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SOCNET  May 2005

SOCNET May 2005

Subject:

Re: Social Software and [...] Social Capital: Summary of Responses

From:

Kimberly Stedman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Kimberly Stedman <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 23 May 2005 13:57:47 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (122 lines)

*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****

Here’s a paraphrasing of the responses I got to my posting, combined with
some of my own info.
Many of these responses deviate from the topic of SNA. The responses
followed the theme of: “I haven’t seen anything done overtly on that
subject [strengthening physically pre-existing group network ties using
social software], but here are some strongly related sites/ideas.”

Articles r.e. technology and SNA:

1. Haythornthwaite, C. (2002) Strong, Weak, and Latent Ties and the
Impact of New Media, Information Society, 18 (5), pp.385-401.

2. Marsden, P. V. and Campbell, K. E. (1984) Measuring Tie Strength,
Social Forces, 63 (2), pp.482-501

3. “Relationships are maintained via multiple media, including face-to-
face (F2F), but often researchers focus on only one: ‘In discussing
the “social life'” of an object such as a mobile phone, it is tempting to
talk about it as if it is a primary locus of social relationships. Yet we
cannot assume that the population focuses on the mobile phone as a distinct
and unique object of technology’” (Nafus and Tracey, 2002 p208)

4. “if you have time, take a look at Fischer's history of the
telephone. There are some interesting parallels between the phone circa say
1900 and social software today:” Fischer, C. (1992) America Calling: A
Social History of the Telephone to 1940. Berkeley, University of California
Press

5. Research which concludes that computer networks are valid social
networks: Haythornthwaite, C. (1999) A social network theory of tie
strength and media use: A framework for evaluating multi-level impacts of
new media [Report / Working Paper], University of Illinois at Urbana-
Champaign, Champaign, IL.

6. Monge, P. R. and Contractor, N. S. (2003) Theories of
Communications Networks. New York, Oxford University Press.

7. Wellman, B. (2001) Physical Place and Cyberplace: The Rise of
Personalized Networking, International Journal of Urban & Regional
Research, 25 (2), pp.227-252.

8. Wellman, B., Salaff, J., Dimitrova, D., Garton, L., Gulia, M. and
Haythornthwaite, C. (1996) Computer Networks as Social Networks: Virtual
Community, Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Telework, Annual Review
of Sociology, 22 (February 1996), pp.213-38.

In terms of preserving an enduring group identity (as opposed to more
transient or individual-based social vehicles), it looks as though closed,
private discussion boards are primarily being used to preserve social
capital. An overview of existing software vehicles follows.

1. “Groupware” in general. (as a keyword to research into)

2. Individual-Based Groupware: numerous blogging vehicles and sites
like Flickr. In these, “groups” are uniquely defined differently for each
member using the vehicle (each has his/her own individually-defined peer
circle). They are technically social software, focused implicitly on
individuals (as opposed to collaboration-based vehicles, like Plone,
Socialtext, discussion boards, etc.) and encourage long-standing, multi-
faceted “trust”/ familiarity between users.

3. Pre-existing groups which use Yahoo! Groups (some of these
contacted me directly; email me and I’ll put you in touch with them if you
like).

4. Mobile technology software: MySoSo, PlaytXt, WaveMarket, etc. (ad
infinitum). These permit users to keep track of one another in the physical
world, and to contact one another one-on-one. They permit “postage-stamp-
sized” interpersonal exchanges.

5. Chat Software: these are open-membership, usually one-on-one based
discussion vehicles. Notable exceptions are Chat Circles, and/or Babble,
which emulate the dynamics of being at a party.

6. “Smart Address Books”: my term for the large category of soc.
software that helps users find lost friends, and keep track of current
ones; these are the most SNA-based of the vehicles listed here. Examples
are Friendster, SchoolFriends, Classmates.com, OpenBC, individual
university/corporate “alumni sites,” and FriendsReuinted, and to some
extent ICQ.

7. Networking (Making New Contacts): These include Ecademy.com and
LinkedIn, focused on accomplishing goals (often business-related). There
are also local networking sites which encourage meeting other people
locally who share similar interests (Meetup.com), or which facilitate
neighborhood self-organization, social contact and trust (UpmyStreet.com,
particularly the “conversations” area).  “but [this type isn’t] a
collaborative workspace, nor is it "adaptive to its environment" in the way
the Headshift guys talk about it”
http://www.headshift.com/moments/archives/sss2.html

Anecdotal:

1. There are, though rare, online networks of people who do not meet
(or do not meet frequently) in person but which are nevertheless networks
of very high trust. These tend, generally, to be invitation only, often
essentially closed, mailing lists (less frequently websites) generally set
for any participant to post and where the participants typically have a
great deal of respect and mutual admiration for each other. Some of these
groups lists arise out of shared common experiences – some examples I am
aware of, there are countless others I am not aware of, might be Howard
Rheingold's fairly famous "Brainstorms" community and the somewhat less
well known "Jerry's Retreat List" - these are just a few examples of groups
which have very high levels of trust amongst the members, in no small part
because of the exclusive and private nature of the groups.

2. MeshForum (http://www.meshforum.org) has a lot of resources on our
website on Network research in general

3. As William Davies (iSociety researcher) wrote: The only academic
researchers I know working in this area are Keith Hampton at MIT and Paul
Resnick at Michigan. There's also Clay Shirky, and Pew Internet Institute.
Another person who is worth asking is Danah Boyd, who is a grad student in
(I think) University of Southern California.

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