The Emergence of Agency in Online Social Networks

The Emergence of Agency in Online Social Networks

Jillianne R. Code (Simon Fraser University, Canada) and Nicholas E. Zaparyniuk (Simon Fraser University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-208-4.ch008
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Abstract

Social and group interactions in online and virtual communities develop and evolve from expressions of human agency. The exploration of the emergence of agency in social situations is of critical importance to understanding the psychology of agency and group interactions in social networks. This chapter explores how agency emerges from social interactions, how this emergence influences the development of social networks, and the role of social software’s potential as a powerful tool for educational purposes. Practical implications of agency as an emergent property within social networks provide a psychological framework that forms the basis for pedagogy of social interactivity. This chapter identifies and discusses the psychological processes necessary for the development of agency and to further understanding of individual’s engagement in online interactions for socialization and learning.
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Introduction

Social and group interactions in online and virtual communities develop and evolve from expressions of human agency. Agency is the capability of individuals to consciously choose, influence, and structure their actions (Emirbayer & Mische, 1998; Gecas, 2003) and is an active exercise of ability and will. The ways in which individuals express agency are associated with their motivational orientation, intentionality, and choice (volition), and relates to their ability to engage these characteristics in social contexts to achieve their goals. As agents, individuals formulate intentions, execute decisions, and produce motivation in an effort to communicate. Understanding how agency develops and emerges within social networks is a key factor in identifying why online social networks develop and how they influence individual processes such as cognition, motivation, behavior, and ultimately learning.

The exploration of the emergence of agency in social situations is of critical importance to understanding the psychology of agency and group interactions in social networks. Research in social psychology provides a context in which to investigate the psychological effects of online social software as it relates to motivation (see Ryan & Deci, 2000), interactions within the social networks (see Thompson & Fine, 1999), and how individuals vary in their ability to express agency (see Martin, 2003, 2004).

Agency emerges out of interactions and goal directed activities within social networks. Similarly, social networks emerge through the interactions and characteristics of agents support their formation, development, and evolution. Socially situated emergent properties of agency and social networks connect them as a dynamic complex system. Social software is software that “supports, extends, or derives added value from human social behavior” (for a review see boyd, 2007; Coates, 2005). Online friendship websites, massively multiplayer online games, and social groupware, such as Facebook (2008), MySpace (2008), Bebo (2008), and Second Life (Linden Research Inc., 2008) provide frameworks in which social dynamics can mediate the development of agency within social networks.

The purpose of this chapter is to introduce the concept of agency as it relates to the formation, development, and evolution of social networks. This chapter explores how agency emerges from social interactions, how this emergence influences the development of social networks, and the potential role of social software as a tool with educational applications. Practical implications of agency as an ability to engage within social networks provides a psychological framework that forms the basis for a pedagogy of social interactivity. This chapter discusses the psychological processes necessary for the development of agency, how these processes affect an individual’s engagement in online interactions for both socialization and learning, and how social software such as Facebook (2008), MySpace (2008), Bebo (2008), and Second Life (Linden Research Inc., 2008) can be used in educational contexts. As agency directly affects how an individual understands their various roles, beliefs, and decisions in social contexts, there are far reaching implications for social software as an educational tool.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Locus of Control: A belief in the causal relationship between’s one own behavior and that of an outcome affects a range of choices an individual makes (Lefcourt, 1966; Rotter, 1966).

Social Software: Software which “supports, extends, or derives added value from human social behavior” (Coates, 2005).

Volition: A “post-decisional, self-regulatory processes that energize[s] the maintenance and enactment of intended actions” (Kuhl, 1985, p. 90).

Knowledge-Building Environments (KBES): Environments that “enhance collaborative efforts to create and continually improve ideas” (Scardamalia, 2004).

Agency: The capability of individuals to consciously choose, influence, and structure their actions (Emirbayer & Mische, 1998; Gecas, 2003) and is an exercise of ability and will through action.

Communities of Practice: Involve groups of people who share concerns, problems, and passions about a topic, and who choose to interact to deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis (Wenger et al., 2002).

Self-Efficacy: A belief in one’s capability to succeed at a given task (Bandura, 1997).

Emergence: From an ontological perspective is a non-reducible phenomenon. Meaning, that if a construct is emergent it has several component parts but is irreducible with respect to them (Martin, 2003; O’Connor & Wong, 2002).

Cultural Tools: Mediate higher-order mental processes such as reasoning and problem solving (Vygotsky, 1962, 1978). Cultural tools include both technical tools such as books, media, computers, and social software, and psychological tools such as language, signs, writing, and symbols.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Foreword
Jennifer Preece
Acknowledgment
Stylianos Hatzipanagos, Steven Warburton
Chapter 1
Jon Dron, Terry Anderson
Understanding the affordances, effectiveness and applicability of new media in multiple contexts is usually a slow and evolving process with many... Sample PDF
How the Crowd Can Teach
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Chapter 2
Chris Abbott, William Alder
Although social networking has been enthusiastically embraced by large numbers of children and young people, their schools and colleges have been... Sample PDF
Social Networking and Schools: Early Responses and Implications for Practice
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Chapter 3
Eleni Berki, Mikko Jäkälä
Information and communication technology gradually transform virtual communities to active meeting places for sharing information and for supporting... Sample PDF
Cyber-Identities and Social Life in Cyberspace
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Chapter 4
Werner Beuschel
Weblogs are a popular form of Social Software, supporting personal Web authoring as well as innovative forms of social interaction via internet. The... Sample PDF
Weblogs in Higher Education
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Chapter 5
Mark Bilandzic, Marcus Foth
Web services such as wikis, blogs, podcasting, file sharing and social networking are frequently referred to by the term Web 2.0. The innovation of... Sample PDF
Social Navigation and Local Folksonomies: Technical and Design Considerations for a Mobile Information System
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Chapter 6
Rakesh Biswas, Carmel M. Martin, Joachim Sturmberg, Kamalika Mukherji, Edwin Wen Huo Lee, Shashikiran Umakanth
The chapter starts from the premise that illness and healthcare are predominantly social phenomena that shape the perspectives of key stakeholders... Sample PDF
Social Cognitive Ontology and User Driven Healthcare
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Chapter 7
Jillianne R. Code, Nicholas E. Zaparyniuk
Central to research in social psychology is the means in which communities form, attract new members, and develop over time. Research has found that... Sample PDF
Social Identities, Group Formation, and the Analysis of Online Communities
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Chapter 8
Jillianne R. Code, Nicholas E. Zaparyniuk
Social and group interactions in online and virtual communities develop and evolve from expressions of human agency. The exploration of the... Sample PDF
The Emergence of Agency in Online Social Networks
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Chapter 9
A. Malizia, A. De Angeli, S. Levialdi, I. Aedo Cuevas
The User Experience (UX) is a crucial factor for designing and enhancing the user satisfaction when interacting with a computational tool or with a... Sample PDF
Exploiting Collaborative Tagging Systems to Unveil the User-Experience of Web Contents: An Operative Proposal
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Chapter 10
Utpal M. Dholakia, Richard Baraniuk
Open Education Programs provide a range of digitized educational resources freely to educators, students, and self-learners to use and reuse for... Sample PDF
The Roles of Social Networks and Communities in Open Education Programs
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Chapter 11
Sebastian Fiedler, Kai Pata
This chapter discusses how the construction of an adequate design and intervention framework for distributed learning environments might be... Sample PDF
Distributed Learning Environments and Social Software: In Search for a Framework of Design
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Chapter 12
Yoni Ryan, Robert Fitzgerald
This chapter considers the potential of social software to support learning in higher education. It outlines a current project funded by the then... Sample PDF
Exploring the Role of Social Software in Higher Education
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Chapter 13
Kathryn Gow
This chapter focuses on the identification of a range of competencies that entry level workers, and thus graduating students, will need to acquire... Sample PDF
Identifying New Virtual Competencies for the Digital Age: Essential Tools for Entry Level Workers
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Chapter 14
Jerald Hughes, Scott Robinson
This chapter examines interaction-oriented virtual religious communities online in the light of sociological theory of religious communities. The... Sample PDF
Social Structures of Online Religious Communities
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Chapter 15
Helen Keegan, Bernard Lisewski
This chapter explores emergent behaviours in the use of social software across multiple online communities of practice where informal learning... Sample PDF
Living, Working, Teaching and Learning by Social Software
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Chapter 16
Lucinda Kerawalla, Shailey Minocha, Gill Kirkup, Gráinne Conole
With a variety of asynchronous communication and collaboration tools and environments such as Wikis, blogs, and forums, it can be increasingly... Sample PDF
Supporting Student Blogging in Higher Education
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Chapter 17
Lisa Kervin, Jessica Mantei, Anthony Herrington
This chapter examines blogging as a social networking tool to engage final year preservice teachers in reflective processes. Using a developed Web... Sample PDF
Blogs as a Social Networking Tool to Build Community
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Chapter 18
Jennifer Ann Linder-VanBerschot
The objective of this chapter is to introduce a model that outlines the evolution of knowledge and sustainable innovation of community through the... Sample PDF
A Model for Knowledge and Innovation in Online Education
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Chapter 19
Petros Lameras, Iraklis Paraskakis, Philipa Levy
This chapter focuses on discussing the use of social software from a social constructivist perspective. In particular, the chapter explains how... Sample PDF
Using Social Software for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
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Chapter 20
Dimitris Bibikas, Iraklis Paraskakis, Alexandros G. Psychogios, Ana C. Vasconcelos
The aim of this chapter is to investigate the potential role of social software inside business settings in integrating knowledge exploitation and... Sample PDF
The Potential of Enterprise Social Software in Integrating Exploitative and Explorative Knowledge Strategies
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Chapter 21
M. C. Pettenati, M. E. Cigognini, E. M.C. Guerin, G. R. Mangione
In this chapter the authors identify the Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) pre-dispositions, skills and competences of the current effective... Sample PDF
Personal Knowledge Management Skills for Lifelong-Learners 2.0
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Chapter 22
Sharon Markless, David Streatfield
This chapter questions whether the shift from the Web as a vehicle for storing and transmitting information to the new Web as a series of social... Sample PDF
Reconceptualising Information Literacy for the Web 2.0 Environment?
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Chapter 23
Catherine McLoughlin, Mark J.W. Lee
Learning management systems (LMS’s) that cater for geographically dispersed learners have been widely available for a number of years, but many... Sample PDF
Pedagogical Responses to Social Software in Universities
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Chapter 24
Alexandra Okada, Simon Buckingham Shum, Michelle Bachler, Eleftheria Tomadaki, Peter Scott, Alex Little, Marc Eisenstadt
The aim of this chapter is to overview the ways in which knowledge media technologies create opportunities for social learning. The Open Content... Sample PDF
Knowledge Media Tools to Foster Social Learning
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Chapter 25
Luc Pauwels, Patricia Hellriegel
This chapter looks into YouTube as one of the most popular Social Software platforms, challenging the dominant discourse with its focus on community... Sample PDF
A Critical Cultural Reading of "YouTube"
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Chapter 26
Ismael Peña-López
The author of this chapter proposes the concept of the Personal Research Portal (PRP) – a mesh of social software applications to manage knowledge... Sample PDF
The Personal Research Portal
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Chapter 27
Andrew Ravenscroft, Musbah Sagar, Enzian Baur, Peter Oriogun
This chapter will present a new approach to designing learning interactions and experiences that reconciles relatively stable learning processes... Sample PDF
Ambient Pedagogies, Meaningful Learning and Social Software
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Chapter 28
V. Sachdev, S. Nerur, J. T.C. Teng
With the trend towards social interaction over the Internet and the mushrooming of Web sites such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube in the social... Sample PDF
Interactivity Redefined for the Social Web
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Chapter 29
Sue Thomas, Chris Joseph, Jess Laccetti, Bruce Mason, Simon Perril, Kate Pullinger
Transliteracy might provide a unifying perspective on what it means to be literate in the 21st Century. It is not a new behaviour but has been... Sample PDF
Transliteracy as a Unifying Perspective
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Chapter 30
Martin Weller, James Dalziel
This chapter looks at some of the areas of tension between the new social networking, Web 2.0 communities and the values of higher education. It... Sample PDF
Bridging the Gap Between Web 2.0 and Higher Education
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Chapter 31
Steve Wheeler
The use of group oriented software, or groupware, encourages students to generate their own content (McGill et al, 2005) and can foster supportive... Sample PDF
Destructive Creativity on the Social Web: Learning through Wikis in Higher Education
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Chapter 32
Scott Wilson
This chapter describes the mechanisms of presence in social networks and presents an ontology that frames the purpose, content, methods of... Sample PDF
Presence in Social Networks
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