. I think the shift of social networks to the web with its electronic, quantifiable nature could serve as a new playground for verifying features observed in face-to-face social networks. If you want to know more about these features and get an idea of how closely related to natural sciences social physics really is, you can read Lind's paper about social network models.
"We describe and develop three recent novelties in network research which are particularly useful for studying social systems. The first one concerns the discovery of some basic dynamical laws that enable the emergence of the fundamental features observed in social networks, namely the nontrivial clustering properties, the existence of positive degree correlations and the subdivision into communities." (Lind et al, 2007)
Breda O'Brian writes in her article (2010), how multiple times in the history of mankind, amassed information was used for abusive actions. The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, whose own Facebook page gives little away, claims that the world has changed, that privacy is no longer an issue for internet users. This might be marketing, but if you remember Facebook Beacon (Kravets, 2010), you know that Zuckerberg has always walked the talk.
BalanceA company that treats their customers in a unfortunate way could take damage of its brand image nowadays. Platforms like Ciao and Amazon offer insights of consumers into products and services. Another example of how powerful social networks have become would be “United Breaks Guitars”, a song by the Canadian musician David Carroll. The song describes his experience of how his guitar was broken on a trip on United Airlines and the following reaction from the airline. According to the time magazine (Fletcher, 2009) the video was one of the most viewed virals in 2009 with 9.5 mio views.
History In my opinion it is also interesting to see some of the old tycoons of the Internet fade away. Most of them missed the jump onto the social networking train, namely Yahoo! and AOL. They are currently on their way to a new meaninglessness. A few years ago their net worth was $350 bln US Dollars. You read right. Now they are worth $22 bln combined. That’s a loss of $330 bln over the course of very few years. Facebook alone is probably valued 5 times more. Mashable recently conducted a poll which of the old tycoons is likely to have a comeback (Parr, 2010).
ConclusionThere are growing concerns about the privacy inside social media networks. Many demand that these problems should be adressed, by legislation if necessary. However I think the transition of information control from corporations to networked communities is a good thing. The open exchange of knowledge and data fosters many great developments, amongst them corporate responsibility or open source projects.
Cheng, Larry. "Where In The World Is Eduardo Saverin?" Thinking About Thinking. 15 June 2009. Web. 03 Nov. 2010. <http://larrycheng.com/2009/06/15/where-in-the-world-is-eduardo-saverin/>
Fletcher, Dan. "United Breaks Guitars - The Top 10 Everything of 2009." TIME.com. 08 Dec. 2009. Web. 27 Oct. 2010. <http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1945379_1945171_1945170,00.html>
Kravets, David. "Judge Approves $9.5 Million Facebook ‘Beacon’ Accord." Wired.com. 17 Mar. 2010. Web. 03 Nov. 2010. <http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/03/facebook-beacon-2/>
Lind, Pedro G, and Hans J Herrmann. "New Approaches to Model and Study Social Networks." Cornell University Library. 09 Jan. 2007. Web. 03 Nov. 2010. <http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0701107>
O'Brian, Breda. "Realising the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Web World." The Irish Times. 2 Oct. 2010. Web. 03 Nov. 2010. <http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2010/1002/1224280187366.html>
Parr, Ben. "Web Faceoff: Yahoo vs. AOL." Mashable – The Social Media Guide. 01 Oct. 2010. Web. 03 Nov. 2010. <http://mashable.com/2010/10/01/web-faceoff-yahoo-vs-aol/>