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Why Study Social Software?

Since social software is about connections, people connecting to other people via computer-mediated communication, it would appear to be a rich arena for research in the fields of sociology, anthropology, psychology, communication, information sciences, and education, just to name a few.

In terms of education, if we use Wenger's concept of community of practice, we can begin to look at social software and learning as it relates to Wenger's initial inventory of the components of a social theory of learning (Wenger, 1998, p.5).


With learning at the center of all activity, the diagram allows us to see how community or sociality connects vertically with meaning and horizontally with identity and practice. Wenger suggests that "these elements are deeply interconnected and and mutually defining" (Wenger, 1998, p.5).

Given this framework, it is relatively easy to see how learning involves participation in an array of communities of practice, from family, to schools, to workplaces. With the advent of World Wide Web, social software allows us "congregate in virtual spaces and develop shared ways of pursuing common interests" (Wenger, 1998, p. 7).

And given the growing ubiquitous nature of computing and social software, it would appear important that interested researchers devote time and study exploring the means and ends associated with it.

For example, Ulises Mejias (2005) asks:


* What is 'social' about social software?


* How is the notion of community being redefined by social software?


* What aspects of our humanity stand to gain or suffer as a result of our use of and reliance on social software?


* How is social agency shared between humans and code in social software?


* What are the social repercussions of unequal access to social software?


* What are the pedagogical implications of social software for education?


* Can social software be an effective tool for individual and social change?


* What general principles can we identify for designing social software? How would we apply those principles in the design of a particular social software application?


* What general principles can we identify for evaluating social software? How would we use those principles to measure the effectiveness of a particular social software application?



These research questions offer us a good place to start. What other research questions might we ask?



Social Software ReFerences |

Types of Social SoftWare |

TaGs |

SocialSoftware home |

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