At the Creating Knowledge conference the first keynote today was Mike Thelwall who talked about Information Behaviour and Web 2.0 Social Networks . He noted that top social networking sites had overtaken Google in popularity, so this is a major phenomenon. In the English language sphere Facebook has overtaken MySpace as the most popular.
Mike used danah boyd's (sic) definition of a social network site (SNS): that it allows a person to make a profile, articulate a list of other people and "view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system". Looking at other people's friends is a popular occupation, as is finding out what others' are doing (gossip). Anyway, apparently Youtube qualifies under this definition and some people might use it in that way.
He identified 3 types of social networking site:
Socialising SNS (recreational, for social communication) e.g. MySpace, Twitter
Networking SNS (for non-social interpersonal communication) e.g. LinkedIn (and Ning?)
(Social) Navigation SNSs - social network features to help users find information or resources (e.g. Youtube, CiteULike, connotea)
There was a question about whether Web of Science or Google Scholar would count in the latter category, but they wouldn't, as you don't have a personal profile you can control.
Mike went through a few SNSs including:
Cyworld (the most popular SNS in Korea, where most people are members)
Digg wehere you could e.g. identify an expert and follow what they were identifying as interesting news/articles - this is an example of a site where you can find information through tracking or searching people as well as by searching on subject
In terms of of libraries, uses include:
- Using SNSs to find information
- Using "friends" to give specific advice - including using people as navigation as indicated above
- Suggesting SNS as an additional source of information "or even emotional support"?
Mike's done/is doing a lot of interesting work in analysing web stats including social networking sites: his CV is at http://www.scit.wlv.ac.uk/~cm1993/mycv.html
A couple of articles referenced by Mike:
boyd, d. (2006) "Friends, friendsters, and top 8: Writing community into being on social network sites." First Monday, 11 (12). http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue11_12/boyd/index.html
boyd, d. and Ellison, N. (2007) "Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship." Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13 (1), 210 - 230.
Photo by Sheila Webber: Turku, August 2008.