I was thinking about all the fuss in the cultural heritage sector about Facebook on various museum-y discussion lists at the moment, and thought perhaps the off-line equivalent would be posts saying
"I've discovered this place where lots of young people hang out, interacting with each other in a really natural way. The thing is, institutions can't go there, only individuals. But this place is full of audiences we want to reach. So how can we engage with this new-fangled 'pub' thing?".
I guess what I'm asking is, is Facebook 'fit for [our] purpose' or are we just chasing it for the same reason marketers love youth social networking sites – it's a place where a hard-to-reach demographic hang out.
With that in mind, here's what Facebook does well:
…just how intrinsic the use of Facebook is today among younger scholars – grad students and junior faculty – in their scholarship and teaching. Facebook, for now, is often the place where they work, collaborate, share, and plan. Grad students may run student projects using Facebook groups; they may communicate amongst each other in inter-institutional (multi-university) research projects; they may announce speakers and special events to their communities.
I've been enmeshed recently in increasingly agonized conferences that concern themselves with "re-thinking scholarly communication" and grappling with understanding what tools might be used to facilitate new models of peer review, or facilitate research collaboration, or teaching — and all the while – of course – it has been happening anyway, using widely available tools that provide the flexibility and leverage that scholars have been seeking.
And here's why it's relevant to the cultural heritage sector:
…regardless of the ultimate fate of Facebook, the set of characteristics that it has established – the sense of community; user control over the boundedness of openness; support for fine grained privacy controls; the ability to form ad-hoc groups with flexible administration; integration and linkage to external data resources and application spaces through a liberal and open API definition; socially promiscuous communication – these will be carried with us into future environments as expectations for online communities.
From Working in Facebook, O'Reilly rader.