Friday, April 15, 2011

I am studying Facebook for my final project and I will also be looking at the rules that govern it. Facebook posts its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (, Facebook Principles (, and Privacy Policy ( on their website.


Under their Facebook Principles, they list:
1. Freedom to Share and Connect
2. Ownership and Control of Information
3. Free Flow of Information
4. Fundamental Equality
5. Social Value
6. Open Platforms and Standards
7. Fundamental Service
8. Common Welfare
9. Transparent Process
10. One World

Their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities are based of their Facebook Principles. Some of the rules that are included on this page are:
• You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.
• You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.
• You will not use your personal profile for your own commercial gain (such as selling your status update to an advertiser).
• You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.
• You will keep your contact information accurate and up-to-date.
• You will not tag users or send email invitations to non-users without their consent.

Broken Rules

1. This first example violates the rule; “You will not use your personal profile for your own commercial gain”. This user is using his status as a way to advertise the sale of his belonging.

Admin response: I don’t think it is an issue for people to be posting advertisements for personal belongings as long as it’s not for personal businesses. It would be hard to determine if the user is in fact selling the object as a business, but I think it would be out of the scope of an admin to go through every status to look for business ads. There are already options for users to hide posts from a user or “Mark as spam”, so users who don’t wish to view these status are able to block them. These features are similar to those Gazan (2009) saw in Answerbag. If a user reported this posting, I would be forced to remove it because it does break the rules that the user agreed to when they signed up to use Facebook.

2. This second example is in clear violation of the rule; “You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” This status update is extremely violent and is very threatening towards the subject.

Admin response: Users are encouraged to share what is on their mind. Their current thoughts may not always be the happiest thoughts. Gazan (2009), writes that a result of self-aware behavior has both positive and negative effects. Grimes et al. (2008) cited Koster (2006) who said, “Users have the right to speak and express themselves freely…” I would let this go if I came across it, but if a user reported it; I would probably remove the posting. This falls under the sticky subject of censorship, but it clearly breaks the terms that the user agreed to. Dibbell (2008) wrote that the Internet is serious business, but caring too much is what the “griefers” want. Again, users have the option of blocking this user’s posts or reporting it as spam.

3. The third example violates the rule; “You will not tag users or send email invitations to non-users without their consent.“ Facebook allows users to tag themselves and others of their current location. Although not obvious, I personally know that this person was not informed that they would be tagged in posting.

Admin response: Facebook already has the option toggle if “Friends can check my in to Places”, but it is turned on by default. I think there is a privacy concern with this feature and people may not want to allow people to tell Facebook where there are. Also, users may not be interested in where users are at any given time. I think that this still does have its uses. Madison (2006) wrote that physical spaces can “enliven and stimulate a group, or deaden it”. I would turn off this feature by default and if a user would like to use this feature, they have the option to turn it on.

“Unwritten Rules”

• Value users trust
• Encourage informal groups (Madison, 2009)
• Use oversight from other users to filter out bad postings (Cosley et al, 2005)
• Encourage self-aware behavior (Gazan, 2009)
• Inform and provide users with the tools to share/hide their information

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Online Identity - Twitter

Twitter is a social networking site (SNS) that I have a little experience in using. I am a very infrequent “tweeter”, usually only tweeting as a reply to a friend’s tweet. However, I do regularly follow my Timeline feed, for fear of being left “out of the loop”. In Twitter, there are two main motivations behind how you display your profile to the rest of the community. One is to gather as many followers as possible and take advantage of the broadcasting power that Twitter provides. The other is a more intimate micro-blog for a closer group of people, which you would like to update on your daily happenings. The motive behind their use of Twitter can change how they mold their online identity to others.

A Twitter user’s identity comes from the user’s profile that includes the number of tweets that user has posted, followers, followees, and the tweets they have posted. The number of postings could be a possible indicator of the user’s involvement in the community. The followers and followees give social context to the user (Donath, 2007). The number of these lists can also indicate status in the community (the level of influence). The tweets that the user posts can come in the form of life updates, points of interests, and communication between users. The combination of all these things is what creates an online identity.

All of these aspects of a Twitter user’s profile page are clues to a person’s qualities that aren’t explicitly displayed. By gathering the signals in the form of followers, followees, or tweets, an online identity of the user is formed (Donath, 2007).

Wellman et al. wrote that the Internet has transformed real life communities from co-located groups to networked individualists (2003). This fits in with the online identities of Twitter. Users on Twitter choose whom they follow and can choose who they allow to follow them. These relationships aren’t made due to physical proximity, but rather through interests.

Use Scenarios

Scenario 1 (“Sunny Day”)
Ralph joins Twitter after pressure from his friends to join. He is excited to add his friends and post his first tweet.
• He goes to and sees the “Sign Up button”
• Upon clicking the button he is brought to the form to fill out
• After filling out the form (and confirming through e-mail), he is brought to a page where he sees popular Tweeters based on Interests
• He skips to the next page to search for his friends
• He is able to request to be followers for all of his friends (he must wait for a couple friends to accept because their tweets are protected)
• Under “What’s happening?”, Ralph types in “Hello Twitter World!” and successfully posts his first tweet

Scenario 2 (“Sunny Day”)
Beth sees on the news that they are going to be posting answers to their daily question on air. She would like to share her opinion on the TV.
• She signs into her Twitter account on her iPhone
• She goes to the news station’s twitter page
• Beth reads the recent tweets and thinks that this would be something useful to follow
• She clicks on the “Follow” button and is now following the news station
• The daily question is at the top of the timeline so she clicks on reply
• Beth types in her response to the question and sees her answer on TV later on the evening news

Scenario 3 (“Rainy Day”)
Billy created a Twitter account a long time ago, but didn’t understand how it was useful so he didn’t use it. After seeing its prevalence in today’s media, he decided to give it another chance. He wants to add new people to follow and hopes others will follow him.
• Billy didn’t have anyone to follow so he decides to follow the suggested users.
• He finds this useful and is happy with the people he follows, but he doesn’t have many followers
• Then, he sees a button that says “1 new follower request”
• He clicks it and sees a user that he doesn’t know
• Billy allows it anyways and decides to follow him too
• After a while, he notices some weird tweets from this user mentioning explicit details
• He decides that this isn’t someone who he would like to follow so he decides to unfollow him

How is online identity shaped and expressed through interactions in this community?

In Twitter, online identity is shaped through the @reply tweets and mentions. These are tools to utilize a broadcast tool and make it even more powerful by also utilizing Twitter as a communication tool specifically directed at one or more followers. Conversations can be had by the use of the @reply back and forth between users. The majority of conversations are of three to five messages over 15 to 30 minutes (Honeycutt and Herring, 2009). Hodkidson also noticed communication in the form of comments in the goth communities of LiveJournal. These communities were formed of people with similar interests including people that were real life friends (2006). Wellman et al. mentions personal communities that contain attributes of communities, but for a certain individual. These include: support, sociability, information, social identities, and a sense of belonging. This personal community is reflected in a person’s online identity. Wellman et al. also found that the online communications are integrated into the users’ real social life. Rather than replacing other forms of communication, the Internet adds another way to communicate with others (2003). These communications are signals, which can be interpreted to be a part of someone’s online identity (Donath, 2007).


Donath, Judith. (2007). Signals in Social Supernets. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13(1).

Wellman, Barry, Anabel Quan-Haase, Jeffrey Boase, Wenhong Chen, Keith Hampton, Isabel Isla de Diaz and Kakuko Miyata (2003). The Social Affordances of the Internet for Networked Individualism. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 8(3).

Honeycutt, Courtenay and Susan C. Herring (2009). Beyond Microblogging: Conversation and Collaboration via Twitter. Proceedings of the 2nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Waikoloa, HI, 5-8 January 2009.

Hodkinson, Paul (2006). Subcultural Blogging? Online Journals and Group Involvement Among UK Goths. In: A. Bruns and J. Jacobs, Uses of Blogs. New York: Peter Lang, 187-199.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Social Tagging and Professional Cataloging and Classification tags

Social tagging is something that has come up in the past few years. This is the method of allowing users to create their own tags or labels for different types of media from pictures to videos. Sites like Flickr and YouTube use the tags that users create to organize the media and make it easier for users to find what they are looking for. This contrasts from the use of professional cataloging and classification where professionals are given the task of assigning tags to media instead of the everyday user. Each of these has their strengths and weaknesses, but they can both learn from each other to improve their own effectiveness.

Social tagging takes advantage of the large online communities that use social websites. Sites like allow their users to tag or categorize different websites for the purpose of organization. Users tag their media in order to make it easier to find things later, but this also benefits the other users in the community. can now gather all of its user’s tags to organize a large amount of content. There are many advantages to this approach.

First, there may be too much content for any one person or group to do on their own. By letting users volunteer their work, an enormous undertaking can be made possible by spreading out the work to many people.

Second, because it is voluntary, the website doesn’t need to pay a cent for its media to be organized. A job like that could cost a lot of money, but because users are incentivized by the advantages of tagging their own content, everyone benefits. Ames and Naaman claim that there are two motivations for users to tag content: sociality and function. They are socially motivated because tagging makes it easier for others to find and share. The function comes from being able to easily find the content at a later time (2007).

Third, there is a large amount of people that are tagging the content so quality tags will arise from tags that occur the most often. Conventions may occur and other users will follow suit and create an effective system of tags. Bad tags won’t be used as frequently as the good ones and will fall to the wayside. Geisler et al. wrote an paper on YouTube and noted that 66% percent of the tag terms in their sample were terms that weren’t in the title of the video which means that the tags added additional description to the videos (2008).

Forth, tags can be improved upon as time goes on. At any time, a user can add a tag to ensure that the organization stays relevant to the times.

YouTube tags

Even though social tagging has enough advantages for many of the web’s most popular sites to implement it, it does have its drawbacks. Duguid mentions some of these in his paper. He looked at Gracenote, a database for music metadata. Although it is widely used with more than 50 million tracks tagged, he noticed some issues with the information. He noticed that different people tagged the same content with greatly varying information. The lack of consistency greatly limits the effectiveness of the organizational benefits of tagging. He says that work on a site isn’t distributed equally and this results in some content not being tagged and the benefits of a large community working together go down. Duguid claims that in order for coherence to occur, you need many eyeballs, potential for constant improvement, and a system where bugs should reveal themselves (2006). Also, the tags could just be plain wrong. The tagger may be mistaken or they may be doing it purposefully. Leibenluft looked at.

Flickr tags

Professional cataloging and classification is typically done by much fewer amount of individuals so it doesn’t benefit from the advantages of a large community, but it doesn’t suffer from its shortcomings either. Professionals will have a much more uniform system of tagging to ensure consistency. Also, due to their experience they will be able to choose clear and concise tags for the content.

Professionals would be the ideal solution if it weren’t for the large scale of the Internet. It would just be too much work and too much cost to have professionals tag all of the content on a site. The site would probably need to hire multiple professionals, but as the number of people they hire goes up, the closer it becomes to suffering the same pitfalls as social tagging. The professionals would need to keep up with new content being added constantly and they may need to update previous content. Also, because they don’t own the content itself, they may not have as intimate an understanding of the media as the owner does.

Social tagging could improve by doing some things that professional cataloging and classification does well. It may not be possible depending on the scale, but websites could implement “professionals” that have more influence. The effectiveness of this is questionable, but it may have the effect of creating more consistent tags across the site. The site could implement official conventions on tagging in hopes that users will make tags that are consistent with others on the site. Professionals get paid. Sites save a lot of money from not hiring professionals so they may be able to provide additional incentives to users to maintain tags on the content across the site.

Professional catalogers could learn some things from social tagging. More than one professional would be needed to attempt to catalog content on the scale of a website. If it is financially sensible, they may be able to work in groups to decide the best tags for any given content with the idea that multiple heads are better than one. A professional working by themselves may have a lot of experience and create a good system, but their views may be skewed and could benefit from another point of view. Also, they may need to go back and review tags to see if they need update. A recent event may make some tags outdated and warrant new more relevant tags. Professional taggers also may benefit from taking insight from the content uploaders because they may provide some insight that will result in better tags.

Overall, the web has brought people together and the power of the people is evident in the number of websites that implement social tagging. That is not to say that it is the perfect solution, however, due to the amateurish nature of non-professionals categorizing the media. Both services could improve by looking and learning at what the other one does best, but the main advantages and disadvantages stem from the difference between fewer contributors or more. A hybrid between the two may be the best solution, but it may also become a less effective version of either service.


Duguid, Paul (2006). Limits of Self-Organization: Peer Production and "Laws of QualityƓ. First Monday 11(10Haythornthwaite, Caroline (2009). Crowds and Communities: Light and Heavyweight Models of Peer Production. Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Waikoloa, HI, 5-8 January 2009.

Geisler, Gary and Sam Burns (2008). Tagging Video: Conventions and Strategies of the YouTube Community. TCDL Bulletin 4(1).

Leibenluft, Jacob (2007). A Librarian's Worst Nightmare: Yahoo! Answers, where 120 million users can be wrong. Slate, 7 December 2007.

Ames, Morgan and Mor Naaman (2007). Why We Tag: Motivations for Annotation in Mobile and Online Media. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, San Jose, CA, 971-980.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Social role, capital and trust - Ultimate-Guitar and Acoustic Guitar Forum

As someone who has recently picked up the guitar as a hobby, I decided to look for online communities, which focused on guitars. As a beginner, I don’t know very much about guitars such as proper playing of the instrument, necessary accessories, proper storage, etc. I found two sites, and They both offer large communities with expert guitar enthusiasts for both acoustic and electric guitars, but being as I own an acoustic guitar, I will be focusing on the threads, which pertain to the playing and maintenance of acoustic guitars.


In Ultimate-Guitar there are many different forums for different topics like general discussion, bands, and classifieds, but there is a main forum specifically for acoustic guitars. This mostly consists of questions for those who are more experienced or recommendations for guitars and guitar accessories. Some examples of some popular threads are “Humidity: A friendly reminder for those winter months!”, “How to buy an acoustic. What guitar is right for you?”, and “I dropped my guitar… what should I do?”. The community is good in responding to the threads. In fact, only one thread that has been created more than one day ago has no replies. In the forum view ultimate-guitar supports sticky topics, thread ratings, and it displays the reply/view counts for each thread. In each thread, each post is displayed with the author on the right, with their join date and their name highlighted in green if they are a moderator of the forum. The author’s post count can be seen on their profile pages, but it isn’t displayed when viewing the thread.

This is a thread on Ultimate-Guitar where a member is asking members for advice on a damaged guitar and if warranty will cover it. A couple members post horrible advice, which suggested that they damage the guitar further, which may or may not be intended as a joke, but the author of the thread does not follow their advice and instead goes to the store where he bought the guitar to see if they would fix it. There is no clear indication of social capital of the members on this site so it appears that the advice itself was the most important factor in the trust.

Acoustic Guitar Forum

The Acoustic Guitar Forum also has many forums for different types of guitars (even electric despite their name), repairing guitars, classifieds, and general discussion. The main forum for acoustic guitars has a lot of different types threads from “warnings for younger players on the subject various anatomical pains due to playing”, “Got my new acoustic! Funny story….”, and “Guitar Picks, Which One?”. This community is also very active, with almost all of the threads receiving replies in a short amount of time. This forum doesn’t use sticky topics, but they do have thread ratings, and show the reply/view counts for every thread. In every thread, it displays the number of posts the author has and that person’s title i.e. “Charter Member”.

This is a thread on Acoustic Guitar Forum, which is started by a member looking to get back into playing guitar and wants some recommendations on which guitar to get. More than ten different members respond, but the guitar that the original poster decided to purchase was one that the members with the three highest post counts suggested. The trust from the thread author could come from the same advice from multiple people and/or the fact that these members had a higher post count than the other members who responded.

Improvements to Ultimate-Guitar and Acoustic Guitar Forum

Allen et al. wrote that if a user’s reputation is reported accurately, then it would encourage most posting from that user (2009). There are many very helpful individuals on Ultimate-Guitar and Acoustic Guitar Forum that are willing to help others without this display of reputation, but if there were a points system for helpfulness it could encourage others to become more helpful in the community. For example, any time that a user feels that a certain member was helpful, they are able to give that person a point. These points would then be displayed under their postings letting others know of the services they have provided the community. Following that same idea, users should also be able to drop a member’s points if they give bad advice to others or are abusive. This would enforce negative trust into these sites as stated by Massa (2006). This would have to be monitored so that there is no harassment of members and each member would only be able to give/remove a certain amount of points each day.

Also if there are users who are going above and beyond their duties they should have their titles changed under their usernames to “Master Helper” or something to that effect. This role, as described by Gleave et al., would let other members can see that this person is an expert and would be able to ask someone who is knowledgeable about a certain topic (2009). This can increase the trust in this person because this type of a title would let other members feel better about taking advice from an author the community decided was trustworthy, one of the two trust factors of the trust model that Eryilmaz et al. propose (2009).

Project Ideas

After this week’s readings I am more curious about trust online. There has been a lot we read about what we can trust online and I was curious on exploring this topic more and applying this to a site like Facebook, where the risks are more social in nature and the risks that the author may face when they write false information for others to see.


Allen, Stuart M., Gualtiero Colombo, Roger M. Whitaker (2009). Forming Social Networks of Trust to Incentivize Cooperation. Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Waikoloa, HI, 5-8 January 2009.

Massa, Paolo (2006). A Survey of Trust Use and Modeling in Current Real Systems. Trust in E-services: Technologies, Practices and Challenges. Idea Group.

Gleave, Eric, Howard T. Welser, Thomas M. Lento and Marc A. Smith (2009). A Conceptual and Operational Definition of ‘Social Role’ in Online Community. Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Waikoloa, HI, 5-8 January 2009.

Eryilmaz, Evren, Mitch Cochran and Sumonta Kasemvilas (2009). Establishing Trust Management in an Open Source Collaborative Information Repository: An Emergency Response Information System Case Study. Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Waikoloa, HI, 5-8 January 2009.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Motivation for Participation - Celtic Nation

Part I

In the “Motivating Content Contributions to Online Communities: Toward a More Comprehensive Theory” paper, Tedjamulia, Olsen, Dean, and Albrecht discuss the motivating factors for members of online communities (OCs) to contribute. They may be intrinsically motivated to participate more or they may be extrinsically motivated by things like the crowding effect and feedback from the community (2005).

Ridings and Gefen discussed the motivating factors behind people joining virtual communities in their “Virtual Community Attraction: Why People Hang Out Online” paper. Their research has found that information exchange is the leading reasons with social support and friendship as the second and third biggest reasons, differing in different social networks (2004).

The social networks where I spend most of my time are Facebook and Twitter. If I were to rank my reasons for using these sites, I would put friendship first, social support second, information exchange third, and recreation, common interest, an technical reasons far behind those. My and my friends use these online communities to carry over conversations from group outings (sometimes even during) and it is easy to miss out of half of the conversations of the night if you aren’t a member of these sites. A big reason why my rankings would differ from the papers is due to the type of social network. If it were a tech support site or a sports fan page, the reasons for participation would certainly change.

In the “Using Social Psychology to Motivate Contributions to Online Communities” paper, Ling et al. apply social psychology theories to study the problem of under-contribution of online communities. They found that group members contributed more when they felt that their contributions were unique and when they are trying to achieve specific, challenging goals (2005).

In the “Examining Social Media Usage: Technology Clusters and Social Network Site Membership” paper, Andrew writes that extroversion, self-disclosure, and computer self-efficacy were traits that increased many-to-many social network use. He also found that females had higher levels of these traits and were more likely than men to use social networks (2009).

Akshay et al. break down the main user intentions for the users of the social networking site Twitter in their paper, “Why We Twitter: Understanding the Microblogging Effect in User Intentions and Communities“. These are: daily chatter, conversations, sharing information/URLs, and reporting news (2007).

I am a light user of Twitter. I don’t follow or allow someone to follow me other than my close friends (except for HawaiiNewsNow). I joined mostly because a few of my friends were using it and they asked me to join. I am not typically one to write about my daily happenings. My life just isn’t very exciting. This would make me fall under the daily chatter and conversations intentions. I don’t post very many updates and usually when I do, it is typically in response to someone else’s posting. We use Twitter as a conversation tool most of the time, many times to set up plans or to talk/tease with each other.

Part II

The social network I chose to observe was Celtic Nation (, a site dedicated to fans of the NBA team Boston Celtics. I chose this site because it is currently NBA basketball season and they are my favorite team. Go Celtics!

What modes of participation are there?
Members are able to: create new threads, reply to threads, quote replies, and send private messages.

How is participation encouraged?
Users are able to subscribe to threads ensuring that they are up to date in the conversation and they won’t miss anything

A user’s post count is display every time they post so others may see how involved that person is and can reinforce that person’s value to the community.

Moderators ban users who are posting offensive material, so the community is more enjoyable and free of unpleasant conversations.

Important people in the community, such as great sports writers, post to the fans making them feel appreciated.

Users are able to communicate with other fans in either a many-to-many or one-to-one manner, allowing privacy when desired.

Which types of content drew the most responses?
Game discussion
30 times posted
165 responses

Players playing well
4 times posted
3 responses

Fan created media
3 times posted
2 responses

Referee fairness
3 times posted
4 responses

Players playing badly
2 times posted
19 responses

In Tedjamulia et al.’s paper, they cite Kluger and DeNisi’s definition of feedback, “actions taken by (an) external agent(s) to provide information regarding some aspect(s) of one’s task performance” (Kruger, DeNisi 1996). The most popular postings are those which discuss recent games that the Celtics have played. In these threads, members dissect the games and pick out what they believe was the reason they won or loss. The feedback they receive is either in the form of agreement or disagreement, but either way it encourages healthy discussion. These fans, even if they don’t agree with each other, are able to discuss the games with other fans of the sport.

Ling et al. found that “people will be more likely to contribute to a group task if they think their contribution will not duplicate what others can provide and is thus needed for accomplishing the group's goal”. For a social network whos focus is on the same team there is a lot of debate among the fans. For almost every game, fans debate amongst each other on how the game was played and what could have been done differently. This reinforces what Ling et al. wrote. The members voice their opinions in the threads and their unique views on the game provide for an engaging discussion (2005).

From Ridings and Gefens paper on reasons for joining social networking, common interest is probably the biggest reason for the level of participation by the members. Also, they post a lot for recreation, they like to discuss previous games with other fans and engage in discussion or disagreements. These reasons were not high on the list of reasons to join a social network, but it seems to be the case for Celtic Nation. Also, contrary to what I found in my own experiences with social networking sites, members of Celtic Nation learn a lot from each other and information exchange happens much more than what I have experienced. They share interesting statistics and news from across the league (2004).

Ridings, Catherine and David Gefen (2004). Virtual Community Attraction: Why People Hang Out Online. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 10(1).

Ling, K., G. Beenen, P. Ludford, X. Wang, K. Chang, X. Li, D. Cosley, D. Frankowski, L. Terveen, A.M. Rashid, P. Resnick and R. Kraut (2005). Using Social Psychology to Motivate Contributions to Online Communities. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(4), article 10.

Tedjamulia, Steven J.J., David R. Olsen, Douglas L. Dean, Conan C. Albrecht (2005). Motivating Content Contributions to Online Communities: Toward a More Comprehensive Theory. Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

Schrock, Andrew (2009). Examining Social Media Usage: Technology Clusters and Social Network Site Membership. First Monday 14(1).

Java, Akshay, Xiaodan Song, Tim Finin and Belle Tseng (2007). Why We Twitter: Understanding the Microblogging Effect in User Intentions and Communities. Joint 9th WEBKDD and 1st SNA-KDD Workshop, 12 August 2007, San Jose, California.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Social Aspects of Social Networking Sites

I have been the member of different social networks over the years. From Xanga, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, I have experienced many of the social behaviors expressed in the readings below. The only ones I use now are Facebook and Twitter and I find that they improve my relationships with my friends and help to keep in touch with people I may not have the opportunity to otherwise. The ability to communicating with those who I went to school with in the past or have moved to other areas in the world is much more convenient.

Something that many of these articles touch on is the strength of these friendships online. Rosen claims that friendships depend on private conversations and the public nature of social networking sites prevents this (2007). I don’t necessarily agree with her statement. In some ways it’s true because for a strong friendship to emerge there may be some things that are spoken that each friend may not want others to know. I don’t think that social networks are a hindrance to this though. Instead I like to think that they enhance friendships. From my own experience, my friends communicate a lot through sites like Facebook and Twitter. We make plans, talk about highlights from previous events (sometimes right after coming home), and even make posts and comments as we are all out together.

These extra conversations add to our friendships and provide us with another way to communicate. When there are things that need to be kept secret, Facebook has chat and message features. So while a strong friendship can’t be maintained strictly through a social network, I think that it can enhance one that is already in place.

Albrechtslund also touches on the subject of the public nature of social networks. He mentions that potentially everyone can see what you’re saying online and view your personal information (2008). Facebook and Twitter both have privacy settings in place so that only those who you approve can see your profile. This doesn’t solve the problem of diverging to much information to your friends though. I am very careful of what I put online, but there are many times when I see someone post a comment or a picture that makes me question if I would put something like that online. Everyone has their own sense of privacy though, their own “bubble”.

These tools do have a weakness though and that is brought up in Weeks’ article. This is the issue as text as the medium of communication. I have run into this problem many times (Weeks, 2009). There are times when I’m not sure if someone is joking or being serious. The lack of audio and behavioral cues can cause ambiguous communication. Emoticons help to some extent in some situations, but it is still not ideal.

Bigge and Rosen both point to the “collecting of friends”; something that can easily be seen in social networks like Facebook and MySpace. I guess I can be somewhat guilty of this myself. While I don’t add anyone that I don’t know personally, I have added people who I haven’t seen in a few years like people I knew from school. I have some friends who have a large number of friends, going higher than a thousand. I personally don’t see anything wrong with it. There is value in knowing a large number of people and social networks make it easy to manage (Bigge, Rosen).

The network I joined was It allows you to create profiles and display your favorite team. I chose this site because the super bowl was coming up and I was hoping that there would be good back and forth discussion, but that wasn’t the case in my experience. I posted on a thread for a preview video for the upcoming super bowl. I asked a question hoping to get a debate going on, but only one person responded to my question. I posed the question of how the injury of a player would affect their team’s chances in the game. One person replied saying that it is a big loss, but hopes that their team would still pull out the win.

I read through some other conversations too. They involved back and forth between individuals arguing about who will win the super bowl.

Galston says that being able to choose an online community on the basis of similar interests creates voluntary communities, which aren’t as strong as real life communities. I see this somewhat in this site. Although fans of all teams belong to this site and argue against rival teams, they all share the similar interest of football. This interest is the glue of this community and there is no obligation to other members and no sacrifices are made (Galston, 2000).

Galston, William A. (2000). Does the Internet Strengthen Community? National Civic Review 89(3), 193-202.
Weeks, Linton (2009). Social Responsibility and the Web: A Drama Unfolds. 8 January 2009.
Albrechtslund, Anders (2008). Online Social Networking as Participatory Surveillance. First Monday 13(3).
Rosen, Christine (2007). Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism. The New Atlantis 17, 15-31.
Bigge, Ryan (2006). The Cost of (Anti-) Social Networks: Identity, Agency and Neo-Luddites" First Monday 11(12).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Social Computing and the Arizona Shooting Tradgedy

Social networking sites are becoming more and more a reflection of the people and events of the real world. This has become more and more apparent from the real time updates that are provided from sites like Twitter, which are given the power to spread information much more quickly than our technology has ever been able to do so before. Updates from those who are well known propagate throughout the Internet like wildfire and constant updates give a large number of people the latest news.

A very good example of this is the recent shooting tragedy in Tucson, which killed 6 people and wounded 13 others. Among the wounded was Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona representative. Right after the incident occurred, the numbers of those killed and injured were spread all over social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Initially the reports came from credible sources, but as the news went around through “word of mouth”, some incorrect statements of the incident were given. At one point, even NPR had reported that Giffords has died (she is currently making progress while in the hospital) (Brossau, 2010).

This is something that needs to be considered when reading things on the Internet. In an article written by Carol Tenopir, he talks about a paper written by Andrew Keen, he says “Keen warns, however, that when users and participants buy into the ideal that anyone can contribute information, we lose the accuracy that comes from reliance on experts. Indeed, expert authors and creators (and librarians) have valuable training, knowledge, and experience (Tenopir, 2007).” You can’t just believe everything you read, even with good intentions, information can easily be misunderstood as is evidenced through the erroneous mistake in NPR’s report.

The power that social networks make it very easy for both true and false statements to spread quickly. It spreads quickly due to the number of people sharing the information, but not all of these sources can be considered reliable. If someone would only like news from those who are considered credible, they can choose to only follow places like respected journals and newspapers. But the tools of the web have given us the tools to create something very influential, although not everything we read is dependable.

Social networks also have another part to this story. After the shooting incident, disturbing content was found on the main suspect, Jared Lee Loughner’s, YouTube and MySpace pages. He posted things like “Goodbye friends … don’t be mad at me”. These words that are posted online are much more than words. What is posted online has very real meaning in the real world. In a report about a violent incident in a virtual game, Julian Dibbell wrote, “The words’ emotional content was no mere fiction (Dibbell, 1998).” It can be debated whether or not knowing his emotional state could have prevented this disaster, but it is clear to see that people’s online profiles certainly reflect the real world.

“We define social network 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 (boyd, d.m., and N.B. Ellison, 2007).” This is the structure of today’s social networking sites, but more importantly, it is the phenomenon known as Web 2.0 which has change the web. Web 2.0 can be described as the web as we know it “where users are increasingly involved in creating web content as well as consuming it (Beer, David and Roger Burrows 2007). ” The creation of content combined with the reflection of the real world in social networking websites is what makes the current popular websites like Facebook and Twitter so powerful.

Brosseau, Carli (2010, January 9). Social media on full display in wake of Gabrielle Giffords shooting. Tucson Citizen. Retrieved January 9, 2010, from
boyd, d.m., and N.B. Ellison (2007). Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 11.
Dibbell, Julian (1998; revised). A Rape in Cyberspace: How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database Into a Society. The Village Voice, 23 December 1993.
Beer, David and Roger Burrows (2007). Sociology and, of and in Web 2.0: Some Initial Considerations. Sociological Research Online 12(5).
Tenopir, Carol (2007). Web 2.0: Our Cultural Downfall? Library Journal, 12/15/2007.