Do you see [online] social networking as a serious, long-term cultural and business phenomenon?
My brother, who was working in a prison ministry,told me: “The guys when they get out they have no networks that’s why it’s hard for them to find jobs or a place to stay or even a place to just have fun.”
Of course, this is part of what prison is about breaking down the social network that got the guys in trouble in the first place. What’s missing, as my brother noticed, is a replacement network. Without a network and associated social support we become steppenwolves, single that will not survive.
We are in a time not on no tribes but of multiple tribes, not of a single family but of multiple families, not in a time of a single social network but of multiple networks — each of the highly and loosely connected social structures more easy to manage in terms of time shifting, commitment, and in selection.
How to make the support of these networks sustainable and flexible is the challenge be it in the form of a business, a government or a group of volunteers.
How can libaries (etc.) best work to shape the next wave? Should they?
First “Yes” to part two of the question, then:
Let’s start with online social network systems instead of starting with libraries.
SNSes are not so much about building networks as about managing existing social relationships as numerous studies point out. Not a life on the internet or a life in Second Life so much as, as Wellman puts it, Internet in Everyday Life.
SNSes and other technologies are good for libraries, if libraries can use them to increase and strengthen social ties between the institution and to those using and supporting the institution, to provide services seamlessly or at least more conveniently. In short to become more of a part of our Everyday Lives.
SNSes are very good at this or so much better than what we’ve had before that their use and potentials are immediately visible.
A tale from today:
I subscribe (via RSS) to a blog at a regional newspaper.
The author there covers state government issues. He is off on an amusing tangent on “Catfish Ammendments.” Where did the phrase come from and what does it mean?
He asks his readers and several old state government hands reply and/or put him into contact with other old hands.
He does a Google Book Search and finds a snippet reference to a 1904 Congressional Appropriations Committee hearing.
But he asks how to get to read more. I alert him to WorldCat.org (you don’t have to pay me for saying this OCLC).
At the same time, I realize that the University Library Reference Desk is my IM friend!
I IM my friend the Reference Desk. Sure enough we have the 1904 document on microfilm. And the Desk, who I now know as a person I pass in the parking lot, can and will do further research.
I put the blogger/journalist in touch with the Desk and we all chat then move to email.
Frankly I and the Libraries and OCLC would have liked it if we were higher on the list of interactions. But realistically, folks ask their friends first — every study shows that.
Libraries need to be part of the Everyday Lives and of the friend relationships managed by SNSes. The nature of those SNSes may be 3D virtual, text, image, IM, Facebook, MySpace or something still in the garage or coffee shop just down the road.
Libraries need to use technology to help shape the information seeking, interpreting and usages of the future. These technologies can help libraries be our better friends — and dare I say it, our better angels.
A sort addendum to my post.
This just came in from my Reference Desk friend which shows the value of the Library online vividly:
Look at the image of the document cover on the Google book search page you sent me: the second line from top reads “appropriations for 1964″ not 1904.
We have the 1964 hearing; p. 616, 2nd paragraph from the bottom reads: “Messrs Bouldin, Vogtle, and Pulley remind one of the fisherman who held a small wriggling fish in his hand, preparatory to cleaning it for eating, and said: “Hold still, little fish. I’m not going to hurt you–I only want to gut you.”
This is part of the statement of Basil Thompson, General Manager, Alabama Electric Cooperative, Inc. pp. 609-618.