This report sets out the results of a small-scale research project commissioned by Acas examining the implications of social networking and mobile information and communications technologies (ICT) for employment relations. Social networking involves use of an online platform or website that enables people to communicate, usually for a social purpose, through a variety of services, most of which are web-based and offer opportunities for people to interact over the internet, e.g. via e-mail and ‘instant messaging’.
As this is a relatively new phenomenon and there is no common international regulatory body, it is difficult to find an official or universally agreed definition. However, Boyd and Ellison’s overview of the field in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (2007) comments on the particular communication opportunities provided by social network sites (SNSs):
“We define social network sites as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site… What makes social network sites unique is not that they allow individuals to meet strangers, but rather that they enable users to articulate and make visible their social networks… While SNSs have implemented a wide variety of technical features, their backbone consists of visible profiles that display an articulated list of Friends who are also users of the system… The public display of connections is a crucial component of SNSs. Beyond profiles, friends… SNSs vary greatly in their features and user base… Some have photosharing or video-sharing capabilities; others have built-in blogging and instant messaging technology.”
Read the original paper here