Amanda, Pew Internet and American Life project
Methodology and problems with methodologies
We’ve done 2 research projects on this:
1. Focus groups with middle school and high school students: SNS and their feelings about it. What expectations of privacy did they have in this space? What was the utility of social networks in their social lives? What kind of truth-telling did they do? (Before MySpace allowed private profiles; the young women often labelled themselves as younger than they really were to get the privacy protections, which used to only be available to people under… 14?)
- No info that could lead to identification in physical space / real time (home address, location). Many people lied about their location – my friends know I live in PA rather than CA, and people who I don’t want to know where I live will think I’m in CA. Teens took small steps to protect themselves. Otherwise, they thought things were generally private but obviously not perfectly
- Tension between people you wanted to find you (people from your school who you don’t know) vs. people you didn’t want to find you (older people, creepy people, etc.)
- Some disconnects about school identification: people had a hard time noting that their school mapped to their physical space: especially since very large schools have many students, which provides a modicum of privacy.
2. Telephone survey to teens and parents: new project. Wanted to try to ask and talk about SNS – Do you use SNS (without prompting for the specific name of a social network). We know that things change very fast, so you have to establish trends/usage over time without specifying/biasing users (e.g. if you’ve moved from MySpace to something else, we want to know the latter rather than MySpace, so we can’t just ask “do you have a MySpace”). But nobody understood terms like “online profile”. We would ask: do you use SNS? They’d answer: Yes. Then we’d ask: do you have a profile online? They’d answer: No. (???!!!!)
There was a complete disconnect in terms of how we were asking the question and how young people actually talk about these things. We had to change the words to prompt for specific sites, but we think this might bias the survey results.
(She’s reacting to a presentation about virtual worlds that I didn’t blog because I wasn’t particularly interested in the conclusions it drew)
I think that the predictions like “virtual worlds will be so radically different”, and without denying that virtual worlds will be interesting to some people, basically we are embodied, we are animals, we will want to interact in “real life.” Contrary to early predictions of identity play and gender play, etc., the experience of the kids actually growing up in this environment is opposite since something like a profile is MERGING identities: it makes it HARDER to have multiple friends groups that don’t interact.
It was much easier to keep these facets of life separately before Facebook: you can’t cheat because if you make out with someone at a party, someone snaps a picture and posts it online and tags you, and then everyone knows! On Facebook, 90% of her students use their real name. The point is to be found. Most don’t disable news feed although these things pin them to the wall.
Dystopias always envision government spying, rather than this “grassroots surveillance” where everyone can see you. You have to perform. There is a huge pressure to be online (people who aren’t online are powered by the mob TO BE PUBLIC.)
What is this going to mean when the things you did at 18-22 are available to everyone, forever. Some people say: yay, radical transparency; some others say: we’ll be more afraid
What she calls “Super Publicness”.
(This is all super smart stuff & I agree with all of it and not just because she restated my MA thesis!)
Sarah Pink: Visual Ethnography (Pink, S. (2006) Doing Visual Ethnography: images, media and representation in research London: Sage (2nd edition))
She asks how SNS relates to traditional methods of ethnography. Seems that just looking at profiles only gets at specific slices of people’s lives. For example, athletes mostly had pictures of themselves partying, rather than pictures of themselves engaging in their athletics.
She was writing a paper on this, on analyzing pictures on FB accounts, but a) the accounts got erased and b) she doesn’t know how to extend cultural studies methodology to websites.
Heard from faculty that FB would be a great way to connect with students and open new channels of communication: is this true? Worked with great undergrad researcher, Ann Hewitt– how do students perceive this “intrusion” into what students percieve as an in-group social space? How do students negotiate these boundaries with professors?
1/3 students surveyed: don’t want any faculty on there at all. Now, looking for more in-depth study so can undersand this better.
Methodologically: thought provoking to couple tagging with social networking sites. It’s been occuring to me that when we talked about tagging, there were all these words like “emergent” “freedom” “collective production of knowledge”. From the information science perspective, it’s like “relinquishing control.” we will grudgingly give this to the public.
From the SNS perspective, people have been connecting in a very open way forever, and now it is being operationalized and CONSTRAINED. SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES ARE A TECHNOLOGY OF CONSTRAINTS.
Design problems: as technologists, we can create novel new places for people to interact/express identity. Now, really /interesting/ things are happen in HUGE SPACES that are WAY beyond technology that graduate students have control over. How do we incorporate into our research agendas an understanding of the context of production and the intent of the designers who build this site so we can leverage this knowledge and compare it to what actually happens.
When a site violates all expectations, it’s awesome.