The Future of Social Networking

Do you get Stephen’s OL Weekly (or Daily)? I have for some time. I have often thought how does he keep it up. I hate routine. The thought of having to do the same thing over and over for weeks and weeks or years and years just fills me with horror. But of course we all have to subject to routines in some way. This week I am rebelling. I am not cleaning the house. It looks OK to me – so hopefully it will to everyone else too!

But routines and cleaning the house are not what set me off on this post. They are just an aside. It was something in Stephen’s weekly that struck a chord. This was it:

Social Networking Condemned to Die. The Problem Is Commitment.
“Facebook is nothing more than a new version of America Online, with lots of calories but not much nutrition.” I find it difficult not to agree with that sentiment (yet I still update my Facebook status and still check out my Scrabble Wordscraper games. “Creates a major problem for Facebook, and for other Web 2.0 social networks. Facebook has created loyalty without value, quantity that drowns quality.” Yes – but the irony is that today’s political laders still respond to quantity over quality, which is why we keep seeing headlines that read Government backs down after facebook protest. See also Facebook’s Face Plant: The Poverty of Social Networks and the Death of Web 2.0. TonNet, education and technology, December 11, 2008 [Link] [Tags: Books, Networks, Web 2.0, Canada] [Comment]

This has been in the back of my mind for some time. I do have a Facebook account, but to be honest I can’t really see the point (apologies if I am offending my friends here). If I have a close contact I prefer to email them. And I really can’t imagine that even my friends are interested in the triviality of my life. I have similar feelings about Twitter, although the CCK08 course made me realise that Twitter is useful if you want information in the moment, for example when the Ustream sessions moved to Elluminate and I couldn’t find everyone. If I had been using my Twitter account (which I don’t) I would have known where everyone is.

And then there was one of the speakers in the Women of Web 2.0 week who said she was a member of 20 Ning groups. Why? How could you possibly keep up with 20 online communties? Communities involve commitment and reciprocity. I have just been invited to join another online group and I had to join to find out what it was all about. I was invited to join by someone I respect, so I felt obliged to look into it, but I know I will not use it. There are only so many groups that I feel I can belong to at any one time and for me that number has to be small – I don’t want to spend my life online and my attention span is short!

The online groups or social networks that work best for me are those based on the principles of communities of practice. I am an online education consultant and work online all the time with groups of learners. I find these experiences, although very time limited, very fulfilling and enriching – a hugely different experience to posting on Facebook. Why do I find this? Well – for the very reason given in the post that Stephen pointed to in his OL weekly – the reason being that in online courses there is commitment – there is a clear domain – we all join round a given subject in which we are all interested – there is a defined area of practice which is associated with the domain and which we all want to share – and because of this need to share and identify with the domain, we are all keen to ensure that the community gels. Etienne Wenger has explained all this for us in his work on communities of practice. A community of practice needs the type of commitment that Facebook and other social networks of this type cannot give us. In addition social networks of the Facebook type don’t gather round a clearly identified domain and there is no requirement to share practice.

So where does this leave us? How will we move from time-limited commitment and connections made in short online courses, to longer term commitments and connections.? Do we need to? Is it just life that some connections will be transitory?

I have made very many passing connections in my online work. But every so often I make a much more lasting one. Currently I am working on a research paper, which explores learner experiences in an online community of practice, with someone who I met on line and who now is a good friend. This has been a very enriching connection. These are the sort of connections that I would like to make online. Connections that involve more than fleeting, passing engagement and where deeper issues can be explored.

Well I’ve overcome the feeling that I have nothing to say – at least for this week!

Before I finish – just to say that I am still keeping an eye on CCK08 blogs.

Have you seen Viplav, Maru and Carlos‘ final presentation. If not, you must. Isn’t this what connectivism is all about. Three people who don’t know each other, from right across the world working together to produce this presentation – gelling their ideas, accepting each other’s differences, communicating to produce a high quality presentation!

And there  are some more here http://technorati.com/videos/tag/CCK08

And there was one that I found earlier in the week and such are my technical skills that I can no longer find it, but it was a Flash presentation showing how weak and strong ties in the network grew and faded as the course progressed. I am really peeved that I can’t now find this presentation as I would have like to keep a record of it.

Thanks to those who have encouraged me to keep blogging.

One day later – Didn’t realise I hadn’t put a title on this post – so I have added one now