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3 online community & social networks

3 online community & social networks



Week2 Lecture 3: Online Communities & Social Networking

Week2 Lecture 3: Online Communities & Social Networking



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  • Why people participate in online communities :
  • A snapshot of modern life.
  • Similar to Kim =>  Lave and Wenger: Peripheral (i.e. Lurker) – An outside, unstructured participationInbound (i.e. Novice) – Newcomer is invested in the community and heading towards full participationInsider (i.e. Regular) – Full committed community participantBoundary (i.e. Leader) – A leader, sustains membership participation and brokers interactionsOutbound (i.e. Elder) – Process of leaving the community due to new relationships, new positions, new outlooks
  • http://blogs.communitiesrus.in/communities/2010/07/03/top-7-reasons-why-people-join-a-user-group-community/
  • http://www.fmsasg.com/SocialNetworkAnalysis/
  • Social capital can be defined as:Social capital is a way of describing the accumulation and transferal of ‘goodwill,’ a way of conceptualizing the emotional and social bonds that are created when people engage in horizontal relationships  relationships between equals  that are characterized by their reciprocal and cooperative nature. It is also useful in that it does not presuppose a physical connection in order for an exchange of social capital to take place. Social capital is not a new concept – Putnam’s seminal work, ‘Bowling Alone’ found examples of social capital in places like bowling alleys and knitting circles.
  • So what are strong and weak ties? The theoretical conceptualization of ties grew out of social capital works, as questions arose as to whether a perceived decline in social capital and subsequent communal strength represented an actual decline, or merely a shift of focus from the strong, emotionally involved, long-term ties of social capital bonds towards other types of social engagement. Whilst we still don’t have an answer to that question of shifting social capital, the question has opened up for investigation the different ties people form with each other. Social ties, as you can probably deduce from the label, are the ties people develop with others by communicating over time in a social setting. Strong and weak social ties can be differentiated from each other using four criteria: [LIST]As you might notice looking at this list, there is a strong link back to the criteria of both community formation and social capital. They’re all ways of dealing with the same issues. Under this criteria, strong ties are developed and maintained over time, through reciprocal exchange of emotional intensity. In other words, people you trust to share secrets and who in turn trust their secrets to you. These confidences may be context specific  for example, a strong tie at work may be different in nature and form to a strong tie in your family. But the structure of the network must involve this high level of intensity over an extended duration. In contrast, weak ties are ties that are formed and maintained through less frequent communication with a lower emotional intensity. There is no expectation of shared confidences in a weak tie. Some of the earliest work to do with social ties looked at the weak ties that helped maintain cordial professional relations. 
  • But in terms of social networks and virtual communities, are weak ties important? Or is it only the strong ties that make a virtual community? This question has been approached in a number of ways, in a range of contrasts. The first major studies looked at how CMCs (Computer Mediated Communications) helped facilitate weak ties in large corporations through the use of things like intra-office email which supplemented the day-to-day low-intensity exchanges. Research also demonstrated that weak tie networks are larger and more heterogenous than networks which maintain predominantly strong ties. These weak-tie networks require less of individual participants in terms of time, effort, and investment to be maintained, and so each individual can have more weak ties than strong. It’s kind of like dividing up a finite resource. You have time to maintain either five strong ties, or ten weak. The same research also demonstrated however that these larger weak-tie networks were also more prone to interpersonal clashes, and require more explicit rules and enforcement of those rules, in order to maintain network cohesion. But what about networks and communities which demonstrate both strong and weak ties simultaneously? As the video noted, we need both strong and weak ties in a dynamic social system – strong ties know you, they know your secrets and needs, and that is good. But the weak tie can bring novelty, a wider social connection, a different branch of the rhizomic social network into contact. It is the balance of strong and weak ties both for their contribution to your social network, your sense of individual and social identity, and the time you have to contribute back into (or return capital into) the social network which is more difficult to untangle. These are questions internet community researchers are currently grappling with in both theoretical and observational studies. Some common themes emerging from current research show that self-identified virtual communities (communities where participants report the characteristics of a strong community, such as trust, reciprocity and endurance/long term commitment) are a mixture of both strong and weak ties. Internet community researchers such as Wellman talk about this mix of strong and weak ties as bonding and bridging links. Bonding occurs within small social networks, forming strong, enduring ties between individuals. Bridging ties, the weak ties, link these smaller networks to other small strong networks to form larger community and social network structures. This observational evidence supports theoretical ideas that both strong AND weak ties together are vital in forming and maintaining online communities. [map it out on the board?] Strong and weak tie theory, with its support through social capital and network theory, gives us an excellent macro-level view of communities in flux. But it is certainly not the only useful perspective when exploring issues of community. The last approach I want to look at together comes at community from the other direction, from the perspective of the virtualized identity, the individualized node, and considered how the processes of language and communication feed into community and how that sense of belonging in turn shapes the individual. 
  • http://www.3news.co.nz/Brain-can-only-handle-200-friends---research/tabid/372/articleID/214342/Default.aspx

3 online community & social networks 3 online community & social networks Presentation Transcript