Challenges to ICT and Social Media
There is a need for new perspectives and novel insights into integrating technological with tacit, creative and non-technological knowledge. ICT has the potential to frame the role and operation of social media based on new socio-cultural dimensions of users. Innovations in the area of ICT should be inspired by how people aspire to use new ICT by accounting for the knowledge of the dynamics of how they interact in socio-cultural setting for various expressive and social purposes. The codified knowledge and the push philosophy of ICT alone are not sufficient to respond to the growing challenges of social media phenomenon. If driven by users’ demands and how social mediated interaction is unfolding, ICT can offer unsurpassed ways to facilitate and enhance mediated communication practices.
Social media technologies have also been used especially in creating less-confined political spaces (Eltantawy & Wiest 2011) that help foster democracy. However, the call for ‘Internet freedom’ that results from cyber-utopism view that regards the Internet as inherently pro-democratic is a dangerous one; a sound question is ‘how social media can be used to sideline existing strategies for democracy assistance in a given country and let the answer to that question shape their strategic choices.’ (Breuer 2011) In addition, ‘any serious debate on the promise of SDM to aid democracy promotion must consider that different types of SDM vary in their specific characteristics and that such variation translates into different opportunities and risks depending on the political context in which they are employed.’ (Ibid, p.1)
The use of social media moreover poses some issues, one of which is the ownership of social media content. User-generated-content, which is generated through social media interactions done by the users through social media platforms, is associated with privacy issues. The practice of encroachments upon users’ privacy, although unjustified, will continue in so far as it generates profit for firms. Critics argue that the firms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are reaping huge profit by using – having the right to monetize – the content that does not belong to them. It is about high pursuit of profit. Most social networking operators pursue commercial interests (Ibid). In relation to this argument, Tim Berners-Lee (2010) cautions against social networks growing too big and become a monopoly as this tends to limit innovation. The privacy threat beyond is the parasitic conveying or leaking of agglomerated (personal) data to third parties with certain economic interest (Soltren 2005). How to ensure that content can be shared to the extent the individual wishes and no more is not an easy question to answer. Firms are to be convinced to consider user privacy as a central part of their mission, and social media service providers ought not to expand business at the cost of their users’ privacy (Breuer 2011). There is an endless debate on the ownership of the content on social media platforms since it is generated by the users and hosted by the company.
There are still untapped opportunities and new zones to explore in ICT development. Innovative convergence of media services, usability in the design of social media applications, and advanced social network aggregation platforms are critical to encourage the use of social media with a wider class of users. Currently, most social networking sites are silos and do not allow users to port data from one site to another (Berners-Lee 2010). In terms of usability, the focus of Human-Computer-Interaction (HCI) research should shift from laboratories to real life settings where people would want to use and experience new technologies. Academic design studies of innovation highlight the importance of observing real people in real life situations and encourage approaches that make user participation an inseparable part of technology production (Kelley 2002). As a characteristic of the user interface, usability is concerned with the ease with which a user interface can be used by its target users to achieve defined goals, especially with satisfaction (fulfillment of user’s needs). New ICT solutions should enable people to convey meanings behind ideas, to stimulate creative expressions in culturally heterogeneous groups, to device tools that enable different classes of users to generate content and take part in social change processes, to enhance new media literacy of users, to augment user interfaces with visual information to improve the efficiency of communication and so on. It is very important for ICT and social media firms to constantly and collaboratively work with different classes of end users when designing new social media solutions. Social media presents a daunting challenge for firms due the fact that many established management approaches to deal with users wanting these firms to listen, appropriately engage, and respond are ill-suited (Kietzmann et al. 2011). Indeed, MySpace lost its members because of management mistake (Hartung 2011). Kietzmann et al. (2011) identify seven functional building blocks: identity, conversations, sharing, presence, relationships, reputation, and groups, which have implications for how firms should engage with social media as well as help understand the engagement needs of the social media audience. The authors explain that firms can, by analyzing such building blocks, monitor and understand the variation underlying social media activities as to their function and impact, which is important to develop a congruent social media strategy based on the appropriate balance of these building blocks for their community.