Panelists discuss the future of social networks on the Web

29 04 2010

During the second day of FutureWeb2010, Fred Stutzman, founder of ClaimID, moderated the panel on the future of the Web and social networks. Panelists included CHRIS DIBONA of Google, DAVE RECORDON of Facebook, HENRY COPELAND of Blogads, ZEYNEP TUFEKCI of UMBC and WAYNE SUTTON, networks consultant.

Panelists gave personal responses to the following issues:

“The future of social networks as we know is growth … it’s increasingly part of our everyday life,” Stutzman said. “How can we share … and how do social networks remain useful spaces?”

“Social status management  is at the heart of social groups,” Tufekci said.

She gave the example of how apes pick bugs off of one another.

“It shows who they’re friends with; it’s an-all day display of who you’re friends with.”

Tufekci warned that the Internet allows for privacy invasion.

“We need to keep track of our social environments very exclusively,” she said. “There are serious implications from moving society to a medium like this. Usually space confines who sees you. On the Internet the space collapses.”

What about the infrastructure of social media?

Recordon explained that something as simple as photos on Facebook has changed the way people look at their own lives.

“You can look at what you do with your friends visually,” he said. “We didn’t have that in generations before.”

How do we make sense of the mess? How do we find things that are relevant?

Copeland agreed that social media is, in fact, creating a mess.

“We’re now doubling the amount of consumable social information,” he said. “The amount of crap that’s piling is higher and higher and higher.”

But Copeland said these networks do allow people to become more individualized.

“It’s the idea of individual authorship,” he said. “The individual creates something.”

What about the concept of friends on social networks?

Tufekci described how, through her research, she has found that fewer people have close friends as a result of the social networking on the Internet.

“We have lost the fundamental mechanism through which we acquire close friends,” she said. “The Internet places the burden of finding friends on you.”

Tufekci said this is because individuals are no longer in the same physical area as others. Instead, they are connecting and corresponding online.

“I’m not saying the Internet is causing people not to have friends … but there are people who are left out of sociality because of the Internet,” she said. “It’s creating new advantages and disadvantages of who is creating friends or not.”

Sutton said to combat this, filters need to be set up among who we choose as friends on social networks.

“In reality, we actually live in a bubble,” he said.

Recordon disagreed with Tufekci and said because of social networks, the Internet has gone along with globalization and allowed more individuals to spread out among the globe and maintain contact.

“Previously you were around people in an area and developed a lot of close friendships,” Recordon said. “The Internet allows me to keep in touch with more of these people (friends).”

Who social networks reach

“Internet is changing the accordance out there and who can use them,” Tufekci said. “It’s more homogeneous to race and class.”

Copeland agreed that social networks appeal to different subsets of people.

“People can now find a peer group,” he said. “I think you have a giant profusion of niches.”

How will technology bring us together?

Sutton said one of the main ways social networks can bring people together is for important causes. He described how people utilized social networks to raise both awareness and money for the earthquake in Haiti. The only challenge, he said, is how that information will be filtered.

Sutton said he also believed one day, every individual will have their own social network platform.

“These have become our social commons,” Tufekci said. “I think there are opportunities to create or participate…”

Participation in social networks

“People need to take responsibility for their actions online,” DiBona said.

He also said parents influence how their children utilize social networks.

To Tufekci, there is an inherent need to share information with others.

“It’s a deep meaning to share with people,” she said. “It’s an itch and these tools are letting people scratch it, sometimes very deep.”

What’s the next best thing after Facebook and Twitter?

“We don’t need anything next, but there will be some awesome next things,” DiBona said. “Facebook and Google will always be around.”

“I don’t think one particular platform will be the next big thing,” Sutton said. “I think an aggregation of filtered platforms will be the next big thing.”

Sutton said these platforms will be individualized to allow people to create and say what they want.

-By Laura Smith

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