Understanding the role of Social Media in Contemporary Society by Chris Hine


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Understanding the role of Social Media in Contemporary Society by Chris Hine - a presentation from the BSA Teaching Group Regional Conference at the University of Surrey on 31 May 2014.

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Understanding the role of Social Media in Contemporary Society by Chris Hine

  1. 1. 09/06/2014 1 Understanding the role of social media in contemporary society Christine Hine Department of Sociology, University of Surrey c.hine@surrey.ac.uk http://www.theguardian.com/housing- network/2012/nov/05/social-housing-tenants-free-broadband http://www.pewresearch.org/2013/03/04/twitter-reaction- to-events-often-at-odds-with-overall-public-opinion/ http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2011/111710.html
  2. 2. 09/06/2014 2 Understanding the role of social media in contemporary society Internet research connects with two core A Level themes – Socialisation, culture and identity… The Internet as a site for identity formation, political action, cultural expression… – Social differentiation, power and stratification…The Internet as a site of inequality, reflecting and exacerbating social divisions Socialisation, culture and identity: the Internet Internet as culture – A site where significant, complex, meaningful social interaction happens Internet as cultural artefact – A technology with meaning within wider society – A focus of diverse cultural symbolisms and connotations Socialisation, culture and identity: the Internet • We do not use technologies only for their straightforward functionality. We use them also for what they do for us socially in terms of identity and belonging • We learn how to use technologies as part of peer networks for whom the technology has come to have a particular meaning • Those meanings can vary… Teen socialization – networked publics and bedroom culture • Teenagerhood experienced as a process of “becoming” – developing a sense of identity and learning expertise in social relations • Teenage “hanging out” very important in allowing for these processes of socialization • Public discourses of risk and danger surround teenagers • Teenagers’ need for private spaces away from adults often conflicts with adults’ need to keep them under surveillance in the interests of safety
  3. 3. 09/06/2014 3 Teen socialization – networked publics and bedroom culture • “Bedroom culture” emerges as the safe space in which teenagers maintain some privacy and exert control over their physical surroundings • Increasingly, the bedroom has become media saturated, and connected to an outside world via social media • Experiences and practices in social networking sites can substitute for hanging out in physical space. Here, as in the bedroom, a space for identity formation separate from adult influence can be maintained Teen socialization – networked publics and bedroom culture • Teenagers can hang out in virtual space, just as their predecessors hung out in shopping malls etc • In the context of an ongoing identity project, apparently trivial social interactions are significant • However, unlike hanging out in physical spaces, online hanging out does carry some risks • Online interactions can be persistent, replicable, searchable and performed to invisible audiences… so sometimes they can have unexpected consequences Social differentiation, power and stratification • There are enduring inequalities in access to and use of the Internet • These inequalities both reflect aspects of wider social differentiation and have the potential to exacerbate them • Surveys describe and interpret inequalities in Internet access and use, and map the changing picture – Oxford Internet Survey http://oxis.oii.ox.ac.uk/ – Pew Internet and American Life Project http://www.pewinternet.org/ – World Internet Statistics http://www.internetworldstats.com/ – Alexa –information on individual web site audiences http://www.alexa.com/ Discussing headlice on mumsnet Qualitative research explores social differentiation by looking at the dynamics of online spaces and the emergence of new forms of expertise online •Mumsnet: advice “by parents and for parents” • A site where many taboo issues of parenting are openly discussed • Demographic is older, more predominantly female and more educated on average than the general Internet population (and hence, also a biased sample of the population as a whole) • A distinctive set of values and practices (online community?)
  4. 4. 09/06/2014 4 Discussing headlice on mumsnet • Treatment positioned as a requirement of responsible parenthood • Emotional register of disgust • Risks associated with “chemicals” • Notions of parenthood as involving limitless labour on behalf of one’s child, positioning treatment by combing as a preferred option • Healthcare professionals positioned not as experts, but as sources of free treatment products Discussing headlice on mumsnet • A distinctive social setting where, unusually, detailed discussion of headlice is sanctioned. • Everyday knowledge is inseparable from salient identities and contexts of expression • A new form of expertise – according to Eysenbach (2008), apomediation rather than intermediation • Credibility judgments made according to different criteria from traditional expertise • New forms of expertise and expression online, feeding into social differentiation between digital haves and have-nots Understanding the role of social media in contemporary society • A substantive topic in its own right – the Internet as reflective of social change, as a site for experience of change, and as a facilitator of change • A site for exploring key sociological topics, exploring dynamics of social differentiation, socialization, identity, deviance, social capital… • A resource for study of interpersonal dynamics, identity and community formation, credibility, authenticity and expertise References Boyd, D. (2007). Why youth (heart) social network sites: The role of networked publics in teenage social life. MacArthur foundation series on digital learning–Youth, identity, and digital media volume, 119-142. http://sjudmc.net/lyons/civicmedia1/wp- content/uploads/2013/09/boyd-Why-teens-heart-social-media.pdf Eysenbach, G. (2008). Medicine 2.0: Social Networking, Collaboration, Participation, Apomediation, and Openness. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 10(3), e22. http://www.jmir.org/2008/3/e22/?ref=nf Hine, C. (2012). Headlice eradication as everyday engagement with science: An analysis of online parenting discussions. Public Understanding of Science, 0963662512453419. http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/763796/