Social Networks and Innovation
Eduardo ManchÃ³n, co-founder of Askaro and Panoramio; Dolors Reig, Instructional Technologist; Chris CsikszentmihÃ¡lyi, MIT Media Lab; LlorenÃ§ Valverde, Vice-President of Learning Technologies, UOC.
There is a difference between networks where content is generated and is what binds the network together, and networks where the social component is what provides sense to that network. Wikipedia is an example of the first one; Linkedin is arguably an example of the second one. Probably the former ones are more engaging.
To create valuable content, a goal is needed, and thus comes a need for focusing. This goal, notwithstanding, may not be included in the original design, but come with the use that the users do of the social networking site.
Chris CsikszentmihÃ¡lyi points to the decreasing (and almost non-existent) transaction and coordination costs of bringing people togheter and build things collaborativelly that Yochai Blenkler explains in The Wealth of Networks: ICTs have made collaboration so cheap that centralization may not make a lot of sense or, in other words, decentralization of production is now feasible in many more ways than it was before.
Indeed, most people need specific cases or even direct commands so to start up using an online service. I f you’re told you can do “anything” on a web site, that’s what you’ll do: nothing. A good example to kick-start a service was Twitter: “what are you doing?”. With time, it evolved to much more than what one was doing. But for starters, the idea worked.
LlorenÃ§ Valverde: so, translated to the education arena, problem based communities, addressed to specific topics and with clear rules is what would work. That would contribute in building a community. But, why don’t online students usually gather around virtual communities and/or specific “social learning networking sites”?
Chris C.: And how do you make people engage if 2% will be creators and 98% will be lurkers?
Eduardo ManchÃ³n: there actually are two really separate communities (creators and lurkers) and the one that really matters is creators. You have to develop your site for the creators, for the content generators, for the active ones.
Lev Gonick: We have situational communities and we have intentional communities. Sustainable communities are more on the intentional side of communities, strongly motivated and are normally well moderated/led. And we should try and find, in the educational field, what is the difference we are making, what is the advantage we are providing our students.
Eduardo ManchÃ³n: (some) noise and (some) trouble helps the community to raise, and to mature. Online communities are small societies and so they need some controversies to grow in all senses. Of course a minimum amount of moderation is needed, especially to avoid the destruction of the community as a whole, but tension is generally good, is a sign of health.
Eduardo ManchÃ³n: we may know what does not work in a virtual community, we most probably do not know what does work, but we can only find out by creating the online community and bring it to live. So, the best advice when designing and building an online community is to build it and see whether people “comes”.
NOTE: As usual, this kind of events are much richer than what these humble notes may suggest :)
If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:
Peña-López, I. (2010) “UOC Tech Talks. Eduardo ManchÃ³n: Social Networks and Innovation” In ICTlogy,
#85, October 2010. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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