The Convergence of the Public and Private in Online Spaces


Last month, Government Technology had an article entitled “Blurring the Line,” which discussed the increasingly public nature of online social networking sites.  Employers now “friend” employees, leaving the employed likely to accept those friendships out of fear for losing their jobs.  The article discusses the problems attendant to the convergence of of our work, social, and family worlds and asks whether this phenomenon will alter the nature of those spaces from a sharing free-for-all to a more buttoned-down, “not afraid for the boss to see” experience.

In reading the article, I wondered if the story will play out in a different way, one that will meet employers’ desire to harness the connectivity of social networking sites without compromising its current incarnation.  As we have seen in the government sector with internal wikis like Intellipedia, we may see employers increasingly adopt in-house social networking sites, say a [Name] Company, just as we have seen employers wade into the Twitter space.  We may already be doing this (and it would be really interesting to learn about it), but perhaps such sites would nip in the bud employers/managers/supervisors’ desire to friend their underlings.  This may detract from the goal of monitoring employees, but we surely have enough of that in the workplace already (as well as the ability to view employees’ profiles for the very many people who fail to set rigorous privacy settings, as ACM studies show).  And it may save employers from having looked at employees’ damning wall musings and pictures and figuring out just what to do about it.

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2 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    I was at a business event in Silicon Valley 4 or 5 years ago (I think it was the dinner at the annual Asia-America Multi-Industry Association (AAMA) Connect conference) where in-house social networks were being touted as the Next Big Thing. If they haven’t caught on since then, it could be because the public sites are more cost-effective — much the way that the zillions of start-up “online peer-to-peer exchanges” so popular ca. 1999-2000 were killed by Yahoo Messenger and other free chat services.

  2. A.J., That makes a tremendous amount of sense–the transaction costs of starting them up may outweigh the costless move to Facebook. But I have seen the Govt do so, i.e., the State Dept created its own SNS for cultural exchange students, and perhaps the value add may in time become clear. Thanks so much for the feedback. Danielle