History of Online Social Networking

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History of Online Social Networking Powered By Docstoc

                   Carol Daunt
   Dip T, Grad Dip Dist Ed, B Ed, M Ed (Research)

                   Supervisor: Dr Alan Roberts
              Teaching Team Member: Dr Radha Iyer
                      Faculty of Education
               Queensland University of Technology
                                TABLE OF CONTENTS

LITERATURE REVIEW ....................................................................................................................3
BIBLIOGRAPHY ..............................................................................................................................13

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Literature review

1.1     Preamble (just for context)
        The aim of this study is to understand how individuals engage in knowledge sharing
through online social networking and how this might be applied to formal online learning
programs. In order to investigate this topic, the following questions will be addressed:
         What are the key features of online social networking sites?

         How do individuals engage in online social networking sites?

         What value do they place on knowledge sharing through online social networking?

        The current concept map is below. Dotted line indicates that the topic may not have
a place in this study.

1.2     Introduction
        This review of literature examines the use of online social networking (social
networking sites) for knowledge sharing. In addition, this review examines the concept of
engagement as it applies to individuals‟ use of social networking sites. This review will
analyse the literature on the following topics:

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        1)   Section 1.3: social networking as it is defined and described in the literature;

        2)   Section 1.4: social and informal learning;

        3)   Section 1.5: engagement as it applies to online activities; and

        4)   Section 1.6 highlights the implications from the literature impacting on this

        Much work on social networking sites is still in the process of being published;
therefore many of the references are from journal articles and online publications.

1.3     Social Networking
        Web 2.0 has changed the Internet into a participatory medium in which users
actively create, evaluate and distribute information . The online social networking
revolution, seen in such phenomena as MySpace and Facebook, has focused on sharing
information about one's personal life, but social networking also offers potential to facilitate
the exchange of thoughts and ideas and thus informal learning. Social networking sites allow
people to easily forge connections with others where none previously existed, such ties
crossing physical, geographic, institutional, and organisational boundaries. Social
networking sites change the notion of the World Wide Web from the page metaphor to a
model predicated on microcontent; content blocks that can be saved, summarised, addressed,
copied, quoted, and built into new projects .

1.3.1   Definition and Features
        A social network is a collection of individuals linked together by a set of relations .
Online social networking sites „virtually‟ link individuals, who may or may not „know‟ each
other. They enable rapid exchange of knowledge, high levels of dialogue and collaborative
communication through text, audio and video .
        boyd & Ellison (2007) define social networking sites as web-based services that
allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system,
(2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and
traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. These sites
allow users to post a profile, to invite their friends, to join a variety of „groups‟ with like
interests and to make new „friends‟ through searching for others with like interests.
        The key features of social networking sites are essentially the same; however while
some support the maintenance of pre-existing social networks, others help strangers connect
based on shared interests. Sites also vary in the extent to which they allow visibility and
access to user profiles, with most allowing some degree of user control of who is able to see

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personal details. Most sites incorporate a range of communication tools such as mobile
connectivity, blogs, and photo/video sharing; with many platforms cross posting to each
other if the user so desires i.e. post a comment on Twitter and it will appear in your blog and
on Facebook and vice versa.
        After joining a social networking site, users start to build up their network by
linking with others – commonly termed “followers”, “friends‟, “contacts‟ or similar. Most
social networking sites require a confirmation by both parties for the link to be made.
Connections are usually made public and this is an important component as it allows users
to extend their own networks by linking to „friends of friends‟. It is common practice to
search the linkages of one‟s connections to find new connections for one‟s own network,
thus extending the network in a nodal fashion. Once connected, people can freely exchange
messages, however many of these exchanges are publicly visible and writers often write
with the public audience in mind - described by as “offering users an imagined audience to
guide behavioral norms”.Pettenati & Cigognini (2007) categorise the characteristics of
social networking as:
Goal                                 Relation based on individual interests, debate, confront
                                     on specific topics; multiplicity and heterogeneity of
                                     joining interests and motivations
Belonging                            Spontaneous and autonomous motivation
Duration                             Non-defined
Cohesion and enabling factors        High level of trust (relevance of reputation), sense of
                                     responsibility, high technological skills, distributed
                                     reflexivity and evaluation (non autonomous, nor
                                     heteronymous but socially spread)
                                     Type of relation: share/evaluate

Table 1. Social Network Characteristics

1.3.2    History of Online Social Networking
        The idea of connecting people by using networked computers in order to boost their
knowledge and their ability to learn, dates as far back as the 1960s and the thoughts of JCR
Licklider. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, foresaw the development
of an active suite of tools that would allow users to create rather than just passively browse.
During the 1990s the first “social” uses of the World Wide Web evolved when tools such as
listservs and discussion software were used to link people around the world with common
        The first social networking site, SixDegrees.com, appeared in 1997. Many features

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of social networking sites were available in differing formats before this time, but
SixDegrees.com was the first platform to combine all features. The uptake of social
networking was slow and it was not until 2003 that these sites became widely popular. The
diagram below illustrates the development of social networking sites.

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               Figure 1: Timeline of the launch dates of major social networking sites

1.3.3   Types of Social Networking Sites
        There are hundreds of social networking sites with various technological
affordances and the cultures that emerge around these sites are varied. It is proposed that
three specific sites be included in the scope of this study: Facebook, Ning and Twitter. Each
is outlined briefly below.
        Facebook was launched in February 2004 and membership was initially restricted to
students of Harvard College. In September 2006 it became open to everyone, with the only
requirements being a valid email address and a minimum age of 13. It currently has in
excess of 80 million active users.
        Ning, launched in October 2005, is an online platform that enables users to create
their own social websites and social networks. The unique feature of Ning is that anyone can
create their own custom social network for a particular topic or need, catering to specific
audiences. Currently, Ning hosts more than 275,000 networks
        Twitter, launched in April 2007, is a social networking and micro-blogging service
that allows users to send text-based posts, up to 140 characters long (known as "tweets") via
the Twitter web site, their mobile device or a variety of third-party applications such as
Facebook. The method of networking is through „following‟ others.

1.4     Application for Learning
        The learning experience can be defined as the moment when we actively acquire the
knowledge that is missing in order to complete needed tasks or solve a problem . Siemens
maintains that before we even enter the learning experience, we undertake a process of
exploration, inquiry, decision-making, selecting and deselecting, and that this more than
often relies on informal tools.
        Social networking sites (and other Web 2.0 tools) support and encourage informal
conversation, dialogue, collaborative content generation, and knowledge sharing. They are
focused on knowledge creation and community participation and offer the potential for
radical and transformational shifts in teaching and learning practices, allowing learners to
access peers, experts, and the wider community in ways that enable reflective, self-directed
        The National School Boards Association report found that 96 percent of students
with online access report that they have ever used any social networking technologies.
Eighty-one percent say they have visited a social networking site within the past three
months and 71 percent say they use social networking tools at least weekly. Further,

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students report that one of the most common topics of conversation on the social networking
scene is education. Almost 60 percent of students who use social networking talk about
education topics online.
         Learning is seen as a mainly social activity and the true competence for a learner of
the knowledge society would be the capability to “stay connected” and “belong” to digital
communities with which interests are and can be continuously shared . There is a shift away
from single-source knowledge i.e. one learned „teacher‟, with learners turning to multiple
knowledge sources in order to have context along with content given from multiple points of
view .
         Cross (2006) in describing how we network with people and use these networks to
gather information and to learn things, maintains that learning is optimising our connections
to the networks that matter to us. Siemens (2006) also describes learning in these terms i.e.
as the process of creating networks, such external networks consisting of nodes, which are
external entities such as people, organisations, libraries, web sites, books, journals,
databases, or any other source of information.

1.4.1    eLearning and eLearning 2.0
         eLearning came to prominence in the early 1990s in the form of online courses and
generally replicated classroom lectures with content created in a linear fashion; in effect,
page turning. Downes (2005a) believes that we are still organising and delivering eLearning
according to traditional theories of distance learning and that the dominant form of
eLearning technology currently being used, the learner management system, supports
artificial and often contrived "discussions" that have a fixed start and end-point and are
typically limited to a given group of learners.
         Downes (2006) introduces us to eLearning 2.0, learning that is based on
conversation, interaction, sharing, creation and participation.

1.4.2    Social Learning
         XXI need to do more here on Bandura & Vygotsky & apply their theories to the
social networking world.XX

1.4.3    Informal Learning
         Connor (2004) describes four types of learning and represents them by the diagram

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                                  Fig XX: Types of Learning (from

        Formal learning includes the hierarchically structured school system that runs from
primary school through the university and organized school-like programs created in
business for technical and professional training.
        Informal learning describes a lifelong process whereby individuals acquire
attitudes, values, skills and knowledge from daily experience and the educative influences
and resources in his or her environment, from family and neighbors, from work and play,
from the market place, the library and the mass media.
        Intentional learning is the process whereby an individual aims to learn something
and goes about achieving that objective.
        Accidental learning happens when in everyday activities an individual learns
something that he or she had not intended or expected.
        The Glossary gives the following definition of formal, non-formal and informal
        _   Formal learning consists of learning that occurs within an organised and
structured context (formal education, in-company training), and that is designed as learning.
It may lead to a formal recognition (diploma, certificate). Formal learning is intentional from
the learner‟s perspective
        _   Non-formal learning consists of learning embedded in planned activities that are
not explicitly designated as learning, but which contain an important learning element. Non-
formal learning is intentional from the learner‟s point of view.
        _   Informal learning is defined as learning resulting from daily life activities related
to work, family, or leisure. It is often referred to as experiential learning and can to a certain

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degree be understood as accidental learning. It is not structured in terms of learning
objectives, learning time and/or learning support. Typically, it does not lead to certification.
Informal learning may be intentional but in most cases, it is non-intentional (or
        Cross (2006a) presents a similar view that formal learning occurs within an
organised and structured context (formal education, in-company training) and usually leads
to a formal recognition (diploma, certificate). In the workplace, formal training and
workshops account for only 10% to 20% of what people learn at work. Informal learning is
the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way people learn to do their jobs. It can happen
intentionally or inadvertently. There are no classes or attendance records; grades assigned or
graduations and informal learning never ends.
        Informal learning accounts for over 75% of the learning taking place in
organisations today and happens through processes not structured or sponsored by an
employer or a school.
        Cross (2006) describes informal learners as free-range learners who expect the
freedom to connect the dots for themselves. In the future these learners will be knowledge
workers with instant, ubiquitous access to the internet and the measure of their learning is
about what they and their network connections can do – not what they individually „know‟.

1.4.4   Networks of Practice
        Networks of practice consist of large, loosely knit, geographically distributed
individuals who may not know each other or expect to meet face-to-face, however they are
capable of sharing a great deal of knowledge . Social networking sites facilitate this type of
networked learning.

1.5     Engagement
        Wasko & Faraj (2005) propose that electronic networks of practice are sources of
learning and innovation because mutual engagement and interaction in the network creates
relationships between individuals and the collective as a whole. XXMORE ON THISXX

1.5.1   Community and Presence
        Through social networking sites individuals have the capacity to connect, share,
create and participate in global conversations They are involved in communal learning on a
grand scale. But how is this sense of community maintained in the online environment? It
may be tied to the concept of „presence‟. Available research suggests that most social

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networking sites primarily support pre-existing social relations and that Facebook users
engage in „„searching‟‟ for people with whom they have an offline connection more than
they „„browse‟‟ for complete strangers to meet .
        Research by Richardson and Swan (cited in found that the feeling of presence is
significantly correlated with student perceptions of satisfaction with, and learning from,
online courses.
         found that different media influence the shape of the network, with particular
differences evident between the use of media by those strongly versus weakly tied. A social
network is built through person-to-person connectivity, and the ties maintained can range
from weak to strong according to the types of exchanges, frequency of contact, intimacy and
duration of the relationship.

1.6     Implications From the Literature
        “While a significant percentage of educators require their students to use the
Internet for homework, school policies indicate that many are not yet convinced about the
value of social networking as a useful educational tool or even as an effective
communications tool. This may indicate that their experience with social networking is
limited. However, they are curious about its potential - a sign that there may be some shifts
in attitudes, policies and practices in the future.”
        According to Barab, Kling & Gray (2004) many educators are creating intentional
online communities to support learning but these efforts often end with fragile, even
fractured groups that communicate intermittently. Unlike these online communities, social
networking sites are organised around people, not topics of interest. They are structured as
personal networks with the individual at the centre of their own community. The
introduction of social networking sites has introduced a new organisational framework for
online communities, and with it, a vibrant new research context. Social networking sites are
increasingly attracting the attention of academic and industry researchers intrigued by their
affordances and reach. Methodologically, the ability of online social networking researchers
to make causal claims is limited by a lack of experimental or longitudinal studies. Although
the situation is rapidly changing, scholars still have a limited understanding of who is and
who is not using these sites, why, and for what purposes .
        This study is interested in human to human interactions with the Internet as the
medium rather than human interaction with the Internet itself. It will examine how
distributed groups learn together using online social networking tools to share knowledge.

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