Social networks for social change


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Slides from a lecture to Sociology 2040 on using social networking technologies for the purposes of social change.

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  • Sociology is exactly the right discipline to be in if you want to understand and harness social media. This cartoon is funny because we’re poking fun at how “worthless” sociology seems. But make no mistake, sociology is what got me to where I am. It gives you a unique set of tools to make social impact in the world. Today it’s especially more important to understand the social landscape because there are so many tools out there that connect people directly to each other, and not via institutions, which as we know as sociologists, shape the ways in which we can exercise our agency.
  • And this is where sociology has gotten me. I’m a private sector consultant and researcher. I founded my own firm to do this kind of work. I use social theory and social research methods to help people understand seemingly simple things that are actually quite hard. For example, why do our customers hate us? Why do our products fail? Why are our employees not innovating? Why do women leave our organization?I use my sociological imagination to uncover what is actually quite obvious to other sociologists but is completely hidden to most people. I’ll use social theory here to help you understand how to harness the power of technologies.
  • There is a famous French sociologist named Pierre Bourdieu. Bourdieu gave us this idea that the social is actually wealth. It’s like money. As something you can exchange for something else. Bourdieu, among others, thought that your social network was a source of capital. In fact, he popularized the phrase SOCIAL CAPITAL.Bourdieu argued that social capital is part of what keeps the rich getting richer. Not only do they know how to act rich, but they have all sorts of rich friends that can help them stay rich. Your social network is something that can give you WEALTH. It might give you connections to a job. It might give you a reference letter to law school. It might give you insider trading tips. What is social capital? It is the sum value you have from the social connections you have. You know a lot of people. This is a source of wealth. When you’re thinking as a social activist, consider how your social capital can help your cause.Bourdieu also thought of CULTURAL CAPITAL, which is knowing music, art, manners and etiquette. You know which fork to use? That’s a source of wealth. You know what the “cool” music is? That is a source of wealth. You know what the best brand of handbag is? That is a source of wealth. In fact, Bourdieu suggested that we even EMBODIED this type of cultural knowledge. You may have heard the term “habitus” before in some of your other classes? This is the idea that the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you present yourself actually gives off clues as to your wealth. Indeed, you can perhaps “fake” your way to “look rich.” I want you to remember cultural capital too when you’re thinking of your social activism because it will affect your ability to be successful.
  • Building on social capital is this idea that it can give you wealth. Indeed it can. That’s exactly what Mark Granovetter found in his famous article “the strength of weak ties.” Granovetter looked at what role people’s social connections played in their getting jobs. What he found may surprise you. It’s not the “strong ties,” like close friends and family, that lead to more informaiton about jobs. It was actually the weak ties of acquaintances and business associates.Of the people who got a job through contacts, 16.7% said they saw the contact often. 55.6% saw their contact occasionally. And 27.8% said they say them rarely. What Granovetter is telling us, then, is that your personal social network, your company’s social network – these are sources of advantage that can actually lead to material wealth.When you think of your social activism, think of “weak ties” as a real source of opportunity. It’s not the people you know extremely well that are sources of connections and opportunities, it’s the people you know as acquaintances.
  • There are ways you can engineer social capital within organizations. Mario Luis Small did a fantastic study (again the reference is at the bottom of the slide) in which he examined how daycare centres in New York City created social capital. He argued that the organization itself created opportunities for social capital. Specifically he found:The organization made it possible for regular interactionThe interactions were regularly occurringThey were long lasting interactionsThe were not competitive but were actually collaborative in natureThere were motivations internal to the organization to have these interactions. So specifically in the case of mothers, they had interactions like planning the Christmas party. Non competitive, collaborative, and necessary for the daycare to be functioningBut there were also external motivations, like, the opportunity to meet other moms, for exampleKeep this principles in mind when you make your social activism. If you need to motivate and mobilize people to participate, you need these features. If you want your activism to be successful, you need to recruit people using these principles
  • So what is social networking online? A lot of people would say, hey, you’re the millennials, you tell me! But I’ve actually learned that age has little if anything to do with understanding social networking online. In fact, older people who use social networks can use them more effectively for things like social activism because they are being strategic about how they use them. Here are a few tools you may have heard of. Facebook is of course the biggie.
  • Turns out, in many cases, free aint’ really free. You are providing these Web sites with a source of revenue. Facebook is a good example.Check out Facebook’s terms of service. Specifically Item 2, clause 1:For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos ("IP content"), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook ("IP License"). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
  • Ushahidi is a platform created by a loose consortium of people. The word Ushahidi means “testimony” in Swahili. It was conceived of by a Kenyan political blogger, Ory Okolloh, who was documenting violence during the Kenyan elections of 2008. She asked her social network of bloggers and people she knew from her time at Harvard Law School to help her create something that could provide real-time “testimony” of violence. Her community came to the rescue and made this platform which collates submissions from people who want to report violent incidents via email, Twitter, and SMS text. Ushahidi is now a platform that has been used to monitor elections in the Sudan, crisis responses in post-earthquake Haiti and crime in Atlanta. This tool works because it harnesses social capital. It would not have worked otherwise.
  • HoHoTO is a now annual charity event that grew spontaneously through Toronto-based Twitter networks. They did not rely exclusively on Twitter, however. They created a Web site and a Facebook page to complement their Twitter-based activity. In 2009, they raised just over $25,000, plus another $13,000 outside of the Christmas season. Note that this particular event had within its social network people who could afford to give money by buying tickets to this charity party. They also had people who could contribute art, music and DJ services, and people who had ample expertise in the social media sphere. This is not something that would be typical because most social networks that exist do not have this kind of expertise, or money for that matter.
  • This was Walmart’s attempt at building their own social network. It was a total failure. First, it was a “walled garden” that means it forced you to be part of its system and didn’t allow you to use the systems you already use. So that was its first mistake. Its second mistake, and the big one, was that it was so fake it was painful.
  • Supposedly to “protect consumers” in the legislative changes to copyright. But in reality…
  • Professor MichaelGeist at the University of Ottawa Law School dug around and found that it isn’t a “grassroots” campaign at all, but what they call “astroturfing.” Astroturfing is fake grassroots campaigns and these are getting more and more common.
  • Social networks for social change

    1. 1. Social Network Technologies<br />Tools for Social Change<br />SOCI 2060<br />July 14, 2010<br />
    2. 2. Overview<br />Social capital: what is it?<br />Technologies for social change<br />Limitations of technologies for social change<br />Case studies<br />The importance of strategy<br />
    3. 3. The hidden “social experts”<br />
    4. 4. Copernicus Consulting is a social research company that specializes in uncovering social insights, creating design and marketing strategies, and aligning organizations to realize those strategies.<br />
    5. 5. The social as capital<br />The “volume of the social capital possessed by a given agent thus depends on the size of the network of connections” – Bourdieu<br />Bourdieu, P. 1986. “The forms of capital.” P. 241-258. Handbook of Theory And Research For The Sociology of Education. Richardson, J. G. (ed). New York: Greenwood. p., 248<br />
    6. 6. Social capital pay offs<br />“It is remarkable that people receive crucial information from individuals whose very existence they have forgotten.” – Granovetter<br />Granovetter, M. (1973). The Strength of Weak Ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6). p. 1371<br />
    7. 7. What kinds of organizations enable social capital?<br />Social capital is best formed when: <br />There are frequent opportunities for interaction<br />These interactions are regular<br />They are long-lasting<br />They are minimally competitive<br />They are maximally cooperative<br />They involve motivations internal to the organization to maintain these ties and<br />External motivations to maintain these ties. <br />Small, Mario Luis (2009). Unanticipated Gains: Origins Of Network Inequality In Everday Life. New York: Oxford University Press.<br />
    8. 8. Social Networks Online<br />MySpace User-generated ContentAdvertising Fan Pages social networkingbuzz Social MediaYouTube viralTwitter LinkedIn Friendster Social bookmarking FolksonomyWidgets WordpressMicrobloggingWeb 2.0 FacebookMarketing Word-of-Mouth<br />
    9. 9. Social Networks Online<br />Various email listservs<br />
    10. 10. Socially Networked Communication<br />
    11. 11. Socially Networked Communication<br />Power Point Presentations<br />Photo sharing<br />“Micro” blogging<br />Old-fashioned email<br />Video<br />
    12. 12. Activists cannot live on social networks alone<br />Many social networks are privately owned corporations that own YOUR intellectual property as soon as you upload it<br />Facebook terms of service<br />You must have somewhere you control and can update<br />Make your own Web site using free tools like Wordpress<br />
    13. 13. Case study: Kenyan Elections<br />
    14. 14. Case study: #hohoTO<br />
    15. 15. Case Study: “The Hub”<br />Walmart’s poorly executed social network<br />
    16. 16. Astroturfing<br />
    17. 17. Astroturfing<br />The primary source of funding is not a surprise - this is a Canadian Recording Industry Association production.  <br />
    18. 18. The Importance of Strategy<br />You must have a focus! Advertisers use the “creative brief” as a focus tool<br />Who are you trying to reach?<br />What do you want them to do?<br />Where do they “live”? E.g., off-line or online?<br />What would really piss them off?<br />What message would really resonate with them?<br />
    19. 19. Back to Social Capital<br />Be aware of your habitusand your audience’s habitus<br />Leverage your own social capital<br />Cultivate weak ties<br />Nurture new social capital in how you organize yourselves<br />Be authentic<br />Write a brief<br />Design for the network<br />
    20. 20. Sam Ladner, PhD<br />@sladner<br /><br /><br />