The SIG-III Blog

Notes from the ASIS&T special interest group in international information

Archive for the ‘SNS’ Category

Data on social networks in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

This week’s Data chart of the week from Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li’s Groundswell project features use statistics of social networks in different regions. Commenting on this chart from Groundswell, Josh asks

Does Korea have the highest participation because of CyWorld, or because Koreans love to connect?

Why are Germany, and especially France, so low? Is it something about the way French people behave online, or is there an opening for a great French social network (or the French version of an existing one, like Facebook)?

The data from France is something I found particularly interesting. Given that the French blogosphere is active, I would be interested to know why the number of regular social network users in France is comparatively low. Josh finishes his post by asking for reader comments regarding their thoughts on how social network use will play out in the countries listed in the chart. I invite you to do the same below.

Written by sigiii

June 2, 2008 at 5:33 pm

What’s in a name?: Questions of privacy in a Chinese social network

Chinese social networkers – the right to be anonymous?

Besides being accompanied by the above photo, which I find perfectly encapsulates the tension between recognition and anonymity among social networkers, Robert Ness’ post to Danwei.org this morning offers some of the best commentary I’ve heard on the right (or lack thereof) to be anonymous on the Internet in China. At issue is the real name system (实名制), or identity verification system. This is a system that requires someone wishing to join an online community to provide his or her real name and photo in order to join. Some like this system because (as they put it) it guarantees the authenticity of someone’s view points – members of an online community will know who said what. The systems proponents further argue that people will think twice before posting any potentially incendiary social or political commentary, as they will not be anonymous. By contrast, critics argue that this system represents Big Brother in action. Many of these critics further feel that the ability to post anonymously leads to discussion of taboo topics that would not be discussed if discussants could be personally identified.

Ness frames this debate in the context of the Chinese social network Zhanzuo.com — in Ness’s words, “one of several sites contending for the role of ‘China’s Facebook.’” The English version of the podcast interview with some of Zhanzuo’s regular networkers does a great job covering the different perspectives on this openness vs. privacy issue.

I confess I was interested in Zhanzuo for another reason as well. In order to reach out to social networkers, particularly on non-U.S. networks, I created profiles for myself on different networks active in different parts of the world (see my MySpace and Facebook, as well as my Orkut and Bebo). So naturally Zhanzuo was something I wanted to check out. I tried using Google translator to get around the language barrier, and to my surprise it wasn’t a total failure. I did get this far:

But when I created the profile I wasn’t able to type in the Roman alphabet, so I couldn’t give my real name. I threw in few random words in Chinese I copied and pasted from part of the page on the faint hope that I would be able to edit that bit of text into my real name once I was inside. Not surprisingly I was not able to do this – while I found the “edit my personal info” button, I was still unable to get the site to recognize my Romanized name. So my Zhanzuo profile is doomed.

But before the name verification authorities deleted my profile, I did try to add a little blurb about myself and the SIG-III blog, partly on the off chance that someone would see it before my profile disappeared, and partly just to see if I could do it. What happened was interesting. My attempts to post to the “about me” section were blocked, with (in Google translation) a rather Orwellian message:

your current state is: not yet audited by administrators, unable to use this function.

Block of the network to promote the real-name system, in order to pass audit, you must:

1. Upload your photos as a true portrait

2. Complete the true information (including name, department, etc)

Within 24 hours administrators will examine your images and information vetted through you can freely enjoy the fun of the block!

If Facebook, typically considered the standard bearer for authentic profile information in the U.S., ever tried anything like this, Facebook users would leave immediately. This amount of verification would never fly with a U.S. audience, thus marking a very significant difference between American social networkers and a certain percentage of Chinese social networkers. And while I wouldn’t presume to draw conclusions about broader social phenomena such as privacy in general and how attitudes towards privacy change by culture based solely upon an experiment like this, I did think my experience with Zhanzuo offered an interesting if incomplete window into attitudes towards privacy among Chinese netizens.

Posted by Aaron Bowen

Written by sigiii

October 4, 2007 at 8:56 pm

Social media and the Internet in Brazil

Brazilians are passionate about the Internet, and all the social media applications the Internet has made possible. Internet use and social media are pervading a wide range of aspects of life in Brazil, such that even those who do not have Internet access or choose not to participate in social media are frequently aware that the Internet and all its related applications are being inextricably integrated into Brazil’s social fabric. The Wikipedia even lists a technical term for Brazilian appropriation of foreign Internet applications – the Brazilian Internet Phenomenon. And they are matching Americans with regard to time spent online. Telegeography, a telecom consulting firm, reported in 2004 that Brazilian Internet users had overtaken American Internet users in terms of hours online. I actually find their statistic of 12 million Internet users in 2004 inaccurate. Euromonitor International lists 22 million users in 2004 (Euromonitor International, 2006), and Internet World Stats and Caio Bonhila of the International Telecommunications Union list 39,140,000 and 40,800,000 respectively in late 2006/early 2007.

Likewise, many in Brazil are making extensive use of different Web 2.0/social media/social networking applications. My favorite bit of pop culture to come from the Brazilian Internet recently is this music video by Claudia Leitte:

It highlights the extent to which both YouTube and Second Life are becoming a part of daily existence for Brazilian Internet users. The success of YouTube has even prompted Universo Online, A Brazilian version of America Online, to produce a native Brazilian video sharing service, the Videolog. And earlier this year Linden Labs, the company that maintains Second Life launched the Mainland Brasil arm of Second Life, its first non-English language platform (Brasil is the Portuguese spelling of Brazil). Drawing from many Brazilian blogs, Jose Murilo Junior provides this excellent account of the opening of Mainland Brasil. He quotes Brazilian bloggers’ thoughts on the opening itself, on the marketing campaigns that accompanied the opening, on the presence of the Catholic Church in Mainland Brasil, and on the (inevitable) backlash that came with the hype surrounding the event. Two bloggers in particular are worth noting. Drawing from the March 2007 Second Life population data, a blogger named Aenea pointed out that Brazilians are the sixth largest group of active Second Life users, claiming 4.73% of active users around the world. She provides the following comparison of these numbers to other Sough American countries. And writing at the Mundo Linden (Linden World) blog, Debora Perenti writes that

The Catholic community and communications network “Canção Nova” will launch the second biggest Brazilian enterprise in Second Life. It is the first Christian world large scale initiative in Linden Lab’s virtual universe. The “Canção Nova Island” forms an archipelago of 25 islands which will turn into the biggest Brazilian (and Global) Christian center, and offers a communal space for relationships, events and business in Second Life, is already in an advanced stage of development and building. The project was already being discreetly executed about 3 months ago. A team of 15 people take care of the diverse aspects in the island, such as terraforming, infrastructure, code programming, multimedia development, along side of the space’s commercial and managerial demands. (Translation by Jose Murilo Junior)

The presence of the Catholic Church in Mainland Brasil is a huge example of the confluence between Web 2.0 applications and a longstanding institution that forms part of the social and cultural fabrics of the Brazilian people.

In addition to the Brazilian presence in Second Life, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians use the Orkut social network. Developed by Google, Orkut is an example of the Brazilian Internet phenomenon listed above – an American network, but more Brazilians than Americans using it. Jose Murilo Junior writes about Orkut as well – as he says,

In order to understand Google’s significance in South America’s biggest country it must be realized that today of the 20 million Brazilians with access to the Internet , approximately 17 million are in Orkut.

And immediately after he makes this statement he pulls together literature from around the Brazilian blogosphere outlining a tension between Brazilian authorities seeking Orkut patron information on people suspected of being involved in foul play and Google’s unwillingness to turn over information it believed should remain confidential. In addition to discussions of censorship and comparisons of Brazil’s government to the governments of China and Iran (both of whom have asked Google for information on Internet users), some of the discussion focused on an extremely frightening prospect for many Brazilians – that Google might elect to close Orkut to Brazilian social networkers rather than turn over data to the Brazilian government. Luckily for Brazilian Orkut users this course of action never became reality, and Orkut is still freely accessible in Brazil. This amalgamation of blogosphere chatter culminates in Murillo Junior’s thought that

All sides should keep in mind that the case can be an opportunity bringing important insights about how to deal with identity in the web environment. Brazilians are ready (eager?) to explore these possibilities. It would be important also that Google Brazil’s team should be prepared to think and move with respect for local cultural sensibilities while dealing with the implications created by such a huge experiment in social networking. It is obvious that ‘adsense’ sales people are not prepared to understand the deep issues that will keep emerging from the incredible digital laboratory spontaneously generated by social networking. Google’s one-size-fits-all approach may just not fit everywhere, every time.

I’d be interested to know any or your thoughts on the extent to which a social network or other Web 2.0 application can be imported from one “local cultural sensibility” into another one, contrasted to the extent of localization that must occur to make a social networking service palatable to a culture different from the one that produced it.

Citizen journalism blog reactions to violence in Brazilian cities

As is evident from Murillo Junior’s sources, the Brazilian blogosphere in general is vast and covers many different topics, from people’s daily lives, to blogs discussing specific topics. (In fact in terms of breadth and topics, the Brazilian blogosphere isn’t too different from the blogosphere in America, although the content posted to Brazilian blogs will have its own distinct cultural characteristics). Though they are by far not the only blogs to discuss these topics, I have run across two blogs in particular that highlight issues within Brazilian politics and rising violence in Rio de Janeiro. Written in both Portuguese and English, the political blog, Brazil Political Comment, is managed by a consultant in São Paulo named John Fitzpatrick, and (in its own words) offers “opinion and analysis of the Brazilian political and business scene.”

A starker example of a social justice blog, Rio Body Count chronicles the numbers of dead and wounded in Rio between February and September of 2007. For the past year to year and a half, Brazil’s major cities – Rio and São Paulo in particular, but other cities as well – have been hit by a severe spike in violence and gang-related activity. There are multiple causes of this spike, but in particular ethnic tensions and a wide gap between wealthy and poorer people (combined with a perception that this gap is widening even further) have fueled this rise of violence. An October 6, 2006 article by Ralph Hoppe in Der Spiegel called São Paulo: Laboratory of Violence provides easily the most graphic but detailed and informative picture of São Paulo’s heightened level of violence I have seen:

The criminal underworld in Sao Paolo wields a power that rivals the Brazilian government’s. It organizes deadly violence but serves as a welfare state, while the city’s wealthy have withdrawn into luxury neighborhoods and feel safe only when they travel by helicopter. Is Sao Paolo a forerunner of the 21st-century metropolis?

For Sao Paolo, 2006 is the year of violence. Never before have there been such intense and protracted battles between gangsters and the police, concentrated attacks that paralyzed the giant city for days… All this violence amounted to a challenge to the Brazilian government by the criminal underground. According to people in the favelas, it was high time. Sao Paolo proper has 10 million inhabitants; it’s the sixth-largest city in the world, the largest in the southern hemisphere. In this chaos of wealth and sordid misery, gleaming skyscrapers and gray huts, the criminal underground has issued its call to arms, and the upper classes have retreated deeper and deeper into enclaves of wealth…

Since this year’s civil war, though, the [“Primeiro Comando da Capital” or “First Command” – the main criminal gang operating in São Paulo] builds internal coherence through fear and trust… and the message of the violent “demonstration” was simple: This city is ours.

Rio witnessed a similar spike in violent crime in 2006 and 2007. Groups like Rio Body Count have used different means, including their blog, to convey a message of opposition to violence of this nature. Accessing the site on September 19 of this year and using Google translator, one passage on the site reads

At the beginning of the project, the shock was gigantic… [An average of ten] died per day, and the people had started to debate on the violence, on the real necessity to decide everything with more violence. Many blogs had appeared to debate the subject, others had deepened the speech, similar projects to the Riobodycount had been initiated in other States of Brazil, and the numbers had been growing each time more…

This violence, peaceful protests against it, and police actions to counter it also entered the mainstream media and made it onto citizen journalism blogs. Roger Cohen wrote about the current violence in Brail and its causes in the New York Times, and on the French citizen journalism site AgoraVox, J.N. Paquet had this report on the Rio de Paz (“River of Peace”) movement placing 3,000 black bags filled with sand on Copacabana beach in Rio to represent the 3,000 people killed in their state during the first half of 2007. He includes the following picture of the Rio de Paz cemetery:

Image of the Rio de Paz cemetery on Copacabana beach

Alan Mota at OhMyNews, a Korean citizen journalism site, wrote about a police reaction to the rise in violence, which involved coordinated efforts by 25,000+ police officers across Brazil and yielded over 2,000 arrests.

Other Brazilian uses of social media

Like any outlet for citizen journalism, Brazilian sites cover many topics – the blog reactions to violence discussed above being just one (rather grim) example. Also writing in OhMyNews, Antonio Carlos Rix covered the Eu-Reporter (“I Reporter”) site, which he describes as “a collaborative section at the famous Brazilian print newspaper and online newspaper O Globo.” Rix also points to two articles by OhMyNews reporter Ana Maria Brambilla, one about citizen photojournalism in Brazil, the other about professional relationships between citizen journalists.

Concerning corporate blogs in Brazil, Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research shares his experiences from a conference in São Paulo:

CEOs here want to blog. I met with CEOs of companies large and small, and this question kept coming up. “How much time does it take?” “What if someone criticizes us?”… I was intrigued that this idea was so popular. I think businesspeople in Brazil are more used to taking risks.

And beyond citizen journalism and the blogosphere, Richard MacManus writes about a host of Brazilian Web 2.0 applications that have emerged within the past two years. He covers, among others, Videolog.tv, theYouTube clone I mentioned above, the Gazzag and Wasabi social networks, the BlogBlogs and OverMundo blogging services, and the Flogão photo sharing service.

So in short, Brazilian social media applications and social media users are extensive and growing, and they use these media platforms to discuss a wide range of topics. As Internet connectivity and Internet use continue to expand in Brazil, the numbers of Brazilians using these applications to put their voices on the Web will do nothing but increase – and, I predict, increase rapidly.

Work Cited:
Euromonitor International. (2006). International Marketing Data and Statistics 2007. 2nd ed, v. 2. London, U.K: Euromonitor International Plc.

Posted by Aaron Bowen

Written by sigiii

September 19, 2007 at 9:43 pm

Global social networking

Did you know that Americans do not have the largest social networking communities in the world? According to market research by Ipsos, America comes in fifth place in terms of number of people connected to a social network – South Korea comes in first. According to Ipsos,

Leading all other markets in its love affair with social networking is South Korea, as half (49%) of all adults in this country have visited at least one of these websites in the past, while over half of all online adults have visited a social networking website in the past 30 days… In comparison, about one in five American adults (24%) have ever visited a social networking website.

The chart they include is the best part of this announcement. It points to South Korea and Brazil as being the most active social networkers, with China and Mexico closer to the U.S. but still more active than American social networkers. (additional reports about these findings here, here, and here).

Furthermore, According to research by comScore, a company that measures Internet use statistics, different services gain and maintain popularity in different regions of the world. While social networking in the U.S. is dominated by MySpace and FaceBook, Latin and South America (Brazil in particular) primarily use Orkut, and the Asia/Pacific region uses Friendster first and foremost, and Orkut as a numerically solid alternative. As the comScore press release notes,

MySpace.com (62 percent) and Facebook.com (68 percent) attract approximately two-thirds of their respective audiences from North America. That said, each has already amassed a large international visitor base and both appear poised to continue their global expansion. Bebo.com has a particularly strong grasp on Europe, attracting nearly 63 percent of its visitors from that region, while Orkut is firmly entrenched in Latin America (49 percent) and Asia-Pacific (43 percent). Friendster also attracts a significant proportion of its visitors (89 percent) from the Asia-Pacific region.

And ironically, all the companies in the comScore study are American. Some have just wound up being more popular in other countries besides America. But are there social networking services born in other countries, which cater to people in those countries? Absolutely.

Danah Boyd has provided a (partial) list of foreign social networks, as well as the languages in which they are published and the number of profiles each has. She lists

Cyworld (Korea)

Mixi (Japan)

QQ (China). Here is a link to the English version of QQ, which has a South African web address and a much cleaner appearance than the Chinese site.

Hevre (Israel)

Lunarstorm (Sweden). British version here.

StudiVZ (Germany). StudiVZ has mirror sites in French, Italian, and Polish, as well as a Spanish language version targeting South America, but no English version.

Her commenters have listed still more services – one pointed in particular to this list, which lists many non-American services. All told I’ve looked at perhaps 30 to 50 non-American social networking services, some of whom claim tens of millions of users.

And yes, foreign social networks can look different from American ones, and people of different nationalities may use them differently from people in the U.S. or discuss topics that wouldn’t reach an American audience. For example Hevre, an Israeli site, looks like this:

Image of Hevre, an Israeli social network

La Zona, a music industry oriented social network maintained by MTV Latin America, looks much closer to American social networks than Hevre does, but even then (to my mind at least) this site has a distinctly more Latin American appearance than a U.S.-based social network.

Image of La Zona, a Latin American social network

In terms of how people in different countries use social networks differently than people in the U.S., Forrester Research’s Vice President and Principal Analyst Charlene Li wrote a report on Mixi that noted certain cultural differences in how Japanese people network with each other. I found these characteristics of particular interest:

Invitation-only participation. Most of the Mixi users I spoke with said that they use Mixi only to connect with their friends. The most used feature – the “diary”. They update their own and frequently check their friends’ diaries. While essentially a blog, many users don’t consider it one, as it’s really only for their friends.

Anonymous profiles. As a rule, the Japanese don’t use their real names on their profiles. While this is also often true in North America, I found it interesting that users made it a point to tell me that they didn’t use their real names. Also, very few of the Mixi users I spoke with said that they had ever interacted with people they did not know, the complete opposite of the behavior usually found on MySpace.

Heavily mobile-based. Several users told me that text messaging updates actually facilitated participation as they were more comfortable writing than engaging in face-to-face conversations.

Structure. Unlike MySpace, Mixi is highly structured with minimal ability to change the layout. The users I spoke with liked the structure, as it created certainty about how users were to interact with each other.

Writing in the International Herald Tribune, James Shih echoes Charlene’s thoughts about the structure of Mixi in this article. He notes that

MySpace, for example, has often been described as a “free-for-all” in which members can easily create multiple profiles, add their own programming and post other kinds of media, like pictures, music and videos… Mixi of Japan, however, has a much more structured approach. A person can join only if invited by current members. Personal profiles are based only on text, except for three photos (premium service allows more). Surprisingly, users do not seem to mind. In fact, most members do not post pictures of themselves, opting instead for photos of celebrities, scenery or pets.

This article continues by discussing Cyworld, which it says blends elements of virtual worlds (such as Second Life) with social networking:

Cyworld is yet another story. Personal profiles are dominated by the Miniroom, a 400- pixel-by-200-pixel space that users can decorate with digital furniture, wallpaper and other objects, much as they would decorate real rooms. An avatar, or a character representation referred to as Minime, is also in the room, and the user can change Minime’s clothes, hair and facial expression. In fact, users pay real money to buy the various virtual objects to spice up the lives of their Minimes.

By comparison to Japanese Mixi users, Chinese people are more willing to network with people they do not personally know – in fact they are even more willing to do this than American social networkers are. This chart from the eMarketer report I linked to above indicates that Chinese people are far more outgoing when it comes to social networking than their peers in Europe and the U.S., and the report itself adds that

Among adult Chinese broadband users, 80% had discussed hobbies or interests online via a social network, and 78% had used a social network to meet new people. Less than half of users in most other markets surveyed said they had used a social network for either of those purposes.

The internationalization of social networking has caught the attention of American services as well. MySpace in particular has branched out to other countries. They have dedicated this entire page to their global network, and generated media buzz such as this Victoria Shannon article in the Herald Tribune. But as to how successful these transplanted networks will or will not be among different demographic segments of the world’s population, Bob Ivins of comScore has the most pertinent observation. He notes that

A fundamental aspect of the success of social networking sites is cultural relevance… Those doing well in certain regions are likely doing an effective job of communicating appropriately with those regions’ specific populations. As social networking continues to evolve, it will be exciting to see if networks are able to cross cultural barriers and bring people from different corners of the globe together in fulfilling the truest ideals of social networking.

So I’ve just thrown a bunch of information at you. Now it’s your turn – I’d love to have your thoughts as a comment. Have you encountered the international sphere in your own social networking activities? If so, did you encounter any cultural differences you found particularly striking? If you met someone from a different country through your network, did s/he talk about his/her home country? If so, what did s/he say?

Posted by Aaron Bowen

Written by sigiii

August 12, 2007 at 2:55 am

Why should we talk about (international) social networking?

There’s been an ongoing discussion about whether social networking is a passing fad or a form of connection that is here to stay – and if it is here to stay, how pervasive or inconsequential it will be, and what it will look like as social networking applications continue to develop and reinvent themselves.

The single most significant expression I’ve seen of this outstanding question comes from a discussion on the ACRLog, the blog of the Association of College and Research Libraries. In discussing David Bickford’s assertion in this thread that the 1970s notion of library service done over CB radio was a passing fad, Marc Meola asks if Web 2.0 services such as social networking are a fad or something that is here to stay. Two people responded that certain aspects of Web 2.0 are fads while other aspects will stick around. But a recently minted librarian named Michael C. Habib commented that

MySpace and Facebook are 2.0 as it gets and it would be hard to argue that they have only been picked up by tech geeks. Those services also incorporate blogging, commenting, and photo sharing. Wikipedia, E-Bay, and Craigslist are also 2.0 as it gets. These are just a couple of examples, but the idea is that 2.0 is already mainstream and well entrenched in peoples daily use of the internet. Sites like Flickr might point to a newer breed of 2.0 technologies, but 2.0 is here to stay.

Agreeing with Habib, I wrote that

As the introduction of the Internet to a mass audience in the 1990s showed, it is in a library’s interest to pay attention to disruptive technologies. I would rather be guilty of paying attention to a fad than missing out on the “next big thing” — and 2.0 continues to demonstrate day by day that it is anything but a passing fad.

Other voices have echoed this thought when discussing social networking services explicitly. Forrester Research’s Vice President and Principal Analyst Charlene Li famously described social networking as being “like air.” Jenny Levine at the Shifted Librarian wrote in March of this year that

Hopefully it is becoming clearer that we [as LIS professionals] need to pay attention to virtual worlds because they are going to be a part of our collective, professional future. It’s up to each of us individually how much of a role it will play in our personal lives, just as we make decisions about books, television, the internet, parties, movies, parties, etc. are, but between Sony’s plans, the BBC’s forthcoming online children’s world, Second Life, There, and other virtual spaces, we’re seeing further illustrations of why librarians need to understand how cultures and interactions work in these spaces for our professional lives.

I believe the same to be true about blogs and networking services like FaceBook as well. These applications are affecting and will continue to affect the world of information in new and significant ways, thereby impacting the work we do as library and information professionals. And given that Internet-based information is borderless (with the exception of certain countries where a national government seeks to censor Internet information, a topic I will discuss in a later post), the different forms of social networking services are taking root all over the world.

Writing from Bangladesh, Mahfuz Sadique produced one of the best introductions to the global blogosphere I’ve ever read. He touches on the most significant themes I have seen discussed in foreign blogs, particularly blogs in the developing world. These themes include Internet access, instruction in using a blog platform to generate content, the size of the blogosphere in a given nation compared to the total population of the country, the socioeconomic backgrounds of blog readers in the country, issues of local language and blogging in local languages and non-latin scripts, and localized content such as citizen journalism (and how this content affects traditional journalistic reporting and potentially invokes censorship on the part of a national government. Sadique paints a picture in which many challenges remain in terms of growing the Bangla blogosphere and using it to produce useful content that can inform Bangladeshis and foreigners alike about life in Bangladesh. But he also notes the blogosphere growth that has occurred in Bangladesh, and such successes as opening up the blogosphere to the Bangla language:

Only around one per cent of people in Bangladesh currently have access to the internet. As a result, before the blogging boom, the national presence on the web… had been sparse… However, since blogging has become a popular pastime, the entire Bangladeshi presence on the landscape of the internet has changed. In the beginning Bangladeshi bloggers had to write in English because of technological barriers. But with the incorporation of Unicode (which is an acronym for a standardization of symbols, Universal Code, which recognizes Bengali characters) into various blog-hosting sites, the number of Bangla blogs has risen exponentially. This was best demonstrated by a blog hosted by a Danish-Bangladeshi site, Somewhere in, when it launched an exclusively Bengali blog platform site — ‘Badh Bhangar Aawaj’. According to Hasin Hayder of Somewhere in, ‘there are around 5000 bloggers continuously writing’. The figures are staggering; since it started, a little over a year back, more than 31,000 articles and 350,000 comments have been posted. The ability to blog in Bangla seems to have liberated Bangladesh from its initial online inhibitions.

Because of thoughts like this in the blogosphere, and the fact that the blogosphere continues to foster active participation and discussion around the world, I believe it is important for us in the library profession to have an understanding of how people use these services, and what types of information they use the services to communicate. Certainly there exist considerable challenges for bloggers and social networkers in many countries, such as those Mahfuz Sadique touched upon. But given that people around the world are using social networking services to connect, network, communicate, and share information on global issues and events, library and information professionals have an interest in examining this trend towards internationalization, and considering where and how they may play a role in this international conversation. Given that social networking services will continue to become a prominent means by which people around the world exchanging information, library and information professionals have an interest in monitoring and understanding this global trend.

Posted by Aaron Bowen

Written by sigiii

August 8, 2007 at 1:49 am

What do we mean by social networking?

I am not asking for a comprehensive definition. I have yet to come across any definition that does anything more than offer an understanding of social networking in the broadest possible terms. On August 6 of this year for example, the Wikipedia defined social networking as a service that “focuses on the building and verifying of online social networks for communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others.” I don’t disagree with any of that, but it doesn’t by itself offer me a greater understanding of what a social networking service is. The Wikipedia staff doesn’t find it adequate either, and have flagged the article as being in need of expansion and of additional material to support the ideas in the article.

I ask this question more to define some boundaries on what Amanda and I (your blog moderators) are proposing for discussion. Common understandings of social networking services hold that services like FaceBook and MySpace fall into the rubric of social networking, and I believe this is what the SIG-III officers had in mind when we came up with the idea of having this discussion.

I have since expanded the scope of this discussion to include the blogosphere as well. Like the networking services listed above, the blogosphere meets the criteria of the Wikipedia’s broad definition of social networking. (And yes, so do image sharing services such as Flickr, video sharing services such as YouTube, and virtual worlds such as Second Life. I have chosen to focus on blogs and FaceBook/MySpace-style services for discussion on the SIG-III blog, but I would be remiss if I failed to note other applications and services that have networking aspects as well). With this in mind, we welcome your ideas on our discussions of internationally focused blogs and networking services, but please do not feel limited by this focus. Please comment on any post you like, and if you would like to contribute an entirely new thought or post, please send it to me at sigiiiblog [at] gmail.com.

Beyond that, here are some more comprehensive definitions of social networking – all open to discussion, debate, and critique. In March of this yeah, Danah Boyd offered the following description of a workshop she put together with Nicole Ellison and Scott Golder at the 3rd Annual Communities and Technologies Conference. In their description they loosely considered social software to “include social network sites (e.g., Cyworld, MySpace, orkut, and Facebook), contemporary online dating services (e.g., Friendster, Spring Street Personals, Match.com), blogging services (e.g., LiveJournal, Xanga, Blogger), tagging tools (e.g. del.icio.us, Digg) and media sharing sites (e.g., YouTube, Flickr).” Then in June, Danah offered a definition of social networking specifically:

To count as a social network site, the site MUST have 1) a public or friends-only profile system; 2) a publicly articulated list of “Friends” who are also on the system (not blogrolls). Friends must be visible on an individual’s profile and it must be possible to traverse the network graph through that list of Friends. If the site does not let you “comment” on Friends’ profiles, please indicate that. This is not necessary although it is a common component. I’m not interested in dating sites, community sites, or blogging tools that do not have public profile + friends that are displayed on profiles.

Socialmedia.biz further describes some of the primary characteristics of social networking services:

1. Communication in the form of conversation, not monologue. This implies that social media must facilitate two-way discussion, discourse, and debate with little or no moderation or censorship. …

2. Participants in social media are people, not organizations. Third-person voice is discouraged and the source of ideas and participation is clearly identified and associated with the individuals that contributed them. Anonymity is also discouraged but permissible in some very limited situations.

3. Honesty and transparency are core values. Spin and attempting to control, manipulate, or even spam the conversation are thoroughly discouraged. …

4. It’s all about pull, not push. … In social media, people are in control of their conversations, not the pushers.

5. Distribution instead of centralization. … Social media is highly distributed and made up of tens of millions of voices making it far more textured, rich, and heterogeneous than old media could ever be (or want to be). Encouraging conversations on the vast edges of our networks, rather than in the middle, is what this point is all about.

And concerning the blogosphere specifically, Paul, a blogger at a South African blog called Chilibean, echos the first and second of Socialmedia.biz’s points. He writes that “a blog is a conversation. Blogs are structured to facilitate interaction between the blogger and the blog’s readers and use simple tools like RSS feeds, comments and trackbacks to keep those conversations going. Blogging lends itself to informality because of the emphasis on the expression of an authentic voice as an essential element of a blog.”

So if you have any thoughts on the nature of social networking as I have presented it here, please leave a comment. Otherwise, I’ll be posting more about the international face of social networking later this evening or tomorrow.

Posted by Aaron Bowen

Written by sigiii

August 7, 2007 at 12:46 am

Posted in 2007 Global Plaza, SNS