The Social Web Steps Up

I have been amazed at how the Social Web has stepped up in the face of the VA Tech tragedy. The major news sources were the first to the scene, but with content mostly contributed by i-Reporters … shortly there after, youtube was flooded with videos showing different views of what what had unfolded and tributes to victims. If you spend some time at Flickr you can see first hand what was going on during and after the events on Monday. These sites gave us all a view that we would never had gotten prior to current user-generated scene we are all living in and was certainly the fastest way to start understanding what was going — news conferences just didn’t cut it.

Perhaps the most interesting and amazing of all these spaces is the FaceBook. Instantly, FB groups emergered from all corners of their networks. Within hours, the PSU FB Network had already errupted into a half dozen groups. I searched for stuff from my Alma Mater, WVU, and instantly found the same thing going on there. Here at PSU, students rallied together to decide to create a giant VT in the stands of the annual Blue and White Spring football game this weekend — all within the FB. Within hours of the group forming it had over 800 members … all of them committed to showing support for VT.

I think this my be a turning point in our appreciation of tools like the FB. Students understand the power of social tools and so many of us are now seeing just how amazing these tools are for creating instant community opportunities. What I am also finding so interesting is how traditional news and the social sites are playing off each other to round out each other’s coverage. A traditional news site pulling profiles of victims from friends’ stories all over the web is just one example. Almost all of what I found on the FB was publicly accessible, so I am sure reporters used these same self-organized social spaces to discover much of the information they are reporting in the traditional news environment. In great respect of the tragedy, I find it all very interesting and think we are stepping into new waters — waters where traditional news sources (and the general public) have gained a new appreciation for user-generated content. I also think it starts the FB down a path of general acceptance and as a hub of information gathering and distribution.

2 thoughts on “The Social Web Steps Up

  1. I was thinking this, too, Cole, but now I’m (slightly) changing my view. This story from NPR ( discusses how the schoolmates and friends of the victims have been pursued by the media through Facebook and MySpace.

    These social networking sites are connecting survivors and showing support, but also giving the media access to sources via e-mail addresses and other information posted there. Perhaps this is another lesson for our students in what is appropriately put up in Facebook, but on the other hand, it leaves me wishing that the media had just a little bit more class…

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