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I am interested in exploring how workplaces are actually changing (not the hype). This blog is my place for thinking out loud about what I see happening - or not happening.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Supplementing, not supplanting the old (3)

The image today is a detail from a building in London.

Picking up from where I left off yesterday, I claimed that Weick offers us insight and ways of thinking about what happens when networks of people act together. I then said I would explore what the significance might be for enterprise social networking dynamics. I suppose I should say what I mean by enterprise social networking.

Social Computing

According to Forrester** social computing is:

“a social structure in which technology puts power in communities, not institutions”.

Consumer power is wreaking significant structural change in entire industries (traditional broadcasting and music), and changing how businesses communicate with consumers. User-generated content, increasingly captured and distributed on mobile digital devices at the point of inspiration, is a key way in which communities are created.

People are adopting social computing technologies on their own terms, with no permission or direction and for their own purposes.

Social Networking

Wikipedia has social networking as:

“a social structure made of nodes (which are generally individuals or organizations) that are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency”.

And again the emphasis is on social structures and interdependency, which I think implies community. Nothing about technology in the Wikipedia definition, and technology features in a supporting enabling role in the service of communities, creating the possibility for networks and communities to acquire power.

Social networks can exist and function independently of technology, in which case they tend to be hidden and function out of sight. Social networking technologies make visible the networks of connections among people that are usually hidden in the real world.

Although the blog discussions about Enterprise 2.0 tend to include the social context of collaborative technologies, it seems to me that the details of what social dynamics typically look like, and what factors might influence these dynamics in the direction of creativity or destruction, are not given much attention.

There are many theorists and existing research studies that can shed light on these issues. Patience, mon ami. I am getting there (slowly, I do admit). It occurs to me that I need a big picture to map all the inter-linked topics underpinnning the arguements I am developing. My other half, John (responsible for all the images on this blog) is already on the case.

Weick says, "... relatively small units become eminently sensible as places to understand the major workings of organisations ... a minimalist approach to understanding organisations is a productive way to start".

Looking forward to the next post, I will try thinking about Weick's analysis of nine in relation to social networking dynamics. I am just thinking this through properly for the first time, so I might confuse and contradict myself. You have been warned :-)).

**Social Computing: How Networks Erode Institutional Power, Forrester Research 2006

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