Social networking is it new…or have we just taken a U turn from the village pump to the Water Cooler?
Written by Paula E Williams,

Today, from a novice’s perspective online social networking appears like scrabble, chaotic and almost daunting . Then, to add fuel to the fire this is further exacerbated by the ‘geek talk’ that blazes its trails alongside its unique online context. Jargon words such as microblogging, Diigoing, twittering and ping, push and pull with RSS, feeds and tags using Aggregators and Readers around someone’s virtual blogosphere. It's not suprising if one might well ask ‘ What an earth is everyone talking about?’ Have I missed a new ‘GlobalSpeak here’?

No not really. Many folk haven’t a clue. E ven more ironic is the younger ones don’t use the terminology they take the Nike approach and ‘Just Do it!. Do what though? Observers would see that they are constantly connected to their social networks 24/7 using their mobile devices , netbooks and wireless laptops. So why is it so hard for the older generation to grab this ‘Stuff’ and accept it? And who are they ...just the young ones ? No, statistics claim that All ages and some of the most prolific users of social networking are not the Gen Y but the good ol' Baby Boomers.

It could be argued, ( but coming first hand from my teenagers) that it’s about the way we complicate the meaning and benefits of 'why would I want to use online technology for social networking? In a nut shell its’ basically the medium or the notion of Web 2.0 technology that has stumped people of the lesser computer- minded to comprehend something that is really normal behaviour. Furthermore it’s the way social networking is done using contortionist thumb movements over iphones and blackberries that amaze the non converted. We know as humans we are social creatures by habit, and we have all been socially networking from time immemorial. So why is it so different today? Or is it?

Once upon a time, we used to social network around the village pump (not much different from today’s workplace at the end of the corridor “water cooler”except we are texting and chatting on mobile phone and not talking to the person next to us or if we are we simply get interrupted as its inevitable someone’s mobile will ring and ping soon enough ).
Kilbrin Village Pump
However, here a century ago at the chat-around-the-water-cooler-tooting.jpgtown's local water pump, people at a local level exchanged conversations and information within the village. And at a broader level, beyond the local community folk networked with travellers from near and far. Broadcasting one’s views through ‘gossip channels’ and community groups and not foergetting the ‘town bugler’ here ye, here ye..were some of the many channels. Many networks were formed some used ‘courier pigeons’ and ‘smoke signals’ or ‘beating the drum’. Later came the ‘telegram’ and ‘Morse code’ and from there radio and television networks came to the scene. It is here, that really communication and social networking took a U- turn. From that point on we had a different approach. There was now not just local but global networks brought in by conduits like journalists interpreting our news and bringing information into our living rooms. Quite different from the traditional discourse where once we ‘pushed information’ and ‘extracted information’ (pulled) from the community based on a personal or folk-like basis. Hence folksonomic way of collaborating and classifying information with one’s own mileau of networks . This latter approach (and not new) can be viewed as a decentralised, social approach to creating classification of information down- up. Social discourse and socialising networks within communities and across specialised interest groups.

However as mass media stations evolved and became, omnipressant with TV and radio in all venues, not only in homes but including restaurants and pubs, we started to be consumers of information rather than producers and participators in the networks of conversations. This sadly became a more taxonomic approach of social media driving social change. With the introduction of the internet in the 1980’s Web 1.0 was very much a consumerism approach you found a good search engine trawled or ‘surfed the net’ found a plethora of information downloaded it and logged off. There was very little if any other than the evolvement of email to respond and interact online. Sooner or later along came Learning Management Systems like WebCT , Janison Solutions , and Content Management Systems (CMS) which integrated discussion boards and emails which linked to complexed personalised student administrative data bases. Often written in Cold Fusion, Oracle or JS2 Java script. But with firewalled websites and protected passwords the only collaboration that took place was within the Institution and its student cohorts . Hence, programmers and IT experts were in great demand to design websites for corporations and hyperlinked pages which required intense knowledge of mark up language and coding to create a web presence to integrate with all metadata files required for the organisation. So too, were journalists, news readers and media correspondents. These folk were important to the community to link all the news together and aggregate it to the reader via the editor for newpapers and news broadcasting stations. However, when Web 2.0 was introduced it suddenly lowered the threshold of IT expertise and born from the blogging phenomenon wikis and blogs took another step to social publishing by the ordinary ‘folk’ not in media industry nor in IT computer networks or journalism. Suddenly the semantic web changed the internet from the consumer to the producer of content and publisher to the world wide web known as Web 2.0. Often referred to as the Read Write Web.

Soon Web 2.0 social software systems and its plethora of open source applications started talking to each other through a combination of systems making linking across social networks on threads of discussions possible. Of these folksonomies most notably were delicious and flickr which allowed users to publish their tagging for the benefit of the community mostly by RSS feeds. The interesting aspect is that there is no taxonomy about a common agreement about the semantics of tagging. The interoperability between social technology software spread wide and far. Everyone today has the ability to once again link to networks across one’s own online social mileau and collaborate, share and publish their social points of views . However, more interestingly like minded people begin following and commenting others posts and feed in more links of views that build a community of online networks. Similar to the village well and the water pump relationships and friendship between conversations develop and it begins to be a social paradigm but online.

Society once again are able to be participators but this time using online technologies for conversations and broadcasting from their village pump images text, video to beyond the local area whereby, suddenly become the global broadcasters on the participatory web through social software applications to be part of Glocalisation. A new social class (think globally and act locally) which is beyond the concept of globalisation. Bringing the world 'to you' (pull) from the global level and 'pushing out' to the local level. In various uses, glocalisation has entailed elements of the following:
  • Individuals, households and organisations maintaining interpersonal social networks that combine extensive local and long-distance interactions.[1]
  • Using electronic communications technologies, such as the Internet, to provide local services on a global or transregional basis. Craigslist and Meetup are examples of web applications that have glocalised their approach.
  • The establishment of local organisation structures, working with local cultures and needs, by businesses as they progress from national to multinational, or global businesses. As has been done by many organisations such as IBM.

There can be broad and narrow folksonomies based on user permissions where a single object may be tagged by many users whereby each user may include their own experience. This is often referred to as personlaised learning environments or PLE’s. These are especially found in Blogs and Facebook For educational institutions reflection is a major communication attribute for learning outcomes across many courses and collection of evidence based assessment and feedback for retrieval and comments is now playing importance in digital literacy and lifelong learning. Whereby the narrower appraoch is when only the contributor/‘author’ may tag an object, the resulting metadata can be described as ‘narrow’: the resulting classification draws only upon a single user’s experience of the object. Such as eportfolio personalised learning experiences

Examples of a folksonomy in practice include:

· a social bookmarks/favourites manager
· diigo
· Flickr: an online co-operative image library

How the Old, the Young and Everyone in Between Uses Social Networks (July 30, 2009)
Talkin’ ‘bout my generation.” —The Who

'Social networkers' utilize popular Websites such as: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in different ways depending on their age.
According to Anderson Analytics, Generation Z (13-to-14-year-old) social network users were more likely to use MySpace than Facebook. Only 9% of them used Twitter and none used LinkedIn.
  • Generation Y was a somewhat different story. Three-quarters of 15-to-29-year-olds used MySpace, 65% used Facebook, 14% used Twitter and 9% used LinkedIn.
  • Generation X, 30-to-44-year-olds, and baby boomers, 44-to-65-year-olds, connected on LinkedIn more than any demographic.
  • Nine in 10 older social network users, which Anderson Analytics called the WWII generation, used Facebook, and 17% tweeted.
  • When it came to why social networkers joined a social network, however, the reasons were similar from generation to generation.
  • Sizable percentages of every age group wanted to keep in touch with friends, have fun or stay in contact with family, or had been invited by someone they knew. The youngest users were most likely to be interested in fun and friends, while family contact appealed more to older social networkers.
  • Very few users of any age joined for business-related purposes such as recruiting potential candidates, sales, job searches or business networking.
  • “Due to the difference in age of the users, the interests of users are naturally different,” wrote the authors of the report.
  • “LinkedIn users are more interested in luxury activities, Twitter users are more interested in pop culture and MySpace users are more interested in humour/comedy and video games.”

It seems social networking sites are places for friends to meet, no matter what their age.
Reference: Internet 15 May 2010

Folksonomy...What is it?

This session explored the phenomenon of social bookmarking used by online social networks to share, organise and exchange online bookmarks using tags and RSS.

Podcast by Stephan Ridgway and Paula Williams about 'Whats Folksonomy', Sydney 2008

Definition of Social Network

by Wikipaedia 12 May 2010

A social network is a social structure made of individuals (or organizations) called "nodes," which are tied (connected) by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, common interest etc.

An example of a social network diagram. The node with the highest betweenness centrality is marked in yellow.

Pedagogical 2.0 Approaches

Teach students to critically engage with multi-media and learn the 'How 'more than the 'What'... this means to teach students how to become critical navigators in the digital spaces where a majority of their information will be taken in and 'what ' skills do they need to learn today for the future to achieve that attribute.
Skills like:

Networking,,Retrieval,Archiving, Digital identity, Digital literacy, Judgement,advocacy,copyright, negotiating,collaboarative,

Visit 'Connectivism' George Siemans and Blogs for learning

Podcast presented by Stephan Ridgway and Paula Williams about 'Networked Learning', Sydney 2008

Social networking sites: Transparency in online education

Christian Dalsgaard
Institute of Information and Media Studies, University of Aarhus, Helsingforsgade 14, 8200 Aarhus N,


Social networking sites, transparency, pedagogy, personal tools, social networks.


The paper discusses the question: What are the pedagogical potentials of social networking sites?

Whereas collaboration and user-generated content are often highlighted as major potentials of Web
2.0 technologies, the paper argues that a central characteristic of social networking sites such as
Facebook, Myspace, Bebo and Ning is a combination of personalization and socialization. This
combination has a potential to facilitate transparency between students. Transparency gives
students insight into each other’s work.
Social networking sites do not necessarily involve communication, dialogue or collaboration. Instead,
the paper argues, transparency is a dominating feature. An interesting aspect of social interaction in
social networking sites is that the starting point is the individual or personal. This is in opposition to
discussion forums, in which communication always takes place in a shared forum. In a social
networking site each individual has a personal page and profile, which the individual develops and
The paper will discuss how social networking may be utilized within university education by students
sharing information and resources that are originally developed for themselves, but made available
to others – for instance bookmarks, references, links, and notes. In conclusion, the paper argues that
the pedagogical potential of social networking lies within transparency and the ability to create
awareness between students – potentially across institutions and nations.


The purpose of the paper is to discuss the question: What are the pedagogical potentials of social websites? Often, potentials for collaborative activities and user-generated content are
highlighted in relation to social software and Web 2.0 technologies – also in the context of online education. “Social” is often described as communication, construction and collaboration. This paper will focus on different qualities of social software and Web 2.0 that are characteristic of social networking sites such as Facebook, Myspace, Bebo or Ning. The paper will argue that a central characteristic of social networking sites is a combination of personalization and socialization. This
combination has a potential to facilitate transparency between students.
Transparency between students means that they have insight into each other’s work, thoughts, and
productions. Not least within online education, transparency is not a given. Students might work at a
distance and individually, and, thus, they are not necessarily aware of the activities of other
students. In their individual work, however, students write notes, search for literature, find relevant
websites, write assignments, etc. This information and these products are relevant to other
Social networking sites do not necessarily involve communication, dialogue or collaboration. Instead,
the paper will argue, transparency is a dominating feature. An interesting aspect of social
interaction in social networking sites is that the starting point is the individual or personal. This is in
opposition to discussion forums, in which communication always takes place in a shared forum. In a
social networking site each individual has a personal page and profile, which the individual develops
and modifies. Other people can view these pages and follow activities of their ”friends”. In other
words, actions within a social networking site are transparent. This creates a kind of indirect or
“passive” form of communication and sharing. In opposition to discussion forums, people do not
necessarily send messages or documents in order to communicate or share. Instead, they update
their profile, add pictures or texts, etc. to their own page.
This is the characteristic of personalization and socialization. The starting point for this kind of
social interaction is students’ own work and their personal pages. The personal pages are then
shared in a social network. The paper will discuss how this approach may be utilized within
university education by students sharing information and resources that are originally developed for
themselves, but made available to others – for instance bookmarks, references, links, notes, etc.


Which social infrastructures support learning? This question has been discussed from several
perspectives. There is an ongoing debate concerning potentials of different forms of social
interaction: groups, communities, collectives, connections and networks (Dron & Anderson 2007;
Downes 2007; Wenger et al. 2005; Anderson 2008; Ryberg & Larsen 2008; Jones 2004; Jones et al.
2006; Siemens 2005). The debate has its origin in the concept of network, which challenges a
number of other forms of social relations. As Dron & Anderson (2007) state, research and practice of
e-learning has primarily focused on groups. They describe groups as “individuals who see themselves
as part of that group”. A group is a defined collection of individuals, such as a study group, who in
some way are engaged in joint work.
Further, Jones et al. (2006) criticizes Wenger’s concept of communities of practice and the tradition
of CSCL. Jones et al. argues that the two traditions are not able to describe the kinds of relations
that exist within learning environments. The traditions of communities of practice and CSCL have
traditionally focused on participation, collaboration, and negotiation of meaning (Wenger 1998). In
other words, tightly knitted structures. Use of technology in support of groups and communities of
practice has often focused on collaboration, especially within the field of CSCL (Jones et al. 2006).
This stresses the emphasis within e-learning and also more broadly within technology supported
learning on supporting or developing tightly knitted social structures.
The concept of network has challenged these concepts of tightly knitted social constructs. Networks
are loosely organized structures (Dron & Anderson 2007), in which people do not necessarily
collaborate – or communicate directly. However, the question is what role networks play in relation
to learning. A conclusion of this debate is that there exists a form of social interaction – social
networking – that learning theories have difficulties explaining. The question is: What kind of
relations support learning? And more specifically, how do networks support learning?
Jones (2004) uses the concept of networked learning and draws a direct line between networking
and learning. He stresses the importance of facilitating “connections between learners, learners and
tutors, and between learners and the resources they make use of in their learning” (Jones et al.
2006, p. 90). Jones (2004) writes: “Networked learning doesn’t privilege any particular types of
relationships between people or between people and resources.” The problem with this definition is
that it does not answer what kind of relations should be supported. However, because studies within
networked learning according to Jones (2004) have primarily focused on strong links, he wants to
draw attention to the so-called weak ties. This is an interesting focus, because it is the support of
weak ties that makes social networking sites unique. I will focus on what could be termed weak ties.
However, as Ryberg & Larsen (2008) argue, it is important to clarify what defines weak ties, and how
they differ from strong ties. Further, it is necessary to clarify, how these kinds of social relations
support learning. Thus, it is necessary to make a connection between learning and types of social


The socio-cultural perspective of this paper emphasizes problem-oriented and self-governed learning
activities (Dalsgaard 2006). Learning is first of all considered an active process. Learning takes place
through problem-oriented activities, in which students are directed at solving a problem or achieving
a goal. It is important that the individual governs his/her activities. In this respect, the socio-
cultural approach emphasizes the importance of the activities of the individual. However, the
approach also stresses that individual activities are always situated in a collective practice
(Vygotsky, 1978; Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989). Individual activities always serve an objective,
which relates to an overall collective activity (Bang & Dalsgaard 2006). In other words, activities are
collective (Leont’ev 1978; Engeström 1987).
This means that an individual’s activities will always be related to and gain meaning in relation to
activities of other individuals. Thus, social relations (as in groups and communities) are central to
learning in a socio-cultural approach. However, collective activity not only takes place within tightly
knitted groups or communities. Relations between activities can be of such a sort that the individual
is not aware of the activities of other people. Thus, an important objective within a learning
environment is to support consciousness and awareness of activities of others. This awareness is
important to support an individual’s reflection on his/her own activities in relation to others’
From this socio-cultural perspective, an individual’s awareness of activities of other individuals
becomes a focal point of attention within social networks. The objective is not community-building
or collaboration, but increased awareness. Supporting awareness within a learning environment will
be the focus of my discussion of pedagogical potentials of social relations.


This brings us back to the question: which kinds of social relations support learning? Social relations
that support awareness can first of all be defined negatively as relations that do not entail
collaboration or discussion (two-way communication). Awareness entails a kind of relation that
supports transparency.
Different kinds of relations are possible within a learning environment. I will make a distinction
between relations between 1) people working together collaboratively, and 2) people engaged in
similar or related activities. For instance, the distinction could be between 1) relations between
students in a study group working on a joint assignment and 2) relations between individuals or study
groups within the same course. Thus, the relations do not exclude one another, but are
supplementary. Supporting transparency between students in the latter example will be the focus of
this paper. My objective is not to reject relations that exist within groups or communities. Instead, I
wish to highlight pedagogical potentials of social networking in relation to transparency.
This example is particularly relevant within a university setting, in which students are working on
related projects or assignments, but not collaborating. At universities it can be difficult for students
to follow the work of other students; often, they are engaged in their own assignments. However,
students can make use of each other’s resources. Often, students are unaware of what other
students are doing, and they do not necessarily make use of each other, although their work is
relevant to each other. The problem is only extended within online education, where students do
not meet face-to-face (Paulsen forthcoming).
The socio-cultural approach combined with the character of a university setting form a strong
motive for support of transparency between students. It is important to note that this motive differs
from motives for community-building and support of collaboration. Focus on support of transparency
provides a different focus for technology. In the following analysis of social networking sites, the
purpose is to discuss their potentials to facilitate awareness between students’ activities and


Social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Bebo and Ning are websites used to build online
networks. In this paper, networks are distinguished from communities. Networks are defined as

individual networks consisting of the relations of an individual. Each individual will have his/her own
unique relations. People rarely have the exact same relations, and thus, people will have unique
networks. Communities, on the other hand, are spaces shared by a group of people. In other words,
a community is shared and collective, whereas networks are individual. The paper will focus on the
concept of networks that are developed on the basis of individual relations.
The principles of social networking are not confined to social networking sites. First of all, media
sharing sites such as flickr and Youtube also contain elements of social networking. The difference is
that media sharing sites revolve around media materials, whereas the staring point for social
networking sites is socializing. Further, social networking can also be accomplished by relations
between weblogs, or by use of social awareness services such as twitter or friendfeed.
The unique characteristic of the kind of social networking that this paper will focus on, is the
relationship between personalization and socialization.


An interesting aspect of social interaction on social networking sites is that the starting point is the
individual, the personal. This is in opposition to discussion forums and other forms of website
communities, in which communication takes place in a shared forum.
The basis for social interaction in social networking sites is a personal profile, which often consists of
a personal webpage on the networking site. A personal profile/webpage provides an opportunity for
the user to create his/her own page with content such as pictures, videos, links, texts, etc. The
personal profile can be seen as a space for individual creation and expression. A profile page is not
personal in the sense that it is private; it can be made public – at least to other people in the
individual’s network.
The personal page provides opportunities for personalization; the individual can choose the look and
content of the page. An important function of the personal page is that it serves as the individual’s
personal representation on the web. This makes social networking sites radically different than
discussion groups and other community based tools. In a discussion forum you are represented by
your posts only. If you do not post, you are not visible. In a social network, you are always “present”
through your personal page.
The personal page provides a basis and a starting point for social networking; in other words, the
starting point is the individual, the personal. On the other hand, the starting point for social
interaction in discussion forums is the forum itself. The social space for interaction is developed
beforehand, whereas the social network for interaction develops on the basis of the personal page.

Socialization begins when a personal page is connected to other personal pages of other individuals.
Each individual builds his/her own network of personal relations (“friends”). Thus, networks are also
There are different ways of communication in social networks. You can send messages or leave
comments on a personal page. However, a unique form of communication takes place through
notifications. This kind of communication means that people (or “friends”) within a network are
notified whenever a personal page is modified or whenever a person performs any kind of action
within the networking site. Consequently, a form of indirect communication emerges; indirect in the
sense that it is not intentional.
It can be argued, then, that communication within social networking sites is a matter of awareness
and transparency. The principle is that you communicate by editing, developing or updating personal


What is the pedagogical potential of social networking? I will discuss the pedagogical potential within
a university setting. Further, the starting point is the problem-oriented individual or a group working
together on a joint project.
Paulsen (forthcoming) argues that transparency is important to distance education. He discusses
transparency in relation to flexible education with continuous enrolment and examination. A
challenge of flexible education is to get students to engage in joint work. Paulsen argues that
transparency is a prerequisite for distance students to work cooperatively. Transparency means that
students are visible to each other as potential partners and resources.
The same applies to campus-based universities, if the focus is to create awareness between students
within a course. Students engaged in individual or group work are not necessarily aware of the
activities of the other students within the course. To follow the outlined socio-cultural approach an
important objective is to support an individual’s consciousness and awareness of activities of others.
This can be achieved by development and use of personal tools, which first and foremost support the
activities of the individual or group. That is, activities aimed at solving a problem; i.e. finding
literature, writing texts, etc. Personal tools are the starting point. It is now possible to use the
personal tools as the basis of social networks. Students can connect to and subscribe to personal
tools of other students.
The result is a different kind of transparency than in, for instance, discussion forums. Whereas
discussion forums and other tools for direct communication and collaboration focus on direct
sharing, social networking can support students’ indirect sharing of resources, thoughts, ideas,
productions, writings, notes, etc. This kind of sharing can provide students with insights into the
workings of other students, and, thus, give them an increased consciousness and awareness of the
activities of other students.
The pedagogical potential lies within developing social networks, in which students share their
individual or group activities. The potential is to support transparency through a combination of
personalization and socialization; sharing personal tools within social networks (Dalsgaard 2006). The
web service is a fine example of the combination of personalization and socialization. is a social bookmarking service, which enables people to collect their bookmarks on a
webpage. Initially the service supports individual organization and use of bookmarks. However, the
bookmarks are made available for everyone on the web, which means that they are shared. Students
can use similar personal tools to organize their work, collect literature, write notes, brainstorm,
develop thoughts and ideas, write assignments, etc. Sharing these tools with other students through
networking supports transparency and consequently awareness among students.


Social networking sites are not the new Learning Management Systems. From the outlined socio-
cultural approach, however, the special kind of communication and interaction is interesting and has
a pedagogical potential. Following the socio-cultural approach, students’ problem-oriented and self-
governed activities are important to learning. The approach emphasizes the importance of tools for
construction, production, dialogue and collaboration. Therefore, from this point of view, social
networking should be considered a supplement to other tools. The potential of social networking lies
within transparency and the ability to create awareness between students – potentially across
institutions and nations.