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Social Capital in Social Networking Sites

Hong Kong.
The next presenter at The Internet Turning 40 is Charles Steinfield, whose focus is on social capital in social networking sites. Social networking sites now rival search engines as the most visited sites on the Web; Facebook now has close to half a billion users. The key features of such sites are user-constructed public or semi-public profiles, a set of connections to other users on the system, and the ability to view and follow one's own connections as well as the connections of others.

Research into social networking has examined impression management and friendship performance, networks and network structure, bridging and online networks, privacy, and how users derive benefits from social networking. Such benefit can be framed especially as social capital: the accumulated resources derived from relationships among people in a specific social context of network.

Identity Performance in Social Networking

Hong Kong.
The afternoon session at The Internet Turning 40 starts with a paper by Zizi Papacharissi on identity performance in social networking. She begins by noting the common question of whether social networking makes its users more or less social, and suggests that ultimately social networking is simply integrated into the social lives of its users; a better question may be what media and what online spaces are more or less social, and what online sociability actually means.

Zizi and her colleagues conducted a number of studies to explore those questions, and found a different kind of sociability on Facebook, for example - characterised for some users by a somewhat more passive sociability conducted from the home, but also by a greater flexibility, mobility, and convergence of social behaviours which are linked across Facebook and other spaces. The public privacy of social ties was also notable - users recognised the privacy risks and showed a complex, reflexive understanding of privacy.

Strategies for Strengthening e-Participation in Europe

Krems.
The final speaker in this EDEM 2010 session is Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen, who examines the current status of e-participation in the European Union. All EU states have a relatively equal level of e-participation take-up, even in spite of their very different historical trajectories; that take-up is highly variable across local, national, and transnational levels, however.

The older European democracies are substantially more active at the local level, for example, while cross-border initiatives are generally limited (even in spite of European integration and strong cross-border ties in a number of regions). Indeed, the local level is generally best developed, with sophistication declining markedly towards the national and transnational levels. This is interesting also given that substantial public funding is coming from the EU and national levels, rather than from local public authorities.

g4c2c: Enabling Citizen Engagement at Arms' Length from Government

Krems.
My own presentation (of a paper co-authored with my colleague Adam Swift) was up next at EDEM 2010, and I've already posted up the slides and full paper - audio to follow some time soon, hopefully! now added as well. Bit rushed, but I hope it made sense...

Beware the Goverati: e-Democracy Processes in the Post-Industrial Age

Krems.
The second keynote speaker at EDEM 2010 is Ismail Peña-López, who begins from an economic perspective: he notes that in the orthodox view, the basic structure of the production system is that inputs (resources) are acted upon by labour and capital in the production process, generating outputs (products). Democratic processes are traditionally based and built upon this production process, too - scarcity of resources, transaction costs, and processes of intermediation are its fundamental delimiting elements,which democracy attempts to coordinate.

Towards Real Citizen Participation in e-Democracy

Krems.
I've now arrived at the 2010 Conference on e-Democracy (EDEM 2010) in Krems, Austria. I'll present my paper on the g4c2c concept with Adam Swift later this afternoon, but we start today with a keynote by Andy Williamson. He begins by pointing to the relative youth of e-democracy projects, and says that there's a lot to learn from the interesting failures of many such projects to date. Indeed, there's a problem with the academic language of many of these projects (democracy is a disputable enough term as it is - sticking 'e' in front only makes it worse).

More Travel Coming Up: EDEM 2010

In a few days' time, I'll head off to Europe again, to present at this year's Conference on e-Democracy (EDEM 2010). I really enjoyed the 2009 edition (see the coverage in this blog), and it's hard to believe a whole year has passed already - probably because it hasn't: EDEM 2009 was held in September...

Still, that's not stopped us from developing some new ideas on how to further the 'government 2.0' push which aims to utilise Web 2.0 technologies, social media models, and produsage processes in order to create better engagement and participation between governments and citizens. This year, I'm building on my observations with Jason Wilson about top-down and bottom-up forms of engagement, presented at EDEM 2009, to suggest (in a paper co-authored with Adam Swift) that neither the common government-to-citizen (g2c) nor citizen-to-citizen (c2c) initiatives in the government 2.0 space quite manage to find the right balance, and that we may need to explore the possibility for new, hybrid models in between these poles: we outline what we've called a g4c2c model in which government provides explicit support for, and gets involved in, citizen-to-citizen activities.

g4c2c: Enabling Citizen Engagement at Arms' Length from Government (EDEM 2010)

EDEM 2010

g4c2c: Enabling Citizen Engagement at Arms' Length from Government

Axel Bruns and Adam Swift

  • 6 May 2010 - 2010 Conference on Electronic Democracy, Krems, Austria

The recognition that Web 2.0 applications and social media sites will strengthen and improve interaction between governments and citizens has resulted in a global push into new e-democracy or Government 2.0 spaces. These typically follow government-to-citizen (g2c) or citizen-to-citizen (c2c) models, but both these approaches are problematic: g2c is often concerned more with service delivery to citizens as clients, or exists to make a show of 'listening to the public' rather than to genuinely source citizen ideas for government policy, while c2c often takes place without direct government participation and therefore cannot ensure that the outcomes of citizen deliberations are accepted into the government policy-making process. Building on recent examples of Australian Government 2.0 initiatives, we suggest a new approach based on government support for citizen-to-citizen engagement, or g4c2c, as a workable compromise, and suggest that public service broadcasters should play a key role in facilitating this model of citizen engagement.

Flying Visit to Perth and Adelaide

There's a fair amount of travelling coming up for me over the next few months - and as always, where I'm attending conferences I'll endeavour to cover them on snurb.info (though a good part of my travels in May is for personal reasons, so don't expect too much - a few tweets here and there, perhaps).

First, though, I'm off to Perth and Adelaide next week to speak at the State Libraries of Western Australia (on 28 April) and South Australia (on 30 April) . In a talk I'm calling "Outreach and Co-Curation: Engaging with Library Users", I'll explore how libraries and librarians may use social media to connect and collaborate with library users - this updates my keynote at the ARLIS conference a couple of years ago and also builds on the social media reports I've written for the Smart Services CRC. Ultimately, what this points to is the significant potential for librarians and library users to engage in a shared practice of co-curating information and knowledge: importing and adapting produsage approaches into library practice, and in the process perhaps opening up new user communities for our libraries. I've already posted the Powerpoint here - and all going well, I'll add the audio from the presentation later on as well. UPDATE: The audio from the SLSA talk is now online as well. Thanks again to the SLSA and SLWA folks for organising the event!

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