Mat Van Den Art's Blog

3.3 Social Networks / Collaboration

Posted in MDes Dissertation by matvandenart on August 11, 2010

In early 1800s Ferdinant Tönies recognized two groups of social ties as Gemeinschaft – personal or Gesellschaft – formal social links. While Gemeinschaft/Communal social group existed on the principal of direct social ties of individuals sharing the same beliefs or values, Gesellschaft/Institutional social network coexisted on the basis of impersonal instrumentals social links.

Emile Durkheim however expanded on Tönies theory advocating social network distinckness on the basis of social model the social network operaded in. Druckenheim’ ‘mechanical solidarity’ social network model was based on the traditional society of early 19th century where the individual differences of the network members are minimized. On the other hand Durkheim recognized changing social landscape in fast growing cities which he called ‘organic solidarity’. According Durkheim’s theory this organic solidarity social model develops based on cooperation between different individuals with independent roles in society.

In ‘The Division of Labor in Society’, Emile Durkheim concluded that increased specialization has two significant and related effects: it actually changes the very nature of the bonds that hold society together, and it encourages individualism at the expense of community.31

Durkheim’s research in the organic soliadarity became inspiration for many social scientists studying the effects of changing social and environmental conditions, on human communication and collaboration.

Acceleration in trade activity during late 19th century, combined with the increased urban population, encouraged the non-local enterprenourlialism which today, we recognize as predecesor of global capitalism. Increased independence and power given to the individuals gained from this economic change caused divergence from mechanical solidarity social network model towards more individualistic organic solidarity social network. I believe these are the first steps towards what internet scientists refer to as social network media. Individuals using the medium of personal computer, pda or phone communicating and collaborating across the limitless network of internet without the need to meet or see each other.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Video 14 )

No more is our personal presence important in our everyday lifes. It is the seemingly infinite source of ideas, friends and virtual experiences which fulfills our social needs. Digitalization of our everyday lifes however also causes us to spend more and more time in front of our computers connected to the network. We share our experiences, travels, ideas, intimate or formal issues with others creating remote bonds, collaboration or friendships regardless of nationality, race, faith or geographical locality.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Video 15 )

Today’s social networks also often referred as “social web”, also known as Web 2.0, refers to the relatively recent phenomena of web sites that are predominantly populated by user generated content. Wiki, blog, tagging, sharing, folksonomies, are just some of the terms used in websites that aim to enhance creativity, information sharing, collaboration, and connectivity among users.32

In particular, blogs presents one of the most interesting social phenomenons of our time. With this tool anyone can provide comments, opinions, or news on a particular subject. Thanks to blogs, the opinions of unknown people have been read by thousands of people worldwide. Some blogs have become so famous as to constitute a reference point for topics such as politics, sport, and culture.33

Today’s social web technologies also support new, recently unknown form of digital collaboration in form of glabal activism overpassing the geographical, political and social bariers left over from the non-digital era of social communicaiton. Recent global activism movements preceding global Climate Conference 2009 in Copenhagen or post Iranian election social network reaction and global exposure of the events hidden from the cameras of western media giants provides us with the clues what might the global collaboration of future look like.  Clay Shirky in his presentation at TED conference shows how Facebook, Twitter and TXTs help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news, bypassing censors (however briefly). The end of top-down control of news is changing the nature of politics. Clay Shirky believes that new technologies enabling loose collaboration — and taking advantage of “spare” brainpower — will change the way society works.


Video 16 )

In the era when we can irreversibly affect or even destroy ancient ecosystems, when liberal global trade can degrade quality of life of whole societies, when armies of children slaves are hired everyday to work as child laborers in the production of many products we buy, we have to be able to respond to ever increasingly complex global challenges more quickly than ever before. No more it is possible to go house by house or send leaflets as before. Our problems changed the arena, from local to global stage where no more success or failure depends on local involvement but rather on global ‘collective action'(Ronald Coase) of all sides involved with the help of modern collaboration technologies available to us.

We are the first generation in the position to do this. Combine the power of a global ethic with the power of our ability to communicate and organize globally with the challenges that we now face, most of which are global in their nature. Global problems cannot be solved in one country but has got to be solved by the world working together. 35

Video 17 )



31) Emile Durkheim. The Division of Labor in Society. 1893

32) Riccardo Mazza. Introduction to Information Visualization. London: Springer; 2009.

33) Riccardo Mazza. Introduction to Information Visualization. London: Springer; 2009.

34)Clay Shirky. How cellphones, twitter and facebook can make history[podcast on the Internet]. TED; 2009 Jun [cited 2010 July 16]. Available from:

35) Gordon Brown. Wiring a web for global good. [podcast on the Internet]. TED; 2009 Jul [cited 2010 July 25]. Available from:

Video 14 ) Gina Bianchini. CEO and co-founder of Ning [podcast on the Internet]. Open University; 2009 Nov[cited 2010 July 25]. Available from:

Video 15 ) The Virtual Revolution Web Map . Open University; 2010 Feb[cited 2010 July 25]. Available from:

Video 16 ) Clay Shirky. How cellphones, twitter and facebook can make history[podcast on the Internet]. TED; 2009 Jun [cited 2010 July 16]. Available from:

Video 17 ) Gordon Brown. Wiring a web for global good. [podcast on the Internet]. TED; 2009 Jul [cited 2010 July 25]. Available from:


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  1. Content « Mat Van Den Art's Blog said, on August 11, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    […] 3.3    Social Networks / Collaboration […]

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