Back in 2008, the researchers of the MacArthur Foundation-funded Digital Youth Project reported that there are two kinds of social networking: the friendship-driven kind we’re all very familiar with and interest-driven. The latter kind is self-explanatory too, but worth zooming in on. Because it’s not only online socializing around interests (as in a writer’s community, the Harry Potter Alliance, or app developers’ blog); it’s self-selected personal and professional development for people of all ages. It’s also part of the progression of social networking the researchers discovered: the progression that led to the title of their MIT Press book: “hanging out, messing around, and geeking out.” Interest-driven social media use describes what happens when users (of any age) are moving from merely hanging out to the messing around and tinkering with media that represents the beginning of professional media use (e.g., videography, writing, music composition, photo editing, etc.).
So (maybe subconsciously) with that in mind, Microsoft has designed and launched more of an interest-driven social network site for students, TechCrunch reports: So.cl. It appears aimed at students, specifically students who are at least “messing around” with social media, if not already “geeking out.” TechCrunch says it’s built on top of Facebook (an appropriately “friendship-driven” foundation) and “launching out of Microsoft Research’s FUSE Labs division, and is still being dubbed ‘experimental’.”
Right now, So.cl (pronounced “social”) “is being made available to students in information and design schools at the University of Washington, Syracuse University, and New York University,” according to Microsoft Research’s blog. “In time, more schools will be added, potentially expanding So.cl’s use as a learning and information-gathering tool.” I’d like to see it adapted by and for grade school. See this about how The School at Columbia University created its own social network site for elementary grades. Maybe So.cl can now be used to cause a groundswell of social media use in school! [For more on social media in school and related links, see "Now there's YouTube designed for school," and for Digital Youth Project findings, check out their book!]