WHILE I WAS AWAY looking at my Flickr collections I noticed something about how young college students use virtual spaces. Those who have blogs like using the internet to connect to their network of friends. A few have really interesting photo collections and they follow the online albums of their contacts through shared camera lenses. Most use Google as their main reference point for knowledge. Nothing noteworthy here but when compared to how my students used their internet connections 10 years ago, some noteworthy facts emerge in my small and statistically flawed sample of 210 students.
- Mailng lists are less important for college students now. Today, students are following extended conversations among bloggers or they are listening to spoken musings in the form of podcasts.
- Photo albums are important diversions, so are music collections. Students are using cheap or free space to stash their stuff online. They value online space more if it lets them offload music tracks, videoclips or images to removeable media.
- Online address books are more common than little black books. Many students sync the entire contents of their mobile phones to an online repository. Mobile telephone networks would bolster customer loyalty if they capitalised on this must-have functionality.
- IRC is less common than SMS text chat. Free text through mobile phone networks or international service providers are important parts of daily connections.
- Bulletin boards are being used as question and answer centres rather than as social connection points.
I don't think any of these observations are more than anecdotal but one conclusion appears clear to me and that regards the way internet applications are valued more when they connect friends through social nodes. It is the application that is valued, not the connectivity underlying the application. It is as though the internet is subordinate to the Flickr album, the blog space or the podcast. But then isn't the best kinds of technology the ones that simply work without much tending under the bonnet?