The Horizon Report on Social Networking

March 27, 2008 at 6:28 pm (social networking)

In the Horizon Report 2007, it identifies the power of social network websites.

The websites that draw people back again and again are those that connect them with friends, colleagues, or even total strangers who have a shared interest.  Social networking may represent a key way to increase student access to and participation in course activities.  It is more than just a friends list; truly engaging social networking offers an opportunity to contribute, share, communicate and collaborate [my emphasis]. 

I can’t help but think about the last statement in the context of my constructivist exploration of these social software tools.  Through my blog, and addition of tagged social bookmarks to my Furl account, I am contributing and sharing, commenting on my blog comments and collaborating via class wikis. 

In its more detailed discussion the Horizon Report points out that

… social networking sites facilitate introduction and communicaton by providing a space for people to connect around a topic of common interest.  These sites are fundamentally about community–communities of practice as well as social communities [my emphasis again]. 

Rather than limiting social networking to designated social network sites, I would argue that my blog reader allows me to follow the edublogger and edtech community, learning about practices that are shared and discussed.  I also contribute and discuss via my blog.   

Undoubtedly the most pervasive aspect of Web 2.0, social networking is all about making connections and bringing people together.  Conversations that take place in social networking contexts are inherently social, and often revolve around shared activities and interests.  The heart of social networking is fostering the kinds of deep connections that occur when common pursuits are shared and discussed. 

I can’t help but relate this to my most recent blog comment where Bill Ferriter speaks very elequently about the power of making these social networking connections around shared activities and interests (in this case it began with VoiceThread), challenging each others notions and encouraging revision and/or refinement of ideas.  The growth of my edtech social networking is a result of contributing my thoughts, ideas and reflections to the knowledge pool for others to use and discuss.  As Julie Lindsay points out, creations or outputs of what she refers to as Global Collaboration 3.0 include input from from others.

The Horizon Report 2007 also suggests that  

Students are tremendously interested in social networking sites because of the community, the content, and the activities they can do there.  They can share information about themselves, find out what their peers think about topics of interest to them, share music and playlists, and exchange messages with their friends.  Two of the best-known examples, MySpace and Facebook, have thousands of members who connect daily or hourly….These sites are frequently customizable and user-controlled….

Researchers note that online spaces…give students a safe place to gather….Not all social networking sites are aimed at students….LinkedIn is designed for professionals, and Flickr is used by people of all ages….Sites like these, though popular, are not the driving force behind the adoption of social networking education….It is the intense interest shown by students that is bringing social networking into academia. 

Social networking is already second nature to many students; our challenge is to apply it to education.  Social networking sites not only attract people but also hold their attention, impel them to contribute, and bring them back time and again–all desireable qualities for educational materials. 

The Horizon Report 2008 identifies social operating systems as “the essential ingredient of next generation social networking.”

[T]hey will base the organization of the network around people, rather than around content.  This simple conceptual shift promises profound implications for academy, and for the ways in which we think about knowledge and learning.  Social operating systems will support whole new categories of applications that weave through the implicit connections and clues we leave everywhere as we go about our lives, and use them to organize our work and our thinking around the people we know. 

Social networking systems have led us to a new understanding of how people connect.  Relationships are the currency of these systems, but we are only beginning to realize how valuable a currency they truly are.  The next generation of social networking sytems–social operating systems–will change the way we search for, work with, and understand information by placing people at the center of the network.  The first social operating system tools, only just emerging now, understand who we know, how we know them, and how deep our relationshops actually are.  They can lead us to connections we would otherwise have missed.  As they develp further, these tools will transform the academy in sigificant ways we can only begin to imagine. 

More simply put, Charles Hudson describes the future or social networking in three steps.  “First, ‘Friending up’ your network was a necessary evil….Phase II, which is I think where we are today, is really about adding some context to the nature of the relationships” in sites like Facebook.  The last phase will be machine driven, identifying communication patterns through passive profiling, analyzing who you email, how often and where there are located, to name one example.

Do I think this is possible?  In looking at past Horizon Reports, they are fairly accurate in anticipating what the up and coming technology will be.  In looking at some of the mashups that are already available incorporating Google Earth, I think that analysis of our interactions is probably already happening but we as the users are not made explicitly aware of it as those who mine that data. 

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