Thursday, February 05, 2009

 

MySpace Founders on Charlie Rose

I enjoyed the video clip of Charlie Rose's interview with the co-founders of MySpace, conducted on Tuesday night. They claimed that there are 125 million visitors a month to their website. Of particular interest to me at the end of the interview was their response to Charlie's question, "Realizing that you're not a philosopher, why is it so compelling for so many people?" Chris DeWolfe's response:
A lot of it is about the ability to express yourself. So if you look at your MySpace Profile, you have your music that you're listening to, you have the colors, you have the background, you have the videos. So, I look at your Profile, if you have one, and I can get to know you pretty quickly. It's almost as if you invited me over to a dinner party and you had certain music playing, and you had certain kinds of furniture, and you invited a certain group of friends, I would get to know you very quickly. So, I think it's an online representation of who you are, which is really fascinating, and it's a great way to stay in touch with people, and it's a great discovery mechanism. And there's no other place and no other way to really do that.

Tom Anderson (the other co-founder) added: I think a lot of it has to do with timing, too; that we came out right at the right time when digital cameras were on the rise, and people wanted to come in. People weren't exactly ready for something like MySpace a year or two earlier, so timing really helped us in being there to give people what they wanted.
The issue of personal expression is the major challenge with many of the ePortfolio systems that are in use in formal education today. It is fascinating to contemplate the role of social networks to build what I call "Your Digital Self" online (EIFeL calls ePortfolios "digital identity"). There are many capabilities missing from the current social networks that we need in institutional ePortfolios. Some of the most current ePortfolio systems (Elgg, Mahara, Epsilen) have blogs and built-in social networks, but most of the commercial and open source tools lack the capability for the level of personal expression found in MySpace or Facebook. As DeWolfe described the "discovery mechanism" which is learning, it is interesting to think about creating "Academic MySpaces" (that aren't blocked on most school networks!) that would engage students as much as the current crop of social networking sites. Engagement just won't be a factor until we can incorporate those elements of personal expression.

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