[Air-l] social network migration

Nancy Baym nbaym at ku.edu
Mon Jul 2 13:35:23 PDT 2007

The early data (about 200 respondents from 30+ countries) I've got in 
a survey underway looking at friending on Last.fm suggests that there 
are important differences in how people view their friends in 
different social network sites and what information they want to 
share. This does not seem to be site-specific so much as 
person-specific (for instance, while one person may say "I know all 
my MySpace friends f2f but will friend anyone on Last.fm," others 
will say the opposite.)

There are also differences in what is even perceived as a social 
networking site in the first place. To my surprise, a number of 
people have commented in the last.fm forums in response to my survey 
that they never thought of Last.fm as a social networking site 
because of its central focus on music. From a definitional 
perspective, however, it has all the hallmarks of a social networking 
site (i.e. personal profile + friends list visible to others).

At the same time, I think the proliferation of these sites is 
increasingly problematic. I see the solution as involving at least in 
part the ability to import and export things from one site to another 
without reentry. So, for instance, I think it's a huge step forward 
that Facebook applications now let people import information from 
other social network sites (Flickr, Last.fm...) into FB. Though, as 
yet, the reverse is not happening.

>I am hesitant to say 'yes' to the suggestion there should be a way 
>to aggregate social networking sites. I think it would lead to 
>homogenization of practices for the user, who is currently having a 
>'multi-cultural' experience interacting with others in various 
>online spaces. For example, the culture of Facebook is similar, but 
>also different, than what one might expect hanging out in MySpace or 
>other product that enables networking with others. This approach to 
>aggregating processes is also one that decontextualizes information 
>that is extracted from other souces, as opposed to allowing the user 
>to interact in an environment where the information would be 
>contextualized. There would be advantages and drawbacks to this 
>approach. Depending on the knowledge and expertise of the people 
>developing the aggregator, the program could be great or not so 
>great for the end user.
>Gail D. Taylor, M.Ed.
>University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
>Human Resource Education Ph.D. Student
>Educational Psychology Teaching Assistant
>Library & Information Science Research Assistant
>"Technology enables man to gain control
>over everything except technology." --
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