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Private and public conversations at work

August 30th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Interesting article in the Guardian about a new guide by the UK Trade Union Congress on using social networks in work.

The guide points out that employers can legally ban the use of social networks and take action against employees who break such a ban. It also says that employers are entitled to consider social networking content if an employee has applied for promotion.

The General Secretary of the TUC appeals to employers to be reasonable pointing out employees should be able to have a life outside work. The guide goes on to give some sensible advice on the use of social networkls.

But it is this paragraph that I find most interesting:

“Work is a major part of our lives, and staff have always discussed aspects of their jobs in private. Now that online social networking is becoming mainstream, many of these private conversations are searchable by the public.”

The use of social networking is redefining conventions around private and public discourses. Many of these conventions are implicit and tacit and of course are heavily culturally defined. In Germany people are much more ‘private’ than in Wales where we quite freely share information about our personal lives – and gossip happily about friends and acquaintances – with relative strangers.

It may well be that to move forward the debate we need to take what has previously been tacit and implicit and transform to explicit knowledge. Handbooks like the TUCs are part of this process.

Postscript: Just a short moan. News web sites like the Guardian are getting very lax about citations. Whereas once they always linked to original source material now they next to never do. I spent a good few minutes searching for the handbook. If news organisations are going to quote extensively form such a source I think they must provide a direct link. End of moan/

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