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Roundtable: Social Networking Sites October 25, 2007

Posted by Sarah in AoIR.
Tags: , , , , ,

Saturday morning I went to the roundtable on social networking sites. More and more I’m finding that the distinction between blogs and social networking is unclear, so I was quite sure that this would be an interesting discussion and relevant to what I’m doing. The panelists were Daniel Skog, danah boyd, Amanda Lenhart, Jan Schmidt (who has blogged his responses to the pre-posed questions here), Nicole Ellison, Nancy Baym, and Jeff Hammerbacher.

The format that the session took makes it hard to do a coherent write-up… so mostly I’m going to transcribe my notes. They started out describing their interests in SNSs.

  • Daniel: what’s the social motivation and how does that vary, what’s a friend, online vs. offline contacts, friends list use varies by system.
  • danah: network publics; complicates notions of public and private. Who’s the audience? Strategic choices about exposure. Also mobile stuff – spatiality and mobility, etc. How do we go about observing these phenomena?
  • Amanda: How information flows through social networks. What’s a friend and what does that mean for a network user? Migration – movement between networks.
  • Jan: power iwthin the site – with users or with code, regulators, etc. International perspective, comparative analysis of language communities; why certain sites catch on in different locations.
  • Nicole: social captial, self presentation/impression management. Questions of audience; friendship/relationship development and maintenance. What happens with adult populations using the systems?
  • Nancy: the relationship between code & use. We’re GIVEN the term friend, how do we then use it? Limited transferability and exportability of data. Use isn’t limited to just one site – it’s an ecosystem of ‘net use.
  • Jeff: medium choice for communicating content and legal issues.

Next they each described the challenges of this research (in reverse order, just for fun!)

  • Jeff coming at it from the perspective of the site itself (facebook): how to consume the data… social data analysis… maybe making data available to users. Combining network data with offline stuff.
  • Nancy: how do we GET data? how do we trace connections to other sites? Theory: how do we do work that will remain relevant?
  • Nicole: locating non-users. Using network data to understand linkages. getting money. incorporating literature from different disciplines. keeping up with changing technology.
  • Jan: funding! privacy and ethical concerns; personal publics vs. general consumption.
  • Amanda: how do users define “social network”? have moral panics biased any responses we might get at this point?
  • danah: how not to fetishize the techology, maintaining methodological distance; the role of the academic, especially whether or not to engage in activism/advocacy. The relationships between corporations and users, how to create productive relationships with the corporations.
  • Daniel: changing climates, how young people are getting blasé about SNSs. There’s so much junk out there, and they ignore the “bad” stuff. Dealing with the impermanence of system features and content.

So on to the discussion… still mostly just transcribing my notes!

  • Contextualization… contextualizing SNS research within what we know about young people. How do they fit in with old technology? Does the social aspect really matter?
  • Privacy needs to be contextualized, too.
  • Stuff around age and stage of life.
  • Remember that not all users are youth!
  • How architecture and technolgy will change as things get more combined (a possible portal to all sorts of SNS/blog sites… dealing with that idea of the “ecosystem”.
    • danah: What do users WANT? It’s not just a situation of want/get.
    • Amanda: teens look at their very early profiles as “legacy” ones, a bit of their history.
    • danah: not everyone wants convergence
    • jan: controlling audiences, but also controlling consumption
    • danah: contextualization – we don’t have walls!
    • coping with this: 1) build walls 2) social demands and expectations 3) ostrich (civil inattention)
  • USERS talk about the online/offline distinction – so maybe it’s NOT something to demonize
  • Questions of “real” vs. “fake” – how do we account for this? Also multiplicity of profiles.
    • fake profiles serve a purpose
    • Jeff: use of fakes shows how the system is not meeting a user need!

So that’s what I jotted down… I hope it conveys the content of the discussion adequately!



1. Jan Schmidt - October 25, 2007

Great work, thanks!
I’ve blogged my answers to the questions posed by Nancy beforehand: http://www.schmidtmitdete.de/archives/16

2. Nancy - October 25, 2007

Many thanks for blogging this!

3. Online Fandom » Social Network Panel at AoIR and Colbert pushes 1,000,000 - October 26, 2007

[…] together for the Association of Internet Researchers’ meeting has been blogged by Sarah Ford here. You have to imagine the conversational flow, but the main points are all there. Thanks […]

4. lewisgoodings - October 30, 2007

nice one sarah, really useful resource.

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