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Social Media and Virtual Communities


Course Topics: 1 The Power of Social Media

This is a course for the students with a strong interest in new technologies and how they may be used to create new business opportunities, particularly new social networking media.  Topics covered will include social networking and how the business world leverages them, virtual worlds and technologies, skills in designing and implementing social media for business value using sharepoint and iTunes U (hands on projects). 
Why do humans collaborate?  What is the nature of collaboration?  What innate need do social media fill?  Can we live without them?  Can we thrive without them in today's business world? 
What sorts of collaboration may social media enable?  Who gets connected? How do social media "flatten" the world?
Initial Thoughts:

Social media are dynamic.  “Social” -> human relationship and organization.  “Media” -> forms of information.  Human relationship and organization forms of information. Apply simple concepts from evolution -> Human relations and organizations evolve.  Thus, social media must be dynamic -> changing, active ->  Ancient Greek δυναμικός (dunamikos) "powerful"!  Examples of social media begin with writing and reading media and extend into their current forms as well as emergent forms that will include senses beyond the visual.  We will read about some of these.

Though our course name is “Social Media and Virtual Communities,” in our course, I will tend to emphasize social media as a short cut.  Virtual communities are the groups and places that exist today as a result of the use of social media.  They are “virtual” in that they exist in cyberspace.  They are communities in that involve multiple people joined in some purpose, task, or interaction pattern.  At times, virtual communities may interact with the physical world as we will see.  They may even augment it and create new physical capabilities.  Imagine having a sensor in your glasses that can scan people’s faces when you look at them, pattern match and identify them, and then lookup and present their profile to you from Facebook or some other resource (projected on your retina in a way that no one knows you have this additional information).   Wouldn’t that be neat?  The technology already exists.  I have seen it in experimental forms. 

Social media are forming a new economy.  Get ready.  Here Comes the P2P Economy.  What’s fundamentally different?  What do you need to do about it?  What is The Metaverse?  How will it impact business?  How will impact your life?  Do you operate on Task, Not Time?  Is this a fair characterization in your opinion of yourself?  Do you see your peers operating in this manner as well?  Is this a better way for society to operate?  Why would task, not time be a fundamental issue conflated with the advent of social media?  When do you expect The Board Meeting of the Future to be a reality?  What have you already seen in your business experiences of this new reality?  Anything?  What was the impact of these changes?  Were there any negatives?

Mass collaboration is intense.  Wikinomics author Don Tapscott talks about enabling mass collaboration in an interview with Wall Street Journal.  Take note of the design tips in his answers and if you find one in this article or anywhere else at anytime during our semester, write your design tip on our design tips page in our course wiki.  Is mass collaboration a new thing?  What is so powerful about it?  Watch the Howard Rheingold TED video for more insights.  You could also read his book Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution if you want further reading.  Let’s look at examples from McKesson in “Prescription: Technology” and from Kentucky’s development program in “Faster and Stronger.” 

So, social media may enable businesses and even larger efforts at development.  What are the tools beyond email and phone?  Second Life is a 3D virtual world where people are interacting.  I want you to login to Second Life and create an avatar.  Have fun.  Explore.  As we will see, “Avatars Get Down to Business.  Overlapping with Topic 6, we see that businesses are personalizing their services and processes as “Technology Gets Personal.”  How is your experience of Second Life?  I want you to explore and find another avatar and chat with them?  What can you learn about them?  Where are they from?  Do you believe them?  Did you go somewhere in the virtual world together?  What did you talk about?  How did you meet them?  Did you have any surprising or confusing experiences?  What were they? 

Social media also overturn power structures in some cases.  Can a 20-yearold [be] at the Heart of [the] Web’s Most Anarchic and Influential Site?  Why?  What are the keys to enabling this sort of power?  What is Cloud Computing?  Why do advances such as cloud computing and Graphics Chips May Play Outside of Games intrinsically relate to the advent and diffusion of social media?  Why are they critical pieces enabling Google [to Launch its] Virtual World Called ‘Lively’?  How do these shifts in the ability to control and inform through social media challenged established businesses?  Let’s consider the case of news media.

Read “In Search of MyProfits.” Why was MySpace worth so much?  Why does Microsoft value Yahoo! so highly?  Are these media the cause of A Cautionary Tale for Old Media?  What are old media?  What came before them?  What must they do to survive?  Who does this shift in media power impact?  What is Murdoch’s take?  Read “His Space.”  Be prepared to discuss these questions in class.  Submit your 2-page write-up of reflections on these readings and this topic by Monday, September 2 by typing it (12-point Times, single-spaced with your name and the course topic listed at the top with the date), printing it, and handing it in to me directly (email ok if you miss class or your printer breaks). Why am I asking for printed copies (old media)? 



1        *HBR “Here Comes the P2P Economy”

2        *HBR “The Metaverse”

3        *HBR “Task, not Time”

4        *HBR “The Board Meeting of the Future”

5        *Computerworld “Don Tapscott: Wikinomics Author Talks About Enabling Mass Collaboration”

6        *WSJ “Prescription: Technology”

7        *WSJ “Faster and Stronger”

8        *Computerworld “Avatars Get Down to Business”

9        *Wall Street Journal [WSJ] “Technology Gets Personal”

10   *Guardian “The 20-yearold At Heart of Web’s Most Anarchic and Influential Site”

11   *Computerworld “Cloud Computing”

12   “Google Launches Virtual World Called ‘Lively’”

13   WSJ “Graphics Chips May Play Outside Games”

MEDIA CASE (the following three articles)

14   *Businessweek “In Search of MyProfits”

15   *Businessweek “A Cautionary Tale for Old Media”

16   *WSJ “His Space”