Social Web’s driving personal, community and organisational change

‘Improve ways for people to connect and communicate and change the world’. That thought has been preoccupying me for some time now. It is time to get productive. This posting threads together some of my reflections. It outlines some ‘headline’ research ideas that I have to gain a deeper understanding and clarity over ways in which the Social Web is changing the World. Change that is in a social, economic and political sense, driven by the use of social networking (eg. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Friendfeed, LinkedIn, Hi5, Bebo, Orkut, Miki and so on) and all manner of blogs and discussion groups, interactive web sites and messaging that connect people with others to communicate and to share.

Human beings are social, and socialising for many in the 21st century is no longer constrained by location, culture or by social or temporal barriers. In comparison, for many people in developed countries, the 20th century was a time of social fragmentation and isolation due to:

  • suburbanisation
  • watching TV instead of socialising with others
  • social dispersion through globalisation and the ease of international and national travel in search of jobs and new experiences
  • social isolation as many travel alone to work in their own vehicles
  • kids being home alone while both parents work (and as neighborhoods experience declining social capital as residents interact less).

Social networking sites (SNS) meet a basic social need…to know that we are not alone.  Online connections vary between relationships that are strong (eg. close friends and families) but also relationships that are weak or episodic. That is not to say weak in terms of value – emotionally, professionally, commercially. Some people are ‘hyper-connected’ – they live their lives online, connecting with hundreds or thousands of people.  Others have no presence at all online. What may be the longer term consequences, respectively? What are the comparative benefits to individuals and communities of interest from an expanding array of cultural and social reference points available to them online? What are the comparative risks to individuals who spend much of their time interacting with others online and less time with their family and friends offline?

Organisations have cottoned on that in a fast changing world, they cannot rely on their own knowledge base locked behind IP within internal organisational boundaries. They cannot rely so heavily on timely and relevant expert advice from institutions (edcuation/research/media/consultants). Being competitive means being networked.

I feel that these are big changes. Really big. I’d like to explore the social and economic impacts of the Social Web in much more detail. I’d like to find out what the inter-relationship are between the Social Web and social capital.

My thoughts are being formed by scanning (shifting through masses of information and thinking though the patterns and inter-relationships). I’m referring here to reading, viewing/listening and conversing with others. I’m referring to contemplation, analysis and writing. That’s what I do.

But more than that…much more…has been my own experience as a Social Web participant. I have a modest presence, but an expanding one. I have much more to experience and learn. Even with that, I am amazed about who I am connecting with and the effect that it is having on me.

So this is experiencial research. I know that others have completed research well in advance of me and I’m keen to get up to speed with that as well.  There is much to do.

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