New Social Media: From technologies to spaces for virtual and face-to-face interactions II

The question arose in the previous post: Why seek interactions through a virtual presence, especially if, as I do, we think that the 4Rs are most likely to happen in smaller, more exclusive spaces?  Three answers come to mind:

1)    To introduce ideas, tools, and processes that others might explore and experiment with in their own local and physical (i.e., not virtual) interactions.

2)    To provide inspiration to readers through their seeing that other people are thinking about and doing things in the spirit of the 4Rs and flexible engagement.

3)    If ideas, tools, and processes are introduced in the conventional physical formats of books and journal articles, that sends the message that: a) it requires an academic, researcher’s commitment to be able to think through their relevance and applications.  (When I look at the books published by Action Researchers, this is the message I get even though I am sure the authors would not want that); and b) books and journal articles are things that we take from the library to our office to read on our own.  The existence of libraries is given to us by society, but the interactions we have once we borrow the books are not, on the face of things, social.

A virtual presence is, in this light, an attempt to distribute discussion and the development of ideas/tools/processes beyond academic boundaries and conventions, and to add spaces for social interaction between the library and the office.  The schema prepared by a colleague, Felicia Sullivan, names those in-between spaces—she calls them a coffee house and a conference room.  (I might substitute workshop for the latter.)  In the next post, I adapt and extend her schema to allow for physical as well as virtual spaces and to identify some questions I think are worth delving into.

Notice that in these posts I haven’t referred to social networks.  I plan to get to that topic, but my account relies on first spelling out the realm of interactions we desire and the changes we seek through those interactions.  No network work for network’s sake.


About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (

One Response to New Social Media: From technologies to spaces for virtual and face-to-face interactions II

  1. Pingback: New Social Media: From technologies to spaces we make for virtual and face-to-face interactions « Probe—Create Change—Reflect

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