Are social media or Web 2.0 definitions in the eye of the beholder?


Social Media Process v. 1.0

This is a learning module for the class Contemporary Social / Mass Media Theory taught at Purdue University bySorin Adam Matei

Web 2.0 and social media core assumptions

The popular concepts of social media and Web 2.0 hinge on the assumption that the difference between users and consumers of information/content/knowledge has blurred, that the crowd formerly known as the ”audience” has become a gaggle of prosumers who roll their own media. Making the news as they blog and twitter, have contemporary media users come a step closer to the Marxian ideal of post-capitalist farmer-in-the-morning-teacher-in-the-evening? Touted by some, this Renaissance ideal is still a murky one, since we have not yet grasped that the emerging world has its own hierarchies and orders. The present batch of readings is meant to clarify some terms and to open up the conversation that we will carry on for the rest of the semester.

Web 2.0 and Social Media Readings

What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software Tim Oreilly Communications & Strategies, No. 1, p. 17, First Quarter 2007

This paper was the first initiative to try to define Web 2.0 and understand its implications for the next generation of software, looking at both design patterns and business modes. Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an architecture of participation, and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.

Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media Andreas M. Kaplan, Michael Haenlein Business Horizons v. 53 no. 1 (January/February 2010) p. 59-68

The concept of Social Media is top of the agenda for many business executives today. Decision makers, as well as consultants, try to identify ways in which firms can make profitable use of applications such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, Second Life, and Twitter. Yet despite this interest, there seems to be very limited understanding of what the term “Social Media” exactly means; this article intends to provide some clarification. We begin by describing the concept of Social Media, and discuss how it differs from related concepts such as Web 2.0 and User Generated Content. Based on this definition, we then provide a Classification of Social Media which groups applications currently subsumed under the generalized term into more specific categories by characteristic: collaborative projects, blogs, content communities, social networking sites, virtual game worlds, and virtual social worlds. Finally, we present 10 pieces of advice for companies which decide to utilize Social Media.

Cognitive Surplus, Clay Shirky (fragment) – Content between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0

Americans watch roughly two hundred billion hours of TV every year. That represents about two thousand Wikipedias’ projects’ worth of free time annually. Even tiny subsets of this time are enormous: we spend roughly a hundred million hours every weekend just watching commercials. This is a pretty big surplus. People who ask “Where do they find the time?” about those who work on Wikipedia don’t understand how tiny that entire project is, relative to the aggregate free time we all possess. One thing that makes the current age remarkable is that we can now treat free time as a general social asset that can be harnessed for large, communally created projects, rather than as a set of individual minutes to be whiled away one person at a time.

Convergence Culture, Harry Jenkins — book highly recommended, (no need to buy right now)…

The presentation of the book ”Henry Jenkins, founder and director of MIT’s comparative media studies program, debunks outdated ideas of the digital revolution in this remarkable book, proving that new media will not simply replace old media, but rather will learn to interact with it in a complex relationship he calls “convergence culture.” The book’s goal is to explain how convergence is currently impacting the relationship among media audiences, producers and content, a far from easy undertaking. As Jenkins says, “there will be no magical black box that puts everything in or der again.” Jenkins takes pains to prove that the notion of convergence culture is not primarily a technological revolution; through a number of well-chosen examples, Jenkins shows that it is more a cultural shift, dependent on the active participation of the consumers working in a social dynamic. He references recent media franchises like Survivor, The Matrix, and American Idol to show how the new participatory culture of consumers can be utilized for popular success and increased exposure. Jenkins’ insights are gripping and his prose is surprisingly entertaining and lucid for a book that is, at its core, intellectually rigorous. Though wordy at times, Jenkins’ impressive ability to break down complex concepts into readable prose makes this study vital and engaging.”

A brief synopsis of the book published by Jenkins in the Receiver Magazine, published by Vodafone

“Henry Jenkins is Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT. He has researched and written about literature, film and media studies, gender and cultural studies for the last twenty years. His most recent book, focused on media change in its full context, is called Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Intersect and will come out later this year published by New York University Press. Read his receiver contribution and let Jenkins enlighten you about how popular culture is making sense of the changing, convergent forms of digital media content.”

 Reed’s Law

What kind of value are we talking about, when we say the value of a network scales as some function of size? The answer is the value of potential connectivity for transactions. That is, for any particular access point (user), what is the number of different access points (users) that can be connected or reached for a transaction when the need arises. As a simple illustration, consider a phone that can call only 911. A customer for such a phone buys it because of a low probability future need to call for emergency help; in fact, the customer probably takes other steps never to need to use the phone. But the existence of a lucrative market for such phones indicates that customers can value potential connectivity to a single point, even though the connection is never used. Potential connectivity to many points should have value proportionally larger, since it is not necessary to use the connection to find value in its availability.

The value of potential connectivity is the value of the set of optional transactions that are afforded by the system or network. Economically, the value of each optional transaction is like a financial option (e.g., the value of an option to buy a share of stock at a particular price). To simplify the model and focus on scaling, I’ll assume that the value of any particular optional transaction in a network comes from a distribution that does not depend strongly on the number of participants in the network.

Metcalfe’s Law is wrong

Of all the popular ideas of the Internet boom, one of the most dangerously influential was Metcalfe’s Law. Simply put, it says that the value of a communications network is proportional to the square of the number of its users.

The law is said to be true for any type of communications network, whether it involves telephones, computers, or users of the World Wide Web. While the notion of “value” is inevitably somewhat vague, the idea is that a network is more valuable the more people you can call or write to or the more Web pages you can link to.

Metcalfe’s Law attempts to quantify this increase in value. It is named for no less a luminary than Robert M. Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet. During the Internet boom, the law was an article of faith with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and engineers, because it seemed to offer a quantitative explanation for the boom’s various now-quaint mantras, like “network effects,” “first-mover advantage,” “Internet time,” and, most poignant of all, “build it and they will come.”

Metcalfe was correct that the value of a network grows faster than its size in linear terms; the question is, how much faster? If there are n members on a network, Metcalfe said the value grows quadratically as the number of members grows.

We propose, instead, that the value of a network of size n grows in proportion to nlog( n ). Note that these laws are growth laws, which means they cannot predict the value of a network from its size alone. But if we already know its valuation at one particular size, we can estimate its value at any future size, all other factors being equal.

Social media only represents 5% of the time we have available in a day – McKinsey (see chart page 32) – See more colorful version at the Economist


Nicolle Ellison and danah boyd Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship Journal of computer-mediated communication [1083-6101] Boyd yr:2007 vol:13 iss:1 pg:210

Social network sites (SNSs) are increasingly attracting the attention of academic and industry researchers intrigued by their affordances and reach. This special theme section of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication brings together scholarship on these emergent phenomena. In this introductory article, we describe features of SNSs and propose a comprehensive definition. We then present one perspective on the history of such sites, discussing key changes and developments. After briefly summarizing existing scholarship concerning SNSs, we discuss the articles in this special section and conclude with considerations for future research.

Online activities trend 2000-2009.  Less than 30% population are prosumers, Pew Internet Data

What is Web 2.0 media? How is different from Web 1.0? Is there a technological or a social shift behind it?

What is a prosumer? Does it exist?

What is convergence media? What good does it do to us?


Sorin Adam Matei

Sorin Adam Matei - Professor of Communication at Purdue University - studies the relationship between information technology and social groups. He published papers and articles in Journal of Communication, Communication Research, Information Society, and Foreign Policy. He is the author or co-editor of several books. The most recent is Structural differentation in social media. He also co-edited Ethical Reasoning in Big Data,Transparency in social media and Roles, Trust, and Reputation in Social Media Knowledge Markets: Theory and Methods (Computational Social Sciences) , all three the product of the NSF funded KredibleNet project. Dr. Matei's teaching portfolio includes online interaction, and online community analytics and development classes. His teaching makes use of a number of software platforms he has codeveloped, such as Visible Effort . Dr. Matei is also known for his media work. He is a former BBC World Service journalist whose contributions have been published in Esquire and several leading Romanian newspapers. In Romania, he is known for his books Boierii Mintii (The Mind Boyars), Idolii forului (Idols of the forum), and Idei de schimb (Spare ideas).

4 thoughts on “Are social media or Web 2.0 definitions in the eye of the beholder?

  • Pingback:Are social media or Web 2.0 definitions in the eye of the beholder …

  • August 26, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Is this the best way to define Web 2.0/Social Media?

    When Web 2.0 represents the ideological and technological foundation, User Generated Content (UGC) can be seen as the sum of all ways in which people make use of Social Media. The term, which achieved broad popularity in 2005, is usually applied to describe the various forms of media content that are publicly available and created by end-users. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, 2007), UGC needs to fulfill three basic requirements in order to be considered as such: first, it needs to be published either on a publicly accessible website or on a social networking site accessible to a selected group of people; second, it needs to show a certain amount of creative effort; and finally, it needs to have been created outside of professional routines and practices. The first condition excludes content exchanged in e-mails or instant messages; the second, mere replications of already existing content (e.g., posting a copy of an existing newspaper article on a personal blog without any modifications or commenting); and the third, all content that has been created with a commercial market context in mind. While UGC has already been available prior to Web 2.0, as discussed above, the combination of technological drivers (e.g., increased broadband availability and hardware capacity), economic drivers (e.g., increased availability of tools for the creation of UGC), and social drivers (e.g., rise of a generation of “digital natives” and “screenagers”: younger age groups with substantial technical knowledge and willingness to engage online) make UGC nowadays fundamentally different from what was observed in the early 1980s. Based on these clarifications of Web 2.0 and UGC, it is now straightforward to give a more detailed definition of what we mean by Social Media. In our view?and as used herein?Social Media is a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content.

    from Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media Andreas M. Kaplan, Michael Haenlein Business Horizons v. 53 no. 1 (January/February 2010) p. 59-68

  • August 27, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Based on 8/26 class meeting, if I were to describe Web 2.0, I might say it is:
    -an internet platform
    -which is an integrated system/network of software service applications
    -that can facilitate the following:
    -streamlined and efficient processes
    – equal access to all users
    -interactions and collaborations

    Is this description close to what Web 2.0 is? What would you modify here? What would you add or delete here?

    I found this definition of Web 2.0 useful.

    “Web 2.0 is a collection of open-source, interactive and user controlled online applications expanding the experiences, knowledge and market power of the users as participants in business and social processes. Web 2.0 applications support the creation of informal users ’ networks facilitating the flow of ideas and knowledge by allowing the efficient generation, dissemination, sharing and editing / refining of informational content” (p.232-233)

    Constantinides & Fountain, Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice (2008) 9, 231 – 244


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