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2. Social media: what is it? 

This section at a glance:

  • we identify a set of tools that are transforming the way people interact with one another and create and share knowledge;
  • we look at the scale of take-up of these tools and highlight the speed at which information can travel through these networks;
  • we consider how use of these tools is changing;
  • we look at some emerging technologies and how they may change the user experience.

Social media is a general term for a range of internet based applications that allow people to create, co create, share and interact with information. This is also often known as social networking.

The phenomenon is also associated with terms such as: Web 2.0; social web; user-generated web; read-write web and interactive web. None of these terms have any specific meaning beyond a general recognition that, for the average user, the nature of the Internet has changed from its early use as a source of static, published content, to a more interactive and social space. As long ago as 2006, the creator of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, dismissed the idea of a change from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 as meaningless hype, stating that this is how the web was meant to be all along. However the fact remains that the range of tools now available has significantly changed user experience and expectations.

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