Hyves is the biggest social networking site in the Netherlands with five million members. It could be described as Myspace meets Facebook covered in with what looks like an exploded emoticon set folder. Whether or not you like an abundance of smileys, Hyves is actively used by millions of people. Hyves is a popular object of study in research on (Dutch) social networking sites. Recent research includes:
Schouten, Alexander. Adolescents. Online Self-Disclosure and Self-Presentation (dissertation in English)
Antheunis, Marjolijn en Schouten, Alexander. Hyves draait om contact met virtuele- én echte vrienden (Dutch)
Antheunis, Marjolijn. Hyves goed voor offline vriendschap (Dutch Cowboys article)
Rietdijk, Liselotte. Wat is jouw Hyves? Het communicatiemiddel van NU (Dutch)
Vos, Hanneke. Over Hyvers en ‘the networked individual’ (Dutch)
One of Hyves’ founders, Raymond Spanjar, said they applaud research on Hyves because it allows them to get to know things about the site they might not have known before. The bibliography of the Hyves book includes more research done on Hyves and social networks in general. The author of the book, Eva Kol wrote her MA thesis on Hyves at the University of Amsterdam and turned it into the first book (with its own Hyves page) on the popular Dutch social networking site.
Eva Kol started the book presentation with how she is connected to Hyves as a former employee, followed by a demonstration of the website. The main topic of the presentation and the final focus of the book is its impact on society and how Hyves reinforces existing social relationships.
The panel at the book presentation included thesis supervisor Geert Lovink who wondered if Hyves plays such an big role in Dutch society why does any form of activism seem absent? Eva responded that Hyves focuses on friends and friendships and less as a tool for organized activism. However, there are plenty of Hyves (groups on a particular topic) for NGOs and many politicians have their own Hyves profiles and groups. While the main user group is young and does not concern itself with activist issues the site could be used for it and sometimes is.
One of the founders, Raymond Spanjar, was also present and professionally shunned the “How much is Hyves worth?” question from the audience. Spanjar assured a concerned audience member that his privacy is guaranteed because Google does not index Hyves profiles. Either Google has a lot of Hyves profiles in its cache or this statement only concerns private profiles which also seem to turn up now and then. Five million people don’t seem to mind though and Hyves also has a very strong form of social control build into the system. Because friends can easily read what other friends are up to things rarely get out of hand. Users can report incidents with the “this is not OK” button as a second form of social control.
The book is not aimed at researchers but anyone interested in Hyves in general. It includes an inside view of the coming-into-existence and explosive growth of the social networking site, the functionalities use and impact of the site illustrated with interviews and stories from users.
I would recommend this colorfully designed and well priced (10 euros) book to communication studies students, new media students and anyone interested in the Dutch Hyves phenomenon (and I’m not just saying this because I know Eva from the New Media Master at the University of Amsterdam.)
More reading: Twan Eikelenboom’s report on the book presentation for Virtueel Platform.