Innovation in Communication: An Actor-Network Analysis of Social Websites

Innovation in Communication: An Actor-Network Analysis of Social Websites

Mohini Singh (RMIT University, Australia), Yogesh K. Dwivedi (Swansea University, UK), Ray Hackney (Brunel University, UK) and Konrad Peszynski (RMIT University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/jantti.2012010104
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This paper analyses the dimensions of social websites to establish communication innovation using the Actor Network Theory. Social websites are also referred to as social network sites and social media sites which reflect technology, users, content and linguistic issues as heterogeneous combination of entities for interaction and communication via this media. Social websites have clearly achieved widespread adoption as a new means of communication in a very short time around the globe. An extensive review of extant literature on social websites is presented in this paper to reflect their growing importance, the reasons for their adoption, the content shared, the mode of use and the language used for communication illustrating that social websites are a combination of a number of technological and social entities. This paper highlights emerging research issues on social networking sites as a future communication tool and the innovation in communication using the Actor Network Theory.
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Social networking sites is fast becoming the principal communication and information sharing tool used by people of all ages, and backgrounds in all regions of the world. Social networking sites also referred to as social media sites are developed on the Web 2.0 platform, which offers an architecture for participation and allows users to control their own data and information (Kim, Jeong, & Lee, 2010). Web 2.0 is an extension of Web 1.0 on which individuals deliver content and services in the public domain creating a network effect through which others can access, update and combine content (Cummings, Massey, & Ramesh, 2009). Characteristics of Web 2.0 enable formation of communities via collaboration and information sharing; novel and enhanced data access methods with ‘mashed up’ (combined) information from different sources; and with Ajax supported creative and responsive interfaces (Ankolekar, Krotzsch, Tran, & Vrandecic, 2007). Social networking applications therefore developed on the Web 2.0 platform are designed around an architecture of participation and communal collaboration (Sena, 2009).

Individuals are using social websites for communication, collaboration, information sharing, networking, finding ‘lost’ friends and forming communities. Although business organisations are also resorting to social web sites for advertising, marketing and engaging employees (Singh, Davison, & Wickramasinghe, 2010) the focus of this paper is on ‘social’ user issues and characteristics of social networking. Web 2.0 based social networking sites are in very widespread use with new ones emerging almost every day. It is proposed to identify the most popular sites (each with over 30 million users) and determine their ‘dimensions’ of networking and communication. These are noted in Table 1.

Table 1.
Social websites with over 30 million users (Source:, January, 2011)
Name (SNS)Description/FocusDate of originRegistered UsersRegistration (Age)
FacebookGeneral.Feb 2004500,000,001> 13
QzoneGeneral. (In Chinese)200,000,000Open
TwitterGeneral (Micro-blogging, RSS updates)July 2006175,000,000Open
HabboGeneral for teens. Over 31 communities worldwide.2000162,000,000> 13
BeboGeneralJuly 2005117,000,000Open
VkontakteGeneral (Russian-speaking world including former Soviet republics)Sept, 2006110,578,500Open
MyspaceGeneralAug 2003100,000,000> 13
FriendsterGeneral. (Southeast Asia)200290,000,000Open
hi5General. (India, Mongolia, Thailand, Romania, Jamaica, Central Africa, Portugal and Latin America)200380,000,000> 13
LinkedInBusiness and professionalMay 200380,000,000> 18
(Facebox/ Bingbox)
General.(Europe, Turkey, the Arab World and Québec Canada)July 200370,000,000> 13
FlixsterMovies200763,000,000> 13
MyLife ( friends and family51,000,000Open
Classmates.comSchool, college, work and military199550,000,000> 18
doubanChinese Web 2.0 site for review and recommendation services on movies, books, and music.200546,850,000Open
OdnoklassnikiConnect with old classmates. (Russia and former Soviet republics)200145,000,000Open
FlickrPhoto sharing, commenting, photography related networking, worldwideFeb 200432,000,000Open to > 13
MyHeritagefamily-oriented social network200330,000,000Open
ViadeoGlobal and Campus Networking (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese)May 200430,000,000Open

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