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« Social Facts, Expertise, Citizendium, and Carr | Main | Second Life: What are the real numbers? »

December 5, 2006

Friends, Friendsters, and Top 8: Writing community into being on social network sites

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Posted by danah boyd

My new paper on friending practices in social network sites is officially live at First Monday. Friends, Friendsters, and Top 8: Writing community into being on social network sites

“Are you my friend? Yes or no?” This question, while fundamentally odd, is a key component of social network sites. Participants must select who on the system they deem to be ‘Friends.’ Their choice is publicly displayed for all to see and becomes the backbone for networked participation. By examining what different participants groups do on social network sites, this paper investigates what Friendship means and how Friendship affects the culture of the sites. I will argue that Friendship helps people write community into being in social network sites. Through these imagined egocentric communities, participants are able to express who they are and locate themselves culturally. In turn, this provides individuals with a contextual frame through which they can properly socialize with other participants. Friending is deeply affected by both social processes and technological affordances. I will argue that the established Friending norms evolved out of a need to resolve the social tensions that emerged due to technological limitations. At the same time, I will argue that Friending supports pre-existing social norms yet because the architecture of social network sites is fundamentally different than the architecture of unmediated social spaces, these sites introduce an environment that is quite unlike that with which we are accustomed.

I very much enjoyed writing this paper and i hope you enjoy reading it!

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software


1. Brian O' Hanlon on December 13, 2006 7:39 PM writes...

Just finished reading it.

I posted up something related at one of my old message board haunts here:

Which was badly rattled by the coming of the search engine. The community didn't have the same glue after google came along, and it was never the same. But it does survive.

I am interested in how your ideas on social networking sites, rubb off of other innovations such as the $100 laptop per child idea, and ideas like Connexions, for affordable text books for children.

I was watching Larry Augustine and Linus Torvalds talk about why built Linux boxes for their homes, while doing their college courses. It turns out that many Linux hackers, imagined they could be more productive if they had a Unix type box at home, and finish their thesis quicker! It didn't work, but they did become expert in Linux, in hte process.

In the same way, I think this $100 laptop, is like the early Linux guys looking for a cheap Unix box to accelerate their studies. But what is sure, is that when you have €100 laptops, you will surely have social networking happening too.


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2. Brian O' Hanlon on December 13, 2006 7:43 PM writes...

As you are probably well aware of course, the desire to own this affordable Linux box, also prompted a heck of a lot of social interaction amongst the Linux hackers online. Indeed, the concepts we see today like wikis and group production, do owe a lot to pioneers like those Linux hackers. So I think all of the elements were there in the past too.

They say the original Unix community was very close. But in the 60s, they simply didn't have enough bandwidth to cooperate on projects as much as they did in the early 90s with Linux.

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3. guy on January 4, 2007 6:15 PM writes...

Danah, thank you! Such great research.

Doesn't the world run on self-interest? And what happens in those spaces (friendster and myspace) does not serve to validate onself in the offline world? Just as young gangsters need to gather together to have some kind of identity -the main reason for becoming one-, if you are not in myspace or other community you really don't exist, as far as your peers go. This doesn't really reaffirm the existence of such community neither affects the defintion of friendship, both of which are only acting as proxies for much deeper issues -who knows- may be ancestral or even anthropological ones. Perhaps a way of interacting we learned millions of years ago while trying to reach out to Lucy.

Or perhaps simply loneliness.

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4. shiva on March 1, 2007 7:39 PM writes...

I am intrested to girl

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