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Social Networking Conference

With Professor William H. Dutton, Dr Matthijs den Besten, Dr Ellen J. Helsper, Professor Ian Brown, Carmen Aitken, Richard Allan, Johnnes Arreymbi, Robin Blake, Denise Carter, Private: Tim Davies, Professor Lilian Edwards, Ian Hargreaves, Nathan Marston, Meg Pickard, Jason Stockwood, Ruth Ward, Dr Monica Whitty, Rebekkah Willet, and Godfried Williams
7 Apr 2008
With Professor William H. Dutton, Dr Matthijs den Besten, Dr Ellen J. Helsper, Professor Ian Brown, Carmen Aitken, Richard Allan, Johnnes Arreymbi, Robin Blake, Denise Carter, Private: Tim Davies, Professor Lilian Edwards, Ian Hargreaves, Nathan Marston, Meg Pickard, Jason Stockwood, Ruth Ward, Dr Monica Whitty, Rebekkah Willet, and Godfried Williams
Filming venue:

Ofcom, Riverside House, 2a Southwark Bridge Road, London E1 9HA

The three sessions will have both academic and practitioner aspects, with short presentations followed by comments from expert panellists and a round table discussion.

Session 1: Online Social Networks

Panellists: Denise Carter (University of Hull) and Rebekkah Willet (IoE); Chair: Ian Hargreaves (Ofcom)

William Dutton (OII): Social Networks: Reconfiguring Access to People

Outcomes from the use of the Internet in many different, overlapping and interacting arenas are shaped by everyday and strategic choices about the design and use of the technology. These are made by individuals, groups, organisations and other stakeholders as they cooperate and compete, negotiate and dispute according to a set of rules and assumptions about how to achieve particular objectives. This presentation will look at the Oxford Internet Survey (OxIS) and the ‘Me, my spouse and the Internet’ project data to understand whether the Internet shapes who people interact with online. Are the people we meet online the same or are they different from the people we meet offline? Do we form intimate relationships with people who we would otherwise not have met? The significance of the Internet in meeting people will be discussed comparing findings from the UK, the US and Australia. The ‘Me, My Spouse, and the Internet’ project was supported by a grant from

Tim Davies (Practical Participation): Youth Work and Social Networking

The Youth Work and Social Networking project is seeking to explore the question ‘How can youth work best support young people to navigate the risks and make the most of the opportunities of Online Social Networking’. Concerns about young people’s use of online social networking are widespread in the media, and amongst the Youth Work workforce. In a survey of 120 youth work professionals and volunteers over 85% identified youth work to have crucial role in supporting young people’s use of online social networks. Less than 45% identified themselves as equipped to provide that support. Social Network Sites also present a wide range of social and developmental opportunities for young people. Only 35% of survey respondents identified themselves as equipped to support young people in making the most of these.

Much of the safety guidance issued concerning young people’s online behaviours, if successfully implemented, could potentially limit the extent to which young people can make the most of the opportunities of online social networking (and some literature covered in our literature review suggests certain safety messages may be counter productive) As part of this project we have been drawn to explore a number of key tensions in policy and practice responses to young people’s use of online social networking. This short presentation will provide a snapshot of the ongoing research, and will raise a number of key questions and challenges in thinking about social networking and under 18 year olds.

Godfried Williams and Johnnes Arreymbi (UEL): Cyber tribes and information warfare

Cyber Tribalism is an emerging trend among Internet communities. It is a term that defines alliances between people in virtual communities with shared attributes such as interest, language, belief systems, aspirations and agenda. Communication is by virtual means and network or link. Power and dominance of community relationships is deeply entrenched within belief systems, traditions and territorial control. Example of such power and dominance could be seen in online game communities and environments. This presentation explores threats posed by Cyber Tribalism on the Internet and assesses strategies and countermeasures essential for mitigating such threats.

Session 2: Intimate Relationships and Online Social Networks

Watch: Social Networking Conference. Session 2: Intimate Relationships and Online Social Networks.

Panellists: Jason Stockwood ( and Ian Brown (OII); Chair: William Dutton (OII)

Ellen Helsper (OII) and Monica Whitty (NTU): Netiquette within Married Couples. Are online interactions a source of conflict in intimate relationships?

This presentation investigates the ways in which partners negotiate interactions with and on the Internet. This presentation discusses how married couples use the Internet within their relationships. Ellen Helsper and Monica Whitty discuss couples’ expectations of how their partners interact with others on the Internet and show that some online activities are seen as taboo while others are acceptable. Furthermore, this presentation demonstrates how couples use the Internet to monitor each others’ online activities.

This specific study compares 929 couples in their evaluation of their own and their partner’s Internet use, in the acceptability of their partners online interactions with others and in the techniques used to monitor what the other does online. A comparison is made between evaluations of the behaviour of the wife and the husband. The paper shows that in general married partners develop a netiquette in relation to online interaction behaviours. That is, couples reach an understanding of what are acceptable behaviours and develop similar patterns of monitoring each others behaviour. When there are differences within the couples it is usually the wife who has more concern about her own and her husband’s online behaviour. Explanations are offered for why husbands might be less worried than their wives about what their partners do online.

Lilian Edwards (University of Southampton): Stalking 2.0. Social Networking and Privacy: Incompatible Ideas?

As public growth of social networking sites like Facebook has exponentially grown, so has the risk to future privacy. What will the consequences be in ten or twenty years time of a world where disclosure of personal and often highly sensitive data has become the norm? This talk will examine the ways in which personal and societal rights to privacy are threatened by disclosure on Social Networking Sites, using Facebook, the UK’s most popular SNS as a case study. Lillian Edwards will also discuss if ‘code’ (in the Lessig sense) is a better means than law with which to attempt to promote a pro-privacy digital culture which is also compatible with the natural human desire to create social networks and intimate online relationships.

Session 3: Businesses and Online Social Networks

Watch: Social Networking Conference. Session 3: Businesses and Online Social Networks.

Panellists: Nathan Marston (McKinsey) and William Dutton (OII); Chair: Ellen Helsper (OII)

Richard Allan (Cisco): Social networking and business practice: A case study in the telecoms industry

This presentation will discuss the reaction of a major technology company to the development and growth of social networking. Richard Allan will offer an insight into the ways in which Cisco is adopting social networking internally to enhance its effectiveness as an organisation. He will describe the social networking aspects of the launch of the latest router product as a case study in customer interaction. He will describe the broader context of a marketing strategy which has evolved in response to the social networking. Finally, he will explain how social networking is reflected in the company’s technology development and acquisition strategy showing how the product set is being explicitly directed towards a world in which collaboration capabilities are the norm.

Ruth Ward (Allen & Overy): Social software in a hard world

Having worked at law firms in the City of London for nearly 20 years, initially as a solicitor and latterly in KM, Ruth Ward feels that lawyers largely deserve their reputation for preferring cautious and formal communication. If you ask a lawyer about blogs, their first thought is likely to be the threat of reputational damage or litigation through their use on the Internet. But introducing to Allen & Overy LLP social tools for informal communication and collaboration has proved a very positive and successful experience. In this presentation, Ruth Ward uses Allen & Overy as a case study to share her experiences of using social tools in a global professional services business, highlighting best practice and common pitfalls to avoid.

Matthijs Den Besten (OeRC): Wikipedia: the organizational capabilities of a peer production effort

Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia, is a phenomenal success. It is tempting to think that Wikipedia owes its success to the special and innovative way in which it gathers and integrates content. However, it might just as well be that the contrary is the case: that, through a process of trial and error, Wikipedia has strayed from its idealistic origins and has been able to sustain itself only by adapting more and more of the features found in regular firms. In this paper, we point out some similarities between Wikipedia and project based firms and we discuss what research would be needed to determine whether these similarities matter.

Conference Summary

The conference turned out to be a great success, with interest for the topic and the event from many different corners. Attendees represented a varied group of policymakers, academic, businesses and civic practitioners.

The presentations were selected to represent a wide range of perspectives on social networking, both as regards the interpretation of social networking and as regards the way to approach people’s interactions with Social Networking Sites. Positive and negative aspects of different types of social networking were put on the table and discussions followed about who should regulate the more negative aspects of social networking, if it should be regulated at all.

Literacy, default privacy codes by providers and parental awareness were all offered as potential ways to help social networkers take up the opportunities that these sites have to offer while simultaneously avoiding the risks. The feeling was that the positive experiences and benefits outweighed the negative aspects and risks. There was a clear call for more evidence about the effectiveness of literacy and industry self-regulation strategies and about the negative experiences that people have with social networking sites.

Our thanks go out to all who made it such a wonderful day.

Ellen Helsper, Oxford Internet Institute

This event was organised in collaboration with Ofcom.




Dr Matthijs den Besten

Oxford e-Research Centre, University of Oxford


Carmen Aitken



Robin Blake



Denise Carter

University of Hull


Ian Hargreaves



Nathan Marston



Meg Pickard

Guardian Online


Jason Stockwood


Ruth Ward

Allen & Overy


Dr Monica Whitty

Nottingham Trent University


Rebekkah Willet



Godfried Williams

University of East London

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