I’ve been reading a very interesting book entitled “Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom; how online social networking will transform your life, work and world” by Matthew Fraser and Soumitra Dutta.
The book is divided into three parts – identity, status and power. With regard to identity the authors outline the tension between our personal and institutional selves. At work we tend to put on a façade, repressing our social selves. On online social networks we tend to let it all hang out. There is a distinction between our real-world and virtual world identities. This tension can lead to dilemmas in social networking sites. Many bloggers have faced this dilemma in deciding how much of their personal selves and personal life is revealed. Too much can cause upset to others blogged about and yet the blogger wants to express personal thoughts and feelings. On social networking sites like Facebook, friends are made up of work colleagues and close friends. How much of the self do we want to reveal? Wanting privacy while at the same time putting information in the public sphere remains a tricky issue.Whatever you put online stays there, so when a prospective employer “googles” you they might find stuff you’d rather they didn’t see.
With regard to status, the authors talk about the virtual world as a level playing field where anyone can become famous (or infamous). Reputations can be made or broken as word spreads fast on online social networks. Customers have to be able to trust brands and companies, and will complain vociferously if that trust is broken through phoney-looking blogs, for example. There’s much more about status including closed versus open networks.
With regards to power – social media is disruptive to the power of institutions which is why those institutions, and especially corporations, are resistant to it. Amateurs can get more visibility and power than professionals. There is a powershift towards consumers who can, themselves, become producers. I particularly found the chapter on the toppling of the Big Four music cartel interesting and how they’ve had to adapt to survive the music industry.
Social networking sites are revitalising democracy. The horizontal networks of Web 2.0 e-ruptions (as the authors call them) present opportunities but also difficult challenges as they are at odds with powerful vertical hierarchies.
This book is difficult to summarise (and I haven’t done a good job of it) as so many aspects of social networking are covered. It’s a fascinating read which I highly recommend.