I am going through one of the CCK08 readings for this week, “Cloudworks: social networking for learning design”. (I would reference the author but I can’t find one on the given materials – only clue is the document title conole_ascilite). The paper provided a quote from Engestrom that really struck me:
The term ‘social networking’ makes little sense if we leave out the objects that mediate the ties between people. Think about the object as the reason why people affiliate with each specific other and not just anyone… The fallacy is to think that social networks are just made up of people. They’re not; social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object.
I love the idea that social networks require a shared object, in other words they need a theme . If you are building something electronic to facilitate a social network, what is it that binds the social network together?
I am working on a new project at work (I’ll be able to talk about it soon!), but there was some difficulty with the project precisely because of this issue. Why would people want to come? Why would they participate? During a brainstorming session yesterday, this “shared object” of the network was surfaced, and I think the “how” to get people to come and participate became much clearer.
The Cloudworks paper discusses this term social objects. It references the following authors when searching for a definition of social object:
- Weller who said a social object is “something (it can be real or virtual) that facilitate conversation, and thus social interaction”
- Demsey, who said “The linking theme is that people connect and share themselves through ‘social objects’, pictures, books, or other shared interests, and that successful social networks are those which form around such social objects.“
- McLeod, who said “The interesting thing about the Social Object is the not the object itself, but the conversations that happen around them“.
- Fraser who defines profiles as social objects: Profiles ARE social objects. They’re not a real person – they’re a constructed representation around which interaction takes place – a specific kind of social object. They are artefacts which connect and make visible networks.