Volume 15 Number 5/6
Social Networking Gets Serious
Have you tweeted today? The use of social networking sites like Twitter has moved into the main stream of everyday experience for an increasing number of people in the US and the rest of the world as just one example, witness the "tweeting" encouraged by media organizations such as CNN, which uses almost instantaneous feedback from listeners, via Twitter, to report on events or share viewers' reactions to news stories.
Social networking is not a new phenomenon, but the various social networking applications are increasingly being used for collaboration well beyond that of people selectively sharing aspects of their personal lives with others who have similar interests.
Several recent articles and blog postings have referred to an April meeting at the University of Maryland, where a group of researchers, led by computer science professor Ben Shneiderman, discussed creation of a "National Initiative for Social Participation", with the goal of finding ways to use social networks to do serious collaborative research.
In a related development, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued a solicitation, NSF 09-559, under a new program entitled "Social-Computational Systems (SoCS)". The synopsis of the program states:
The SoCS program will support research in socially intelligent computing arising from human-computer partnerships that range in scale from a single person and computer to an Internet-scale array of machines and people. The program seeks to create new knowledge about the capabilities these partnerships can demonstrate new affordances and new emergent behaviors, as well as unanticipated consequences and fundamental limits. The program also seeks to foster new ideas that support even greater capabilities for socially intelligent computing, such as the design and development of systems reflecting explicit knowledge about people's cognitive and social abilities, new models of collective, social, and participatory computing, and new algorithms that leverage the specific abilities of massive numbers of human participants.
Also, a report on the March 2009 biannual conference of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), mentioned that sessions on social networking were of particular interest to librarians attending the conference, who are seeking new ways to leverage the use of social networking applications to better serve their library's users.
It will be interesting to follow developments in these areas over the course of the next few years to find whether or not we are at the beginning of a significant evolution in communications and, if so, how it will affect digital libraries, their creators and managers, and their users.
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