Week 2 learning resources

This fortnight our topic is ‘People & Technology’. This topic will focus on the way that people and organisations interact with social technologies.

We are going to look at this topic from two perspectives,firstly our own personal use of social technologies including personal learning networks and channel you, and the places where they intersect. We will also look at how organisations use social technology.

This week there is only one formal reading. While it would be great for you to read this, what is more important is to click on the links in the blog post to read the articles about the topic.


Social technologies – an overview

Social technologies can be defined as “digital technologies used by people to interact socially and together to create, enhance, and exchange content” (Chiu et al, 2012). Social technologies include a wide range of applications including social media and collaboration tools.


The following reading (available via QUT Library) provides a good overview of social technologies:

Skarzauskiene, Aelita; Tamosiunaite, Ruta; Zaleniene, Inga. (May 2013) Defining Social Technologies International Conference on Information Management and Evaluation: 239-X. Reading: Academic Conferences International Limited.


Social network sites (SNS) are all about helping people to connect – to form relationships online, or to extend their ‘real world’ relationships into the online environment. In Designing the digital experience (great book, by the way!), David Lee King talks about two types of SNSs: sites about content and sites about people.

“The content sites focus on a specific type of content, such as photos (Flickr) or videos (YouTube). These sites are extremely social. They allow commenting, RSS feeds, friending, favourites, personal accounts, tagging, and sending private messages to other users… People sites are similar, but instead of focusing on people’s content, these sites focus on the person. The friending, tagging, comment, blogging and favourites marking that take place on these sites occur because of interest in the person (or what the person does – hence the popularity of music group sites on MySpace).” (p. 92)

Our personal experience in social networks

Kate Davis’ doctoral thesis explores the information experience of new mums in social media and her research suggests that while social media engagement has lots of positive impacts, it can also have negative impacts too. There are many highly politicised topics related to mothering, around which heated debate can spring up.

There are many other contentious issues that are discussed on social media, if you log onto your favourite social network it probably won’t take you long to find a debate. Some users are even turning to safe sites so that they can feel free to express themselves, Tutlub is a social media site specifically set up for Muslims for this reason.

While topics of personal interest can spark debate, what about when we use social media for professional reasons? In this time of rapid technological change, professionals must continue to learn on the job. There is enormous value in informal learning and building a personal learning network is a great way to set yourself up to maximise your learning.

According to Wikipedia, a PLN “is an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from… In a PLN, a person makes a connection with another person with the specific intent that some type of learning will occur because of that connection”.

But where do you draw the line between personal and professional you? It’s important to work out where your boundaries are in terms of how much you disclose about yourself online, and whether you distinguish between your personal and private identities online. Having a digital footprint (one that you aren’t embarrassed about!) in increasingly important in the information professions.

Have a look at this article about how your digital footprint can affect your professional life. 

Working out whether to be one person or two people online is tricky. Do you want a single identity, or do you want to split your personal and private identities? You might like to read Kate’s reflections on why she scrapped her professional Twitter account after 5 years of tweeting.

Organisations in social networks

Once you have decided what you want your digital footprint to be on social media you might feel like you’re done, but there is still the consideration of what organisations are doing with our social media data.

There are three videos to watch this week, altogether it will take 10 minutes to watch all three.

The first is from Facebook itself, and the video is an explanation of how ads work on Facebook. Even though this is a corporate video, it’s a good 2 minute snapshot of how much social media advertising works if you are not familiar with the process.

The second video is embedded in an article about Ratyheon, a defence company that have developed a tool that tracks people on social media and predicts future behaviour, read the article and watch the video about the tool before you write your reflection this week.

From defence tracking to something seemingly more innocent, The Social Shot is a bot that produces a cocktail based on your Facebook profile. Watch the video and think about whether you think this is cute, creepy or something in between.

Somewhere in between mixing cocktails and national defence are organisations like Nielsen who monitor social media to get more accurate TV ratings.

The way that organisations use our social media activity is a very interesting area, but what is also of interest to information professionals is the way organisations manage the information. Who collects the social media data, both coming in and out of the organisation? How valuable is the information, and how is it exploited? These are things that you might encounter in either your current or future workplace.






  • Helen Treherne Reply

    As I reflect on my social media history, I feel quite vulnerable. A false sense of security exists when you feel you are interacting within the close circle of friends and family on facebook. I take care with posts and photos, and with giving out too much information. I notice the pop-up ads that are on topic with recent activities and politely close down any annoying or offensive posts. It is a public place, and as posted recently on a number of facebook feeds, would you really walk up to someone in the street and have the same conversations with them as you do with people on facebook? It’s great to keep in touch and to support and encourage friends and share joys and sorrows. But personal opinions, controversial topics and negative statements need to be carefully considered before posting.

    The national defence video presentation is frightening and reassuring at the same time. Great that suspects can be tracked, not so great that every move by everyday citizens can be tracked. The complexity of the information, for example, having an accurate record of gym visits, recording data to show the most common time of the day the gym was used, was incredible.

    Big brother is watching!

    • kathleen Reply

      Big brother really is watching isn’t he! It can be hard to remember what happens to all the information we post online and what companies use it for as social media is so embedded in our lives. So the vexed question of what to do still remains and I don’t think there are any easy answers.

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