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Wednesday, July 13 • 15:31 - 17:00
Public library SM hyperlinks: objects or object relations

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Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
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  • Mary Cavanagh, University of Ottawa, Canada
  • Marie-Claude Gagnon, University of Ottawa, Canada
  • Joel Rivard, University of Ottawa, Canada


The hyperlink has been a central organizing feature and information structure of the Internet and therefore of our "hyperlinked" information society (Turow & Tsui, 2008). Hyperlinks are simultaneously information and communication structures, and material objects that render acts of media creation visible and available for distribution or circulation. By design, hyperlinks have a social purpose (Adamic, 2008); they are "not only ubiquitous; they are the basic forces that relate creative works to one another for fun, fame, or fortune" (Turow & Tsui, 2008, 4). However, recent practices suggest that the importance of the hyperlink is diminishing as SM platforms shift from their primary purpose as social networks connecting indivduals across the internet and their communities, to design as a series of single, self-contained content channels for their audiences and/or followers. 


Recently activist pioneering political blogger, Derakhshan, contrasted the original value attributed to links in his earliest blogging days with today's use of links, and despaired: "But links are not objects, they are relations between objects. This objectivisation has stripped hyperlinks of their immense powers" (Derakhshan, 2015). 
Specifically among public libraries have hyperlinks become only habitual objects for marketing and consumption? Or are there more compelling current arguments for embedding hyperlinks in their social media interactions? 

Taking a practice-based approach to Twitter, this paper suggests that the link remains a valuable digital information structure, agency and material mediator in the public learning commons that is the Internet. Although a tweet-based hyperlink can simply be 'consumed' as an information object, it can also participate in the larger social construction of information relationships and knowledge and learning communities. "It is the context of practice that makes something information" (Cornelius, 2014; Kallinikos, Ekbia and Nardi, 2015). 


This work is part of a larger study; it brings together macro and micro-level research methods from three data sources. The primary dataset consists of 85,000 tweets, RTs and follower MTs with embedded hyperlinks from Canadian public library twitter accounts (185) over a 6-month period in 2014, parsed into their primary domains. Domains mentioned more than once (61%) were classified thematically and re-inserted into the dataset for descriptive statistical analysis. Social media interviews (10) and participant observations from two of these urban libraries explored how and why staff construct their social media identities at the policy and interaction levels. Finally, online surveys of library users from these communities report on their attitudes to the library's use of social media and their personal habits. 


Findings are organized into three themes that address both the transactional and aggregated value of public library hyperlinks embedded in micro-blogging interactions: a) perceptions of the informational and knowledge authority and trust of the public library; b) the agency of the hyperlink as a news and popular culture purveyor and mediator; c) library networks of community engagement co-constructed and sustained through the material sharing of Twitter-embedded hyperlinks. 

Future Work:

This paper complements other themes still to be published in this larger study of Canadian public libraries and their SM practices. 


Adamic, Lada (2008). The social hyperlink, in J. Turow & L. Tsui, (eds.) The hyperlinked society: Questioning connections in the digital age. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 227- 249.
Cornelieus, Ian (2014). Epistemological challenges for information science: constructing information, in F. Ibekwe-SanJuan and T.M. Dousa (eds.) Theories of information, communication and knowledge: Studies in history and philosophy of science 34, Springer Science-Business Media B.V.
Derakhshan, H. (2015) Iran's blogfather: Facebook, instagram, and twitter are killing the web. The Guardian, Tuesday, 29 December. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/dec/29/irans-blogfather-facebook-instagram-and-twitter-are-killing-the-web  
Kallinikos, J. Ekbia, H, & Nardi, B. (2015). Regimes of information and the paradox of embeddedness: an introduction. Special issue – The Information Society, 31, 101-105.
Turow, J., & Tsui, Lokman. (2008). The hyperlinked society: Questioning connections in the digital age. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 

Wednesday July 13, 2016 15:31 - 17:00 UTC
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01 Goldsmiths University, Building 2