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					                                                                                  Briefing 13                                                                                     Briefing 13

                        An Introduction To                                                                               An Introduction To
                         Social Networks                                                                                  Social Networks
                   UKOLN: Supporting The Cultural Heritage Sector                                                    UKOLN: Supporting The Cultural Heritage Sector

What Is A Social Network?                                                                        What Is A Social Network?
Wikipedia defines a social network service as a service which “focuses on the building           Wikipedia defines a social network service as a service which “focuses on the building
and verifying of online social networks for communities of people who share interests            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,       and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others,
and which necessitates the use of software.” [1].                                                and which necessitates the use of software.” [1].
A report published by OCLC provides the following definition of social networking                A report published by OCLC provides the following definition of social networking
sites: “Web sites primarily designed to facilitate interaction between users who share           sites: “Web sites primarily designed to facilitate interaction between users who share
interests, attitudes and activities, such as Facebook, Mixi and MySpace.” [2].                   interests, attitudes and activities, such as Facebook, Mixi and MySpace.” [2].

What Can Social Networks Be Used For?                                                            What Can Social Networks Be Used For?
Social networks can provide a range of benefits to members of an organisation:                   Social networks can provide a range of benefits to members of an organisation:
        Support for learning: Social networks can enhance informal learning and                      Support for learning: Social networks can enhance informal learning and support
        support social connections within groups of learners and with those involved in              social connections within groups of learners and with those involved in the support
        the support of learning.                                                                     of learning.
        Support for members of an organisation: Social networks can potentially be                   Support for members of an organisation: Social networks can potentially be used
        used my all members of an organisation, and not just those involved in working               my all members of an organisation, and not just those involved in working with
        with students. Social networks can help the development of communities of                    students. Social networks can help the development of communities of practice.
        practice.                                                                                    Engaging with others: Passive use of social networks can provide valuable business
        Engaging with others: Passive use of social networks can provide valuable                    intelligence and feedback on institutional services (although this may give rise to
        business intelligence and feedback on institutional services (although this may              ethical concerns).
        give rise to ethical concerns).                                                              Ease of access to information and applications: The ease of use of many social
        Ease of access to information and applications: The ease of use of many social               networking services can provide benefits to users by simplifying access to other
        networking services can provide benefits to users by simplifying access to other             tools and applications. The Facebook Platform provides an example of how a social
        tools and applications. The Facebook Platform provides an example of how a                   networking service can be used as an environment for other tools.
        social networking service can be used as an environment for other tools.                     Common interface: A possible benefit of social networks may be the common
        Common interface: A possible benefit of social networks may be the common                    interface which spans work / social boundaries. Since such services are often used in
        interface which spans work / social boundaries. Since such services are often                a personal capacity the interface and the way the service works may be familiar, thus
        used in a personal capacity the interface and the way the service works may be               minimising training and support needed to exploit the services in a professional
        familiar, thus minimising training and support needed to exploit the services in a           context. This can, however, also be a barrier to those who wish to have strict
        professional context. This can, however, also be a barrier to those who wish to              boundaries between work and social activities.
        have strict boundaries between work and social activities.


This document is available at:                                                                  This document is available at:
<http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/cultural-heritage/documents/briefing-13/>                               <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/cultural-heritage/documents/briefing-13/>
Examples Of Social Networking Services                                                            Examples Of Social Networking Services
Examples of popular social networking services include:                                           Examples of popular social networking services include:
     Facebook: Facebook is a social networking Web site that allows people to                           Facebook: Facebook is a social networking Web site that allows people to
     communicate with their friends and exchange information. In May 2007 Facebook                      communicate with their friends and exchange information. In May 2007 Facebook
     launched the Facebook Platform which provides a framework for developers to                        launched the Facebook Platform which provides a framework for developers to
     create applications that interact with core Facebook features [3].                                 create applications that interact with core Facebook features [3].
     MySpace: MySpace [4] is a social networking Web site offering an interactive,                      MySpace: MySpace [4] is a social networking Web site offering an interactive,
     user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs and groups, commonly                   user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs and groups, commonly
     used for sharing photos, music and videos..                                                        used for sharing photos, music and videos..
     Ning: An online platform for creating social Web sites and social networks aimed at                Ning: An online platform for creating social Web sites and social networks aimed at
     users who want to create networks around specific interests or have limited technical              users who want to create networks around specific interests or have limited technical
     skills [5].                                                                                        skills [5].
     Twitter: Twitter [6] is an example of a micro-blogging service [7]. Twitter can be                 Twitter: Twitter [6] is an example of a micro-blogging service [7]. Twitter can be
     used in a variety of ways including sharing brief information with users and                       used in a variety of ways including sharing brief information with users and
     providing support for one’s peers.                                                                 providing support for one’s peers.
Note that this brief list of popular social networking services omits popular social              Note that this brief list of popular social networking services omits popular social
sharing services such as Flickr and YouTube.                                                      sharing services such as Flickr and YouTube.

Opportunities And Challenges                                                                      Opportunities And Challenges
The popularity and ease of use of social networking services have excited institutions            The popularity and ease of use of social networking services have excited institutions
with their potential in a variety of areas. However effective use of social networking            with their potential in a variety of areas. However effective use of social networking
services poses a number of challenges for institutions including long-term sustainability         services poses a number of challenges for institutions including long-term sustainability
of the services; user concerns over use of social tools in a work or study context; a             of the services; user concerns over use of social tools in a work or study context; a
variety of technical issues and legal issues such as copyright, privacy, accessibility; etc.      variety of technical issues and legal issues such as copyright, privacy, accessibility; etc.
Institutions would be advised to consider carefully the implications before promoting             Institutions would be advised to consider carefully the implications before promoting
significant use of such services.                                                                 significant use of such services.

References                                                                                        References
1.    Social network service, Wikipedia,                                                           1.    Social network service, Wikipedia,
      <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_network_service>                                              <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_network_service>
2.    Sharing, Privacy and Trust In Our Networked World, OCLC,                                     2.    Sharing, Privacy and Trust In Our Networked World , OCLC,
      <http://www.oclc.org/reports/sharing/>                                                             <http://www.oclc.org/reports/sharing/>
3.    Facebook, Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook>                                 3.    Facebook, Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook>
4.    MySpace, Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myspace>                                   4.    MySpace, Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myspace>
5.    Ning, Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ning>                                         5.    Ning, Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ning>
6.    An Introduction To Twitter, UKOLN Cultural heritage briefing document no. 36,                6.    An Introduction To Twitter, UKOLN Cultural heritage briefing document no. 36,
      <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/cultural-heritage/documents/briefing-36/>                                  <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/cultural-heritage/documents/briefing-36/>
7.    An Introduction To Micro-Blogging, UKOLN Cultural heritage briefing document no. 35,         7.    An Introduction To Micro-Blogging, UKOLN Cultural heritage briefing document no. 35,
      <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/cultural-heritage/documents/briefing-35/>                                  <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/cultural-heritage/documents/briefing-35/>

Produced by UKOLN: a national centre of expertise in digital information management    Nov 2009   Produced by UKOLN: a national centre of expertise in digital information management   Nov 2009
For further information see <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/>                                             For further information see <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/>

				
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