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April 4, 2004
Social Networks and Academic Communities
I’ve been thinking a lot about social networking tools in the context of campus-based communities lately. It started when a lot of my students and colleagues joined Orkut, which was the first YASNS where I’d seen them actively participate.
Then Clay wrote his essay on situated software, using an NYU-generated and targeted site as his example.
And tonight I read an excellent post by Alex Halavais entitled “Social networking at the end of the university.” Here’s an excerpt from his post:
One of the ways to get from where we are now to where we want to be is by leveraging the existing communities that are built on campuses to create a more lasting environment of continual intellectual engagement. I think we see the edge of this already, but I don’t think it has been exploited as much as it might be. What would such an environment look like? How much central organization would it require? How would it provide a space for unexpected encounters?
The irony, of course, is that these places exist as intentional communities only in so far as the administrators hope(d) to establish a venue through which accidental communities would emerge. They differ markedly from intentional communities, in which individuals actively pursue community goals. We do hear talk of this on the university campus, of course, but the people who interact in such a way are often fiercely individualistic. Doesn’t it seem as though the variety of social technologies that are being created every day could help to support such accidental communities? How do we foster those spaces?
Great questions. Food for thought for those of us in academic settings, where we seem often to be among the last adopters of new technologies, and even then are held hostage to bloated, proprietary systems like Blackboard and Prometheus.
(Alex will be joining me, Clay, Seb, and Jill Walker on a panel at the Media Ecology Conference in June, entitled “Weblogs and Cross-Disciplinary Communication”.)
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