On December 4th, I will be attending the Oxford Internet Institute‘s Forum on Relationships and the Internet which will feature researchers focused on computer-mediated relationships. Rather than being used primarily to access information, people often use networked computing to access people, creating or sustaining relationships with others. There are many ways in which the Internet and a range of applications are now used to find new people, find old people, maintain primary connections, sustain weak ties, and build personal and professional relationships. Dating sites are a clear part of the Internet relationship picture but so are professional “dating” services like LinkedIn or professional services directories like Craig’s List, social networking services like Facebook, and “normal” tools like email. People now use a concerted set of Internet tools in building and maintaining their relationships.
Researchers are interested in online dating and social networking. They are now exploring the role of information and communication technologies in all forms of interpersonal relationships. Practitioners from a growing and international relationship industry who want to cultivate and manage these relationship systems will attend along with policy-makers who seek to regulate their uses towards positive ends and avoid abuses.
Research in Internet relationships goes beyond a focus on dating sites and services to incorporate all the stages and types of relationships being shaped by social information technology. My demonstration will illustrate the ways NodeXL can map relationships in a variety of social media spaces, including YouTube, flickr, email, twitter, and (with the help of Bernie Hogan’s ego-network importer) Facebook. These maps can be a useful ways of distinguishing different kinds of relationship patterns present in these spaces, identifying key participants who acts as hubs or bridges.
The OII also maintains a video webcast site with a great collection of recordings of lectures and panel discussions of a variety of topics related to the Internet and society. In particular, check out Duncan Watts presenting a talk on “Using the Web to do Social Science“.
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