My understanding of social networking is that the general public now have the scope not only to be consumers of content on the World Wide Web, but also creators of content. Every aspect of life is up for comment, to be documented and critiqued and to be reinterpreted, by us, by our friends, by our friends friends, and by the people we just met through shared interests. And we're not just doing this on PCs anymore but on mobile phones, tablets and other devices which travel with us as we conduct our daily transactions. Web 2.0 technologies mean that we do not need a moderator, or even many clicks, to comment, communicate and create content anytime, anywhere, on any topic imaginable. More than just what is known as 'viral' advertising, the social web is a place where other ordinary people let us know what is good to try and what to avoid, advise us on how to solve a problem and direct us to the best, most useful sites.
What this means to me as an information professional, is that the service my organisation provides has the opportunity to meet users' needs more immediately, remotely and transparently than in the past. What this means to me as a consumer of the information and education industries, as well as of many other industries, is that I can share my experience with others synchronously or asynchronously, and I can comment on my experience and gain feedback - often almost immediately. This is both wonderful to me as a consumer and a little bit terrifying as a potential provider of web 2.0 customer service. The social web has made online learning a reality for me, which is changing how I learn and communicate. It has also changed how I conduct business in my workplace - in how I document my work, and communicate and collaborate with others. And of course, it has changed the way I conduct transactions in my life as a consumer of goods, and as a social human being. I think with this, library users' expectations of service are undergoing a transition (along with everyone else), as they know that faster, better service is possible, and that they can quickly and easily let others know if our service doesn't meet their needs. I also think that in our excitement with social networking possibilities, we mustn't forget the digital divide which comes with library users not having the latest technology and devices, or even a reliable or affordable Internet connection.
These are the social networking sites I use currently:
For personal and recreational activities I use Facebook, Flickr,YouTube, Twitter, Ravelry, Blogger, MySpace, eBay, delicious, Google+, Amazon and a variety of collective/social buying sites, and currently view and am thinking about joining Bandcamp, Posterous, Pinterest, and Tumblr.
For work I use Confluence, Yammer, and twitter.
For study I use Interact, delicious, twitter, and facebook.
I expect to learn how to critically evaluate social networking technologies in terms of using them for tangible goals within my industry, not just as tools for PR and marketing, but as conduits for meeting the information needs of my users in an immediate, problem-solving and hands-on manner. I think it is also important to gain an understanding of the scope and possible limitations of social networking tools, and to ascertain for what uses each is most appropriate and effective. I see in our subject outline that we will look at the wider issues around social networking policy and this interests me also, in that appreciation of the immediacy and convenience of the social web needs to be counterbalanced with considerations of my users' needs for privacy, accountability, consistency and accuracy.