SOCIAL SCIENCE 2.0?A CASE STUDY INVESTIGATION OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND HUMAN AGENCY
INTRODUCTION1. Theoretical & empirical PhD research on human reflexivity: “the regular exercise of the mental ability to consider themselves in relation to their social contexts and vice versa”.2. My own involvements in academic social media and my changing practical & conceptual understandings of it. • First attempt to engage with my practical interests from a theoretical standpoint. Very much work in progress.1. Outline of a particular theoretical approach to understanding social media as (a) communicative technologies (b) technologically-infused social practices. 2. A methodology for applying this approach to encouraging creative & effective utilisation of social media within the social sciences – what sort of questions should we be addressing?
A SOCIAL THEORY OF SOCIAL MEDIA #1 • Realist social theory: Margaret Archer, Derek Layder, Dave Elder-Vass, Andrew Sayer Personal Relational • Domain analysis as an analytical tool which helps (agents) (interaction) identify and unpick interaction between interdependent and interlocking aspects of the social Cultural worldStructureomitted (ideas) • Articulating distinctive properties of differentfor sake domains as precursor to studyingof brevity! transformations within and between them. • This approach not specific to social media.1. Social media is transforming the experience and practice of individual human agents.2. Social media is transforming the genesis, sustainability and general character of relational networks between human agents3. Social media is transforming the articulation, dissemination and archival of ideas at the level of individual agents, relational networks and social institutions.
A SOCIAL THEORY OF SOCIAL MEDIA #2 • Case study: the emergence of the asexual community in the early 21st century • Did asexuals suddenly come into being 10 years ago? Then why has there been such a rapid & dramatic increase in the visibility and communality of asexuals? 1. Social media (viz bulletin boards, blogs, youtube) massively increased the possibility of relationality between individual agents who were emotionally and geographically isolated. 2. This had profound existential implications for the persons concerned („coming home‟, „finding where I belong in the world‟, „finally understanding who I was‟) 3. It also led to a proliferation of ideas about asexuality: labels, discourses, narratives, theories.• This is/was a cyclical , interconnected and self-reinforcing process: change in each domain feeds into changes in other domains • 1 2, 1 3, 2 3, 32 , 31, 21 etc. • However the dynamics of each moment in the process are/were distinct.
A SOCIAL THEORY OF SOCIAL MEDIA #3• Tentative and sketchy outline of what could be a powerful systematic theoretical approach for (a) understanding the impact of social media.• Main issue = emergent systemic complexity (b)• Allows the delineation of distinct moments in processes of transformation (1 st order dynamics) (c)• Allows identification of emergent consequences of each moment for both the transformative process itself and other extrinsic processes of transformation (2nd order dynamics)• Processes which are intrinsically cyclical, interpenetrative (d) and messy.• They should be studied in a way which is non-reductive (e) and non-conflationary.• Yet recognises that the emergent properties of the (f) transformative process are driven by the characteristics of its distinct moments.
ENCOURAGING SOCIAL MEDIA UPTAKE #1The Importance of the Personal • Deliberative The Reluctant • Emotional • Habitual • Deliberative The Curious • Emotional • Habitual • Deliberative The • Emotional Enthusiasts • Habitual
ENCOURAGING SOCIAL MEDIA UPTAKE #2 The Importance of the Relational 1. How do academic networks form? How are they sustained? 2. What are their general characteristics? Or identifiable divergent trends?• What non-social communicative technologies are embedded in (1) and (2)? How is social media already embedded in (1) and (2)? • How do both sets of technologies constrain and enable relational practices within academia? • How could social media transform these practices?• Social media should be conceptualised in terms which are commensurable with existing relational practices – they do existing things differently rather than being an entirely new category in their own right.
ENCOURAGING SOCIAL MEDIA UPTAKE #3 The Importance of the CulturalHow are academic ideas articulated? How are they disseminated? How are they archived? • What non-social communicative technologies are embedded in these cultural practices? • How is social media already embedded in these cultural practices? • How does each set of technologies constrain and enable cultural practices within academia? • How could social media transform these practices? • The practice and the technology contingently embedded within it need to be kept conceptually distinct.
SOCIAL SCIENCE 2.0? • Social media use within academia should be conceptualised in terms of existing professional practices within multiple domains: personal, relational, cultural. • Majority of these practices currently utilise technology in some form.• What constraints and enablements do those technologies impose upon existing academic practices?• Sometimes there may be extrinsic (unavoidable?) reasons for academic practice being wedded to inefficient technology. • Promotion of social media uptake should be focused on (a) technologies that SHOULD be replaced (b) technologies that CAN be replaced. • Piece meal process / grounded in existing practices & proclivities / local: grounded in departments & non-departmental networks / participatory. • But also transformation – how radically?