Course on Social Media

I am excited (and a tiny bit daunted) to be offering the class “Social Media” next semester at Pratt SILS. A description is below:

Social Media (LIS-697-09)
Wednesday, 3:30-5:50 PM

The rise of the networked information environment, currently highlighted by such descriptors as Social Media and Web 2.0, and popularized by such web properties as Facebook and Twitter, will continue to profoundly influence the ways in which humans share information. Such technologies support the use, production, and circulation of knowledge in a peer-to-peer networked arrangement. This arrangement shares some aspects with other forms of communications but is most remarkable in its discontinuity from these earlier forms (for example, the hierarchical communication structure widely used in our lifetimes). This new structural arrangement, which will undoubtedly persist alongside other arrangements, has implications for information organizations and professionals, and goes far beyond, “should my library be Twittering?” Rather, the question this course will be guided by is: how might information organizations and professionals leverage the networked information environment to advance longstanding professional values, such as a commitment to democracy, community building, and individual efficacy and fulfillment. In effort to advance these values, students will engage in a collaborative design project that attempts to take advantage of this new arrangement.

Tentative course topics include: history and theories of communication, computer networks and infrastructure, social design affordances, identity and presentation of self, social networks, participatory culture, network analysis and measures, immersion, ubiquitous computing, Library 2.0 and survey of current uses of social media in libraries.

Field trips and/or guest speakers who work within the Social Media landscape will be included throughout the course.

My Dissertation

Although it has been done for a few months now, I realized I never posted my dissertation here. So here it is, enjoy!


Advances in information and communications technologies (ICTs) have empowered individuals to share their intellectual, cultural, and creative expressions with wider and more diverse audiences than ever before. This has been made possible by a variety of factors, but most saliently by what has been termed Web 2.0, which is a set of design patterns for structuring websites so that they can be actively shaped and influenced by the interactions and contributions of users (e.g., YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace). These changes have been described as creating the conditions necessary for shifting society from a consumer culture to a participatory culture. This emerging cultural formation has been hypothesized to have a great deal of potential for advancing education and learning by moving the locus of activity from existing power relationships (consumer/producer, expert/novice, and teacher/student) to one that focuses on the individual’s empowerment and willingness to construct and contribute to one’s cultural and physical reality. Despite this potential, there is little research that looks to understand how such ICTs deployed into specific communities do (or do not) make possible these goals.

This study aims to understand the relationship between ICTs and their potential for creating and sustaining a participatory culture, particularly by pointing to a set of factors that highlight the existence of and mediate involvement in a participatory culture. To understand this relationship, this study analyzes an Web 2.0 technology that was used electively by a graduate school community for a two-year period of time (September 6, 2006 to September 6, 2008) by N=2,580 students, faculty and staff. The factors that mediate involvement include: communication across organizational structures, spaces for alternative discourses to develop and integrating interpersonal networks. The study concludes that Web 2.0 technologies promote the formation of participatory cultures by making the cultural, intellectual, and creative work of a community visible, and that visibility in turn encourages individuals to participate.

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Participatory Culture, Web 2.0, and Communities of Practice: A Design-Based Research Investigation

LSAI thought I would post one of the papers I have been working on:

Cocciolo, A. (2008). Participatory Culture, Web 2.0, and Communities of Practice: A Design-Based Research Investigation.

The purpose of this thesis is to explore the relationship amongst participatory culture (Jenkins, 2006), Web 2.0 technologies, and communities of practice. Specifically, this study will address the following questions: what are the effects of introducing a Web 2.0 technology into a pre-existing learning environment, and how can such technologies aid (or inhibit) the emergence of a participatory culture? To address these questions, a design-based research project was undertaken where a Web 2.0 technology was iteratively designed and developed, rolled-out to a graduate school community of 5,000 members, and its impact studied over a one-year period. The study uses a variety of methods to triangulate the impact of this Web 2.0 technology. In particular, the study employs a longitudinal social network analysis, a latent semantic analysis, a cross-comparison analysis, and an ethnographic analysis. Results indicate the Web 2.0 environment provides a forum for community members to play-out the tension between reaffirming pre-existing socio-cultural norms and a desire to break free from such structures. Specifically, the analysis reveals that the Web 2.0 technology allows for new forms of participation that were not possible with earlier ICTs as well as opportunities for radical interaction networks to form. However, the study also indicates how the initial radicalism the Web 2.0 technology allowed for is tempered over-time to better conform to pre-existing socio-cultural norms. In sum, participatory culture is made possible by the innovations in ICTs; however, sustaining the culture must be the undertaking of the community. Implications are made for organizations that may be interested in deploying Web 2.0 technologies to accomplish a variety of goals.

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