Ulises Mejias has written a wonderful paper (subscription required) on how social networks don’t just enable participation – but limit them. Or as he asks: “Whether social network services engender publics (where opinion can be expressed freely) or masses (where opinion can be expressed freely but is not realised in action)”.
It’s a fascinating counterpoint to the ‘revolutionary’ rhetoric (think Twitter and the ‘Iran revolution’) that surrounds so much writing on social networks.
If you’re able to get hold of a copy, I recommend reading the paper in full, as there’s far too much of interest to summarise here. But if you can’t, here are some of the points that Mejias makes: Continue reading →
Great post by Claire Wardle and Matthew Eltringham on some research they conducted into how social network users use news. Here are the highlights. Firstly, news as a social object:
“They all saw comment and discussion as a key component of enjoying news on Facebook. They shared and posted stories they were interested in, sure, but also so they could make a point or start a conversation. But the vast majority really only wanted to have that conversation within their own group of friends, partly because that was where they felt comfortable.”
Information is changing. The news industry was born in a time of information scarcity – and any understanding of the laws of supply and demand will tell you that that made information valuable.
But the past 30 years have seen that the erosion of that scarcity. Not only have the barriers to publishing, broadcast and distribution been lowered by desktop publishing, satellite and digital technologies, and the web – but a booming PR industry has grown up to provide these news organisations with ‘cheap’ news.
Information is changing. Increasingly, we are not seeking information out – instead, it finds us. The scarcity is not in information, but in our time to wade through it, make meaning of it, and act on it.
The last year has seen social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn updating the design of the homepage to turn it more into a notification page: the homepage as a place where you can see what your friends are doing. Your virtual center of the network.
These updates let you know what your friends are up to, but they also let you know what your friends like or share. The social networks often work as recommendation networks as well. Continue reading →