Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Assignment 1: Semester 1: Year 3

Social Networking and Design
Janna Macdonald
Jewellery and Metalwork Design

What is Social Networking?

Social networking is the grouping together of individuals through social connections; it is possible to do this in person through school, university or working environments. But it has recently boomed in the online world due to the millions upon millions of users from all over the globe looking to meet others to share and gather information with, make new friendships and business alliances. Social networking is being achieved through social sites that are designed to allow multiple users to publish content about themselves or creating a profile, exchange private and public messages and upload photographs.
“Web-based services that allow indivduals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system” (Thelwall, M., 2009)
Social sites have become an extension of the original mailing list and bulletin boards that had previously been used. Online communities of internet users have recognized the potential to expand the number of there business and social contacts through web-based groups, making contacts that they would possibly never have met which are extremely influential to them.

Image from http://www.bankerstuff.com/Events/WebinarsonDemand/OnDemandSeriesSocialNetworkingforBankers/tabid/333/Default.aspx

The History

Before the Internet exploded onto mainstream consciousness CompuServe provided a form of social interaction. This service began in the 1970s and was set to be a business oriented computer connection solution and it provided this use u until the late 1980s when CompuServe expanded itself for public use allowing its members to share files, access news and events, and join discussion pages that covered a very wide range of topics. CompuServe became extremely popular in its time and has heavily influenced the way the modern social sites are developing today.
The Bulletin Board System (BBS) gained popularity through the 1980s and well into the 1990s. Its online gathering places were independently formed codes that permitted the communication with the central system; from this any user could download files and post messages onto the bulletin board. (Nickson, C., 2009) Although there was about to be a huge change in social networking, Tom Jennings Fidonet managed to link BBS’s to modern day networks so they have not been completely lost.
The climb of the Internet as we know it today was created under the AOL (American Online) company. This developed user-created community services which was the first sighting of advanced features to be used in social sites. Early social networking sites, World Wide Web (WWW) generalized online communities that aimed to bring people together from 1997 where some of the first social sites where born, Six Degrees.com and Classmates.com for example. In these sites, mainly from the late of the 1990s, the users profile was the obvious main feature making it easier to find other users that had similar interests/hobbies etc as themselves. By the end of the 1990s/early 2000s more advanced features had been developed helping create more personal networking sites that were clinched by the masses.
‘in social, economic and institutional terms the dominance of the world of networks is even more apparent’ (Castells,2001)
This showing the potential domination that the social networking sites had to offer to the modern day world and with the launch of Friendster in 2002 social sites hit a real high point, by using a perception that was seen earlier in a failed social site (previously mentioned Sixdegree.com) the creators were able to show a “Circle of Friends” which encouraged new friendships and bonds to be made from the visual connections that were displayed to each user. This technique is still used in one of the most popular sites to date, Facebook, which was originally founded by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg along with his college roommates and fellow computer science student. When Facebook was first launched, in 2004, it was limited to Harvard students only but after only 2 years it was made public and now boasts at more than 500 million active users. (Kirkpatrick, D., 2010)

Image from (http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html)

Relevance to Design

Social networking has always been a way of self-promotion in the design world whether that is through online interaction or face-to-face interaction. With the online aspect of socializing designers have been given a huge advantage when trying to get their work across and target fellow designers. Blogging, such as blogger.com and wordpress, has given designers the advantage of being able to publish and record the thought process of their work and final pieces. Hopefully being able to gain some feedback or inspire fellow designers with various techniques and samples that they have achieved themselves.
‘Texts and images can be published without editorial interferences and can rapidly achieve wide circulation’ (Varnelis, 2008)
This shows the power of the web at its greatest. Designers being able to publish images of there own work has become a very popular way of them promoting their designs to other designers and possible clients and employers. Also managing to give them possible connection that may become useful towards techniques and skills they may want to acquire. Social networks such as youtube.com contain videos and such of practical workshops that some craft amateurs would be able to use to develop their skills further, this giving a very clear and visual way of learning from very obtainable resources.
Online thought is also an important factor to take into consideration by bringing unlimited amount of people from differing cultures and backgrounds gives the influence of a wider range of views and opinions to come forward to designers.
“the nature of online engagement . . . makes manageable large-scale, many-to-many discussion and deliberation” (Coleman and Gotze, 2001)
This shows that within the design of social sites we have managed to produce a way of getting people together to discuss issues at the same time from many differing places providing the subject at hand with a more cultured view.
In virtual worlds, such as secondlife.com, it is possible to create an online exhibitions that can be seen by the whole virtual world. The Tech Museum announced The Tech Vitual (www.thetechvirtual.org) in December 2007 in which an exhibition design competition would take place focusing on the theme of “Art,Film and Music” this virtual exhibition promoted one of the first of its kind. The first four winning exhibits to be incorporated into the physical museum including Artist-in-residence: The Painter, Musical Chairs, Wikisonic anf Connecting Point: Hole in (Virtual) Space. This has given the design world a way of presenting their work in a whole new light and thus furthering the development of social networking and its potential in the modern day society.


Boyd, D., and Ellison, N., (2007) Social Networking Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship, Available on http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html

Castells, M., (2010), The Rise Of The Network Society, Blackwell Publishing LTD

Castells, M., and Catterall, B., (2001), The Making Of The Network Society, London, Institute of Contemporary Arts

Kirkpatrick, D., (2010), The Facebook Effect, Virgin Books

Nickson, C., (January 2009), History of Social Networking, Available on:

Thelwall, M., (2009) Social Network Sites: Users and Uses, Elsever, U.S.A

The Tech (Virtual) Museum: Four Physical SecondLife Exhibitions

Varnelis, K., (2008), Networked Publics, Massachusetts, The MIT Press

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