Tag Archives: social networking

Networking together

Yochi Benkler, in  Social Ties: Networking Together  refers to social software as tools for enabling new ways to communicate, collaborate and develop relationships that are different from traditional offline connections.

He reminds us, however, that “the Internet does not make us more social beings. It simply offers more degrees of freedom for each of us to design our own communications space than were available in the past.”  I think it is common to believe, when shown proof of what groups of unrelated or geographically dispersed people can do with online social software, that just by purchasing a licence and installing it on computers, that the same results can be expected. An example is provided with wikis; in certain predetermined communities or environments, like universities, they are effective for peer-based production.  However, they require administration and participant etiquette. If your community is using the wiki to collaborate or discuss different points of view, there is a potential for failure if the needs of the group are not considered.

Psychological foundations of social networking

Kadushin, in Chapter 5: Psychological foundations of social networking, shows three motivations that are always present in social networking: safety, effectance and status.

Dense, cohesive networks can provide the support that is the motivation for safety. I would consider an online support group providing safety to its community. Trust is placed in the community or site as a whole, and participants or members may receive what they need not just from the group leader, but from other members or nodes (p.61).

Effectance is about being motivated to reach out and connect outside one’s comfort zone.  Raul Pacheco-Vega could be considered what Kadushin refers to as a “highly expert network specialist” or broker – “…a professional manipulator of people and information who brings about communication for profit” (p.57).  By helping his online social networking friends, and friends of friends, he builds trust and stability of his online reputation within his community. The benefits include collecting a variety of ‘credits’ for brokering, and new ideas that are available to the group, but it comes at a cost. This effort of brokering requires personality attributes that are entrepreneurial, not always “nice,” and comfortable with aggressively reaching out (pp.63-63). Pacheco-Vega wisely responds to everyone who tweets him first, before generally tweeting to everyone else, while being generous with his support.

Status or rank refer to using the social network or reaching out to “keep up with the Joneses” or for social climbing.  Sharing and creating content, increasing online followers, tweets, and retweets are ways to improve one’s status within an online network.

Kadushin sums up that these motivations “seem affected by cultural and social context” (p. 73).

Motivations to engage in social networks

I was fortunate to hear an insightful lecture via Skype this afternoon by “Vancouver-based researcher, educator and consultant in environmental politics and policy,” Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega, about building and maintaining online professional and personal brands. He recommends sharing content generously with others in our online social networks as a means to expand our network and open doors in our off-line lives.

Dr. Pacheco-Vega’s descriptions about his personal and professional social networks and how they influence each other and support off-line relationships ties in nicely with Charles Kadushin’s Chapter 5 – The Psychological Foundations of Social Networks (in Understanding Social Networks) about “net generalized” exchanges, where we build up ‘credit,’ and get back in return what we give to our network (p.61).  Kadushin outlines “three, deep-seated, basic motivations to make contact and network” (p.72), which are:  safety and support through “dense, cohesive networks; effectance, or reaching out beyond our safety net; and status, or rank seeking.