Fred Stutzman, manager of the Lyceum project and co-founder of claimID.com, has an excellent post about five huge social networking sites. Despite frequent assumptions that Web 2.0’s social networking is always already a global phenomenon, the five sites listed in this article suggest how such sites align themselves along national lines. For example, Cyworld is South Korea’s largest social networking service with 20 million daily users (or 25% of the population) according to the article -simply staggering numbers! “Well, this is obvious Jim,” you say, “for how many people outside of Korea can speak Korean?”
All right, smart guy, how about this then -how many of us in the U.S. (or even North America) are aware of British social networking sites like Faceparty (with over 6 million users), or a post-colonial social networking space such as India’s Hi5 (with over 40 million users, published in English – that most ubiquitous of online languages -but that is another story about language, colonialism and the traces of empire).
More broadly, how do linguistic, national and cultural differences make some of our claims about the international nature of the web fall flat? I say this knowing full well that DTLT has been forging unbelievably fruitful international relationships with Instructional Technologists in Canada. But does this beg the question -why not Mexico? Or Liberia? Or Jamaica? While not trying to be overly polemical, I think our frame for Web 2.0 as a necessarily “global” movement may, at times, ring true, yet how do we explain the nationalized boundaries that social networking like MySpace or Hi5, or Faceparty rearticulate and reinforce?