Leading or lagging

One insight into the use of email, and social networks, in business and in people’s personal lives has come up in discussion with some of my students.  Email in particular, and other first-generation web tools used for communication, started as tools which people working in IT or in academic environments used at work, and then developed into tools used be people to organise their personal and social lives.  So this was a case of use of the technology at work leading the use of the same technology at leisure.  But with social networking it’s the other way roung: employers are looking at how they can change the way that people communicate and collaborate at work, to take advantage of the sort of approaches that people are already using in their home lives.  So this time professional use of technology is lagging personal use.

Why?  A lot of it’s down to cost and ubiquity of equipment.  Email started when the sort of connectivity that we now take for granted, through a broadband network, was only available at the desk of somebody working for a big and/or technically sophisticated employer.  Now the tools that give us access to the most advanced and complex social networks are consumer goods, and we carry them in our pockets.

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