As technology advances and becomes more and more integrated in the lives of its users, scholars have a difficult time defining emerging/digital/social/mobile/new media. There are so many lenses in which to approach research on these topics. Current trends around internet privacy, mobile access, omni-screening, users’ attention span and social media sharing trends.
Even with diversity in new and emerging media, the literature in this field might not reflect the global diversity that can be found online.
A major take-away from this week’s readings is from the Stoycheff et al article which examines the tendency for Facebook to be the norm in research around social network sites. This social media brand is dominant as an area of focus in the literature.
Diversification in future social science studies is vital. Devotion to Facebook in research does no justice to the relevance of other types of online social networking.
As an early-in-the-program doctoral student, I am genuinely curious as to why more studies haven’t been done on lesser studied areas in the field. Areas that come to mind are young people and teenagers as consumers, the numerous sub-fields of social media, or more recently developed SNS like Snapchat?
With some of topics, there is added difficulty to conduct certain types of studies. There are legal hoops to jump through, more stringent ethical guidelines, etc. Pointing this out is not to say this added difficulty is not necessary. But should it be discouraged because it is more difficult? Are some scholars avoiding these topics because of the difficulty?
There are many areas of research to consider that have been relatively under studied.
A study on a users’ lack of participation online would be telling. What users are not saying and doing online can be just as intriguing as what they are saying. This point is observed by boyd and Ellison in 2007 who state that scholars have “a limited understanding of who is and who is not using these sites, why and for what purposes, especially outside the US” (p. 224).
As mentioned, we can then consider relatively, unstudied SNS like Snapchat. This closed-network social network site is difficult to investigate, simply by its “private” nature.
When reflecting on the readings and the point I want to make with this post, danah boyd’s work continues to come to mind. For her methodology paper in which she focuses on “how technology fits into the daily lives of teenagers,” she describes how she dives right into their teen culture. Such a mindset is needed to consider a medium like Snapchat. An ethnographic study using personal social contacts could be done to gain insight to user’s behaviors and how it differs (if at all) from other, more traditional SNS.
As the online work continues to grow and the creators of these apps and sites become more creative, as should the social-technology scholars. With new technology comes new impacts on society that need to be investigated.
boyd, d. and Ellison, N.B. (2007). Social network sites: definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13(1): 210–230.
boyd. d. Making Sense of Teen Life: Strategies for Capturing Ethnographic Data in a
Networked Era. Digital Research Confidential. Feb 17, 2016
Stoycheff, E., Liu, J., Wibowo, K.A., Nanni, D.P. (2017). What have we learned about social media by studying Facebook? A decade in review. New Media & Society, 19(6) 968-980.