ICT and Social Media: Definitional Issues and the Relationship

October 30, 2011 · Posted in Literature Review 

Prior to understanding how ICT and social media are analyzed in relation to social change, it is first useful to briefly elucidate what ICT and social media entail and how they relate. ICT is used as a general term for diverse set of technologies which enable users to create, access, disseminate, store, manage, and communicate information in a digital format. ICT include computer hardware and software applications, encompassing: mobile phones, computers, network hardware, internet, telecommunication systems and so on, as well as the various related services and applications. In recent years there has been a groundswell of interest in how computers and internet can best be harnessed to improve social communication at different levels, which has propelled research and innovation in the area of ICT and social digital media (SDM), leading to the emergence of what has come to be known as participatory technologies such as Web 2.0.

As an emerging phenomenon, social media are media for social interaction. Their emergence was enabled by ubiquitously accessible communication technology, participatory technology, mobile technology and web-based applications. They amalgamate social interaction and technology for value co-creation, one corollary of which is user-generated content which takes a wide variety of forms: ideas, text, videos, pictures, and so on. Kaplan & Haenlein (2011) define social media as a set of internet-based applications build on the technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that enable user-generated content to be created and exchanged. Web 2.0’s participatory technologies facilitate information sharing, participation and collaboration. Indeed, one key element of Web 2.0 is the social Web, which involves a number of online platforms where people are active participants, pool resources and share their perspectives and experiences. This is enabled by the different forms social media can take on such as social networking sites, content communities, weblogs, social blogs, micro-blogging, collaborative projects, etc. It is to note that these forms of social media differ in terms of self-disclosure and media richness criteria, which media theory proposes to distinguish social media types. Media richness is about ‘the amount of information a medium can transmit within a given time, and self–disclosure, which ‘is critical in the establishment of interpersonal trust’, denotes ‘the desire of people to present a certain image of themselves to others, which is achieved through the disclosure of specific personal information.’ (Breuer 2011)

Overall, although ICT and social media are conceptually different, they are intertwined and inextricably connected. And they converge when mobilized as resources for or employed as means in social change, a process that entails altering social patterns of a society, which can involve economic development, political progress, cultural change, social revolution, etc.

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