Reading: “Using Social Media for Asynchronous Collaboration within Collaborative Networks”

InstagramFrom my weekly email digest from I was made aware of the following paper by Nick Sturkenboom, Ehsan Baha, Yuan Lu, and Gabriele Tempesta: “Using Social Media for Asynchronous Collaboration within Collaborative Networks”.

“Societal challenges of today (e.g. aging) are complex and often require systemic solutions to be addressed. To address these challenges, various expertise and knowledge are required; in this sense, collaborative network projects have a lot of potential in offering a systemic solution. Design workshops (synchronous collaboration) are often used to achieve progress in such projects. In this paper we introduce asynchronous collaboration, which can occur anytime, anywhere through the use of social media. We have probed Instagram as a ‘ready-made’ social media platform within two collaborative network project case studies. This was done to experiment with asynchronous collaboration and knowledge sharing in addition to design workshops. Both cases were evaluated through focus groups that indicated how social media has the potential to enable actors to cross-field boundaries, inspire each other, and in this way enrich the design process within asynchronous collaboration. Our contribution with this work is two-fold: on the one hand, we aim to inspire and show how collaborative network projects can benefit from asynchronous collaboration in addition to synchronous collaboration. On the other hand, we hope to contribute to the creation of specific social media platforms as tools for supporting asynchronous collaboration within collaborative networks.”

What piqued my interest here was the use of an established (if you can call a social network that’s been around for only 2 years ‘established’) social network from which to run and maintain asynchronous collaboration. Using captioning, tagging, and the comment features of the network is a good way to garner interest and engagement, but I would question the limiting factor of using the single network – surely Flickr, Facebook, or even Twitter would also give these features? The prescribed use of Instagram also implies that all students have access to the hardware needed to access and interact with the network.

In fact the work did identify the limitations of using Instagram: that students wanted to share other file types, there was a defined “generation gap” in the uptake and use of the network, privacy and ownership issues were raised about the material(s) loaded to the network, and that reporting and other metrics needed for the project needed 3rd party software to interrogate and analyse the student’s work.

Whether these limitations would be enough to hold back further development of asynchronous collaboration in this way I would have thought not, but lessons learned here should be enough to help direct further investigation of a more generic social media use in asynchronous collaborative work.


Sturkenbook, N., Baha, E., Lu, Y., and Tempesta, G., 2013 Using Social Media for Asynchronous Collaboration within Collaborative Networks In: Participatory Innovation Conference, 18-20 June 2013. Lappeenranta University of Technology. Available online: [Accessed: May 31 2013]