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Christensen’s map of social media

Here is a simple scheme for sorting social media technologies, based on four activities:

  • Knowledge Management
  • Relationship Management
  • Collaboration
  • Entertainment

Knowledge Management

Humans have been storing information for at least 50,000 years, for personal reuse, to share with others in their community, and to hand down to future generations. They have also found ways to acquire information and knowledge from others, through observation as well as by intentional transmission.

Traditional Tools:

  • myths
  • folklore
  • oral traditions
  • marks on natural objects such as trees or rocks
  • tablets
  • scrolls
  • monumental inscriptions
  • books
  • drawings
  • maps
  • letters
  • diaries
  • reports

Contemporary Tools:

  • relational databases
    forums (also know as bulletin boards, or BBSs)
  • blogs
  • wikis (shared online text editing)
    visual representation tools (mind maps, whiteboards)
  • content-sharing software
  • online maps
  • search functions
  • consensus web filters (memediggers)

Relationship Management

Our connections with other people include intimate relationships, community ties (multiple, overlapping, and less intimate), and professional relationships. Relationship management also includes conflict resolution, mutual aid, and charitable activities. Personal display and ornament, hierarchy, and status are aspects of relationships that are also reflected online.

Traditional Tools:

  • music
  • dance festivals
  • drama
  • letters
  • diplomacy
  • marriage
  • joking relationships
  • feuds
  • trade
  • diplomacy
  • war and peace making
  • religious rituals
  • telephone

Contemporary Tools:

  • e-mail
  • instant messaging
  • VOIP telephony
  • blogs
  • forums
  • people-connecting software and their associated spaces (MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • content-sharing software


Humans have always worked together, in hunting and gathering, in farming, and in industry. Collaboration requires the passing on of expert knowledge, the exchange of information acquired while work is in progress, and practical ways of dividing work to maximize productivity.

Traditional Tools:

  • men’s houses
  • initiation ceremonies
  • rites of passage
  • work teams
  • manuals
  • training programs
  • direct instruction
  • on-the-job training

Contemporary Tools:

  • wikis
  • visual representation tools
  • online conferencing


Our ancient ancestors spent a lot of time enjoying leisure-time activities; the extent to which we indulge in online entertainment and gaming might not make them bat an eyelid. The physical isolation and inactivity of online leisure activities, however, present serious drawbacks.

Traditional Tools:

  • music
  • dance
  • drama
  • literature
  • poetry
  • art
  • sports
  • games
  • clubs
  • gambling

Contemporary Tools:

  • chat rooms
  • MMORPGs and other online games
  • offline role-playing games
  • collaborative writing
  • poetry slams
  • crafts forums
  • online gambling
  • content-editing tools (e.g., mashups)

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