Mobile Social Web: Opportunities and Drawbacks

Mobile Social Web: Opportunities and Drawbacks

Thorsten Caus (Georg August University of Gottingen, Germany) and Stefan Christmann (Georg August University of Gottingen, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-368-5.ch002
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Abstract

As mobile Internet usage continues to grow, the phenomenon of accessing online communities through mobile devices draws researchers’ attention. Statistics show that close to 60 percent of all mobile Internet traffic worldwide is related to the use of mobile social networks. In this chapter, the mobile social web is defined, categories of mobile communities explained, and success factors and drawbacks discussed from the technical, social, and economic perspectives. Challenges, including low transmission rates, changes in usage patterns, search for new revenue sources, as well as the need for development of original mobile web content and applications are addressed. The technical requirements for the mobile use of online communities are identified. The chapter closes with a summary of potential economic and social prospects of the emerging mobile social web.
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Background

The Social Web can be viewed as a concept and a platform that utilizes social software (e.g., forums, wikis, blogs, etc.) to fulfill or support some of the important human needs, such as: self-realization, acceptance, social connectedness, and safety (Maslow, 1943, p. 372-383). The purpose of the Social Web is to support human communication and facilitate social contact. The Social Web encompasses numerous Internet applications, such as social networking sites, massively multiplayer online role-playing games, photo and video sharing, online stores and auction houses, virtual worlds, and wiki collaborations. The most popular and widespread actualizations are online communities (e.g., MySpace, Facebook, StudiVZ or XING). The term “Social Web” is often used in everyday language as well as in scholarly literature as a synonym for “virtual” and “online communities” (Hummel, 2005, p. 5), although these terms do not differ greatly (Fremuth & Tasch, 2002, pp. 5-6).

In the past years many academic disciplines have dealt with the Social Web. Various attempts to provide a definition have resulted in three different approaches: technical, social, and economic. The technical approach focuses on the Internet as a medium or platform for a community. The sociological point of view stresses the forming and functioning of communities, whereas the economic perspective examines potential gains and intended profits (Hummel, 2005, p. 8-11).

These three perspectives have led to a variety of definitions of online communities with differing points of emphasis. A detailed overview of common definitions is given by Fremuth and Tasch (2002), Hummel (2005) and Markus (2002). In identifying an online community one perspective emphasizes that it is formed by a group of people, while another stresses its web platform. The definition used in this chapter combines both approaches, for an online community is seen as a social group that interacts through a web platform over an extended period of time.

An online community can be characterized by four elements (Gebert & von Rosenstiel, 1992, p. 122-123; Hamman, 2000, p. 225):

  • group of people with shared objectives (e.g., interests, goals)

  • interaction over an extended period of time

  • closeness due to bonds and relationships

  • shared space for interactions governed by certain rules (for example, role definitions).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Web: Refers to Web 2.0-based technologies and applications that are used to support communication and facilitate social contact, such as, social networking sites, massively multiplayer online role-playing games, photo and video sharing, online stores and auction houses, virtual worlds, and collaborative wikis.

COSMOS: The Community-Driven Systems Management in Open Source (COSMOS) project is a collaboration of software developers aimed to create standards-based tools for system management.

Mobile Wireless Devices: Handheld electronic devices with wireless capability to connect to the Internet. Examples include mobile phones, smart phones, and personal digital assistants.

Online Community: A social group that interacts through a web platform over an extended period of time.

Mobility: Unrestricted transfer of text, voice or data independent of user’s physical location.

Mobile Social Web: Refers to mobile social networks and other Web 2.0-based applications in which people access and form online communities by using mobile devices.

Mobile Internet: Use of TCP/IP based services and protocols with mobile devices via wireless communications technologies.

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