Move Over Web 2.0 and Social Media. It’s Time for SOCIAL Computing


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In discussions about Web 2.0, Social Media or Social Networking, it is becoming common to hear: it is not about the technology, it is about what it enables.” Heretofore, discussions about what it enables have been mostly about the buzz around flashy examples. Well, it looks like that is going to change.
Here are some examples of the companies and institutions that are taking a serious look at just what is enabled and the potential consequences:

  • Foresster
    A new social structure is emerging in which technology puts power in communities, not institutions. Forrester calls this evolution Social Computing. Sounds like Web 2.0, right? We think not. And here’s why: Web 2.0 is about specific technologies (blogs, podcasts, wikis, etc) that are relatively easy to adopt and master. Social Computing is about the new relationships and power structures that will result. Think of it another way: Web 2.0 is the building of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s; Social Computing is everything that resulted next (for better or worse): suburban sprawl, energy dependency, efficient commerce, Americans’ lust for cheap and easy travel.
  • The University of Michigan, the first to offer a master’s specialization in social computing, is now opening up the opportunity to undergrads with the launch of a new undergraduate major in informatics that features a social computing track. Students in the social computing informatics track will build and evaluate social software applications and study the influences of these systems on society. Informatics is the study of information and the ways information is used by and affects people and social systems.
  • IBM opens the IBM Center for Social Software in Cambridge, MA. The center will build upon those projects as well as identify new technology and business models to merge the popularity of social networking with the practicalities of corporate culture and values. The academic community will also be involved in determining whether these applications actually do make enterprises more efficient and improve morale. IBM said it has struck up partnerships with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab for research projects on social computing.
  • Microsoft will be conducting research on social networks in its Research Center in New England. It will be charged at looking at the sociological, psychological and technical aspects of social networks. If we’re going to help build the social networks of tomorrow, if we’re going to come up with new business models so that we can monetize them, if we are going to help to come up with productivity software so that people can collaborate online, we need to understand more about people: who they are, how they value things, and how they interact with each other, Microsoft (Research New England managing director Jennifer Chayes said in a statement posted on the company’s Web site.
  • The University of California at Berkeley recently received funding for the first endowed professorship in its Center for New Media. Funds are coming from the Craigslist Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The mission is to advance new media in the public interest, and to explore the effect of new media on culture.
John Todor
John I. Todor, Ph.D. is the Managing Partner of the MindShift Innovation, a firm that helps executives confront the volatility and complexity of the marketplace. We engage executives in a process that tackles two critical challenges: envisioning new possibilities for creating and delivering value to customers and, fostering employee engagement in the innovation and alignment of business practices to deliver on the new possibilities. Follow me on Twitter @johntodor


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