November 9, 2007

Should I Classmate, Mixi or Orkut?

I recently attended a CAPCON conference that my colleague, Mary Madden, was speaking at in order to get a better sense of what people mean by social networking. The confusing issue for me was that too often the term was bounded by a specific technology or demographic rather than the activity (i.e., individuals interacting with other individuals.) What emerged from Mary’s presentation and that of others was the reminder that social networking is nothing new. In fact, it’s about as old civilization.

Whenever people have come together to exchange information verbally, physically or symbolically, they’ve been networking socially. Throughout history this has taken many formal and informal forms amongst different social groups from individuals in the marketplace, workplace, houses of worship, schools etc. Social networking is bound up in the idea of discourse or other forms of exchange amongst individuals whether that exchange is synchronous or asynchronous. What is different today is the speed with which people can connect and the multitude of applications to choose from. Sometimes I find myself getting a little too caught up in the technology – to MySpace to not to MySpace – and I forget how simple certain things are.