Facebook is the archetypal Web 2.0 service, characterised by its focus on user generated content and facilitating social interaction. Facebook is arguably the most popular Web 2.0 service, with over 600 million users at the time of writing. In 2010 alone an extra 100 million people joined Facebook. Facebook provides facilities for sharing photos, videos and (more recently) Office documents via Microsoft’s docs.com. It is also a platform that developers can use to create their own “apps”, such as the popular FarmVille game.
Marcus Collins from the Department of Politics History and International Relations (PHIR) created the popular Facebook group for History students starting in Autumn 2010, as shown below.
After a hiatus, History has been reintroduced as a joint honours subject at Loughborough. Marcus and his colleagues were looking for a way to help build a community around the topic, and the Facebook group proved invaluable for this. It also provided a useful informal “back channel” for discussions with the department. The example shown above illustrates this nicely – Marcus was able to advise new students of the induction schedule even though they had yet to gain access to their University email account. Material on the Facebook group is largely complementary to the academic content hosted on Learn, including introductory videos and advice on topics such as plagiarism.
Things you should know
Facebook has had a chequered history regarding privacy and personal data, with updates to the underlying software typically resulting in users’ privacy settings being reset to “share with everyone”. This has led to media coverage of, for example, prospective employers trawling applicants’ Facebook profiles to get a better idea about their personal character. It is possible to create closed (and even secret) groups on Facebook, mirroring many of the capabilities of Google Apps, but the predominant ethos is one of openness and sharing.
Marcus Collins advises that a separate Facebook user ID is desirable to separate one’s personal interaction with the service from use in an official capacity. For example, lecturers might not want to share family holiday photos with all their students, and students might prefer to discuss course related matters without members of staff participating.
Be particularly cautious with Facebook. Talk to the relevant central staff first if in doubt.