A world without barriers: that’s what the internet brings us. We are networked in every aspect of our lives and come together in social learning spaces for work, for pleasure and for no good reason at all. We are addicted to social. But whilst the boundaries of geography fall before the all pervasive wifi signal, constraints of culture and behaviour do not. Social learning spaces may bring us together, but they do not make us the same.
Working with global teams in social spaces i’ve noticed differences: differences in how social is deployed and in how people engage in these spaces. I couldn’t quantify how it’s different yet, but i can see it in how willing organisations are to utilise these spaces, in how people engage and the types of engagement. We may work on an assumption that people come together to learn, that social levels the field, but in fact it may just make our differences more apparent. Notions of ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ may vary, as well as ideas of what behaviour and level of disclosure is appropriate in each type of space. This tends to be particularly apparent around gender differences, i guess because in some cultures women have more of a voice than in others. In these situations, social spaces can be liberating, giving a more equal voice to everyone.
Social learning communities can be liberating, but also oppressive if we are not careful: we are not immune to the behaviours of bullying or ridicule that exist in the real world, and i’ve certainly observed overt hostility based on historical differences between countries and regions. I suppose it should be no surprise that not everything smells of roses in the social world.
It feels worth exploring this issue further, looking for evidence of how utilisation and engagement differs in different regions and possible impacts in behaviours demonstrated in forums and community spaces. If we understand the cultural backdrop better, if we understand more about where the differences or challenges may lie, we will at least approach these spaces with our eyes open.