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October 9, 2008

how many social networks?

For practical reasons related to my work, I have recently joined two social networks that function roughly like MySpace or Facebook: The Five Freedoms Project Network and TakingITGlobal. A third such network is Puget Sound Off. I wouldn't join this youth site, but I have an official advisory role to Puget Sound Off and spent a few days last week visiting its organizers. And then there's always my regular old Facebook page.

Joining lots of social networks is a bit of a drag. For instance, I have my various passwords saved in one place and don't always have ready access to them. And every time someone pings me through one of these networks, I have to log on. I wondered why these other groups couldn't just use Facebook or MySpace (or both)--as we intend to do when we build a network for college-student volunteers and activists in the Boston area. The answer seems to be that there are quite a few practical barriers to doing political or civic organizing within the major proprietary social networking sites. It can be expensive to build applications for these sites, and the owners can change their policies or even shut you down.

I'm one who tends to defend corporate products that function openly or democratically. The fact that they are privately owned and profitable doesn't turn me off--in fact, I'm glad for the investment. But there seems to be a question about whether the really big commercial social networking sites are sufficiently open to support democratic activism.

October 9, 2008 9:28 AM | category: Internet and public issues | Comments


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