CAN ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORKS BE USED IN FORWARD-LOOKING STUDIES?O. Da Costa, R. Cachia, R. CompañóInstitute for Prospective and Technological StudiesJoint Research Centre / European CommissionE-41092 SEVILLA Second International FTA Seville Seminar September 2006
Overview • Online Social Networks (OSN): • A new social phenomenon • A new communication tool • OSN for detecting changing social patterns • OSN Communities on Foresight • Assets & Limitation A graph showing typical network of friends in Orkut compiled by Orkut2dot
What are online social networks (OSN)? • OSN is a group that primarily interacts via the internet. • As online communities, they are self-organised electronic networks organised around a shared interest or purpose [Rheingold, 1993]. • Significant socio-technical change has resulted from the proliferation of OSNs. Figure by J. Layton Networking by chain effect: « friends » connect with « friends-of-friends » who connect with « friends-of-friends-of-friends »
Member’s Profile Networking « Friends » Tools for Network communication Communitiesof interest OSNs: Characteristics Example: Orkut
Orkut: An OSN Case Study • Philosophy: • Organically growing network of trusted “friends“ • Membership by invitation-only • Features - members can: • introduce profiles (photo, hobbies, academic data, etc.) • join discussions or create their own • “rank” and write testimonials about others • Exponential Growth: • Jan 2004 created • Feb 2004: 100 000 • July 2004: 1.000.000 • Apr 2005: 5.000.000 • Jan 2006: 12.000.000 • Sep 2006: 29.000.000
OSN: Members Age Structure Member are mostly young people in the18-25 age bracket with quite a gender balance. • Are they a representative selection of group who will be the “shakers and movers” in 20 years from now? • Do OSN reveal novel patterns amongst youngsters that may persist in a wider social scale? • Can we detect already: future change in social patterns or future visions (networked society)? Orkut Feb 2006
OSN: A reflection of new social patterns? • Contacting, communicating and keeping in touch • Novel spaces for communicating and interaction • Difficulties in making yourself heard due to information overload • Changing Relations • Roles of media? • Collective collaboration • Networking across geographical locations • Influencing power?
How to detect signals of change? • Systematic screening networks needed. Possible selection criteria • Size of networks • Level of activity • Area of activity • Data-mining of relational databases
OSN: Assets • Relatively high motivation for voluntary Contribution • Anticipated Reciprocity, Increased Reputation, Sense of efficacy, Communication* and Mutual trust) • Cost • Relatively low with respect to alternative communication tools • Flexibility • New communities can be created any time • No geographical bounders * The Economies of Online Cooperation: Gifts and Public Goods in Cyberspace, 1999, Peter Kollock
OSN: Some Limitations • Automatic screening procedure difficult: • Large networks • Data may be incoherent, contradictory, incomplete or non-codified • Role of coordinator is limited • Intrinsic time delay (people to not respond immediately) and an "open-ended character". • Profiles may not always be reliable • Privacy concerns • Spamming and bugging might influence results • Geographical bias (66.3% of Orkut members from Brasil)
Join our OSN Foresight Community ! “Foresight & Future Studies”, Orkut, www.orkut.com/Community.aspx?cmm=143886 • Disclaimer: the authors have no relation or interest in the social network application selected for this undertaking.
Growth of Online Social Networks • Orkut • MySpace • Flickr • YouTube
Input question Get answers 25 393 answers Vote for best answers
Conclusion • OSN • New social phenomenon • Powerful large-scale communication tool • Currently being researched for marketing, investigation in social sciences and other • Objective of this presentation • Initiate debate about the potential of OSN in forward-looking studies • Further work required • In-depth investigation of limits, advantages and drawbacks • A tested research framework, which could be used as an analytical tool to conduct forward-looking studies • Various research methodologies and complementary approaches should be taken into consideration • Too early for assessing their potential, but prospects appear promising