Idea Mashup: Scott Heiferman & Val Fox on Social Networking

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Community. Engagement. Social capital. These are the buzzwords of the digital age. But for Scott Heiferman and Val Fox, community is about a whole lot more than an online strategy. This week’s Idea Mashup looks at the (re)emergence of real world social networking.

Scott Heiferman is the founder and CEO of an online social networking site built to foster communities… in the real world.

Val Fox is the executive director of the Digital Media Zone, a start-up incubator at Ryerson University that has taken Toronto by storm.

For both Heiferman, the tech entrepreneur, and Fox, a self proclaimed digital media “den mother,” everything begins and ends with community engagement. And despite the fact that both of them lead digitally-focused teams, they agree, there is no substitute for the real thing. As Heiferman puts it, “I think that in a sort of over-anonymous, over-industrialized culture you realize that local is important and face-to-face is important,”

For Fox, the real value of the “real world social network” goes beyond just hanging out; that in-person community engagement has had other surprising benefits: Collaboration. With diverse groups of innovators, creators and technologists together under one roof, the Digital Media Zone, or DMZ as it is known, has seen a new model begin to emerge, “one based on collaboration,” says Fox. “The [Digital Media] Zone is filled with various companies, and they all interact, they all collaborate, they help each other to be better companies,”

So what does it mean that the trick to building a successful online social media network lies in having a strong real world community or team? In an age of telecommuting and virtual collaborations, is there a benefit to coming together, face to face? Marisa Mayer faced huge backlash when she announced that Yahoo employees could no longer work from home… but was she onto something?

… and if this is the case for companies, what about communities, or even one-on-one relationships? We can connect to anyone, anywhere, at any time… but are we really connecting? Or is something lost, when we gaze into a computer screen, instead of into someone else’s eyes?

Let us know what you think. Tweet us at @rdigitalife, send us an email… or hey, why not just drop by?

By Ramona Pringle. Ramona is a digital producer and a faculty member in the RTA School of Media at Ryerson University. Connect with her online at @ramonapringle



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