What Can MySpace Teach Us in School Libraries? Just as I Get Nice and Comfortable with Web Sites and Learning Mobile Applications, Blogging, and Downloading Streaming Media, the Web World Goes and Mutates Yet Again!

Article excerpt

FIRST, a musical quotation:

   I've looked at clouds from
   both sides now,
   From up and down, and
   still somehow
   It's cloud illusions I recall.
   I really don't know clouds
   at all.

This small excerpt from Joni Mitchell's brilliant song "Both Sides Now" reminds me often that everything has facets and can be viewed from many different directions. Everything that I think I understand from one perspective looks completely different from another view. And just as I get nice and comfortable with Web sites and learning mobile applications, blogging, and downloading streaming media, the Web world goes and mutates yet again!

So, what engendered this dire mood? Well, I was discussing my daughter's online presence with her recently and subtly testing that she's guarding her privacy and fearing that her teen online musings will turn up in a future job interview to become CEO of an as yet unfounded company in the year 2036. As usual, she caught me off guard, recounting how she had just recruited all of her friends to discard their MySpace sites and mi grate to Facebook. "Why?" I asked (in barely disguised shock since I had just been contemplating my own personal MySpace site as a weekend project and was wondering if I was missing a trend or sticking with a fad). She said, "Because you can avoid the nuts more easily. It's cooler and not so teenybopper, and MySpace is just, well, not private enough for us. We love Facebook." Yay! Hope for the future.

This reinforced my view that these social networking personal Web sites are not a fad but a strong, long-term trend. Why do I think this? Fads don't evolve; trends do. These social creations on the Web are evolving quickly. Sometimes it seems that new manifestations of Web phenomena trot out every day. The hot topic of the month is Millennial-dominated environments like MySpace, Facebook, Second Life, Teen Second Life, and a whole gamut of school-based social networking sites like Classmates.com.

Note that I am not calling these Web sites. I am deliberately calling them environments, because there is a specific evolution happening here that, while still nascent, needs to be watched. It is basic to how virtual neighborhoods, networks, and communities are building stickiness, collaboration, and social context. It's not fully evolved yet, but we will soon start seeing social sites evolving from destination Web sites to advanced Web 2.0 environments. It's as basic as the differentiation of information and learning, content and context, and information delivery and human interaction. It's exciting to watch, and it is essential to understand if we hope to adapt to another round in our changing world.

"Those are kids' sites," you say. "What do they have to do with school libraries, learning and teaching, and the serious work of education?" A lot, I think. It just isn't wise to ignore them or to dismiss these social phenomena without looking at them a little to see what the source of their success is. The sites contain the seeds of changes that will reshape our world. Indeed, they're the next step in group work!

A Little About MySpace

MySpace is busier than Google. It is reported that it gets about two to three times the traffic of Google daily. It's bigger than traditional blogging, and more blog postings are done inside MySpace than all other blogs combined. It's growing like Tribbles, with more than 150,000 new MySpace accounts being created daily. [Editor's Note: That's a reference to a Star Trek episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles," little furry creatures that multiplied like rabbits, for all you non-Trekkies.] Reportedly, MySpace and Facebook combined cover about 85 percent of all students in high school through college. And they are connecting to each other on many levels--and not just casual connections but sustainable, global connections for life. Recognize that these are networks of social networks--not just inter-networked information. …