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Virtual ethnography. Virtual methods and the sociology of cyber-social-scientific knowledge, in Hine C. Virtual Methods. Oxford: Berg. Howard, P.
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Online, we have no identity information in the form of bodies in the corporeal sense — which obscures identity information Cubitt, To be able to exist in mediated contexts, Internet users have to rely on text, visual, audio or video information to communicate identity. Media studies and ethnography have both been used to analyze and interpret meaning in the production and reception of media texts.
Instead, we can concentrate on different ways of thinking about our relationship with technology, our assumptions, attitudes, perceptions and experiences. For these reasons ethnography can be seen as an ideal methodological tool for exploring the ways identity communication and interpretation is experienced by participants in an online environment.
As the popularity of social media exponentially increases, researchers from many different academic disciplines including media studies, sociology, psychology and anthropology continue to attempt to define the relationship between technology and society, culture and the individual. Ethnographic interview-based research offers answers to questions concerning why people engage in community and identity construction on social media platforms. What fuels the need or the cultural pressures of representing oneself in a virtual space online? Social media is such a new phenomena that it is difficult to pin down and describe.
Placing communication technology into historical contexts can help place the current puzzling phenomena into perspective or at the very least, organize the technology in a timeline of events.
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From the written word to the Guttenberg press, the telegraph, radio and television to the Internet and the World Wide Web, technology has always brought about great cultural changes that have been referred to as: industrial, technological, scientific, information and digital revolutions Castells, ; McLuhan, ; Kuhn, During periods of great technological change, grasping and perceiving what is going on in our own time proves to be challenging. The serious artist is the only person able to encounter technology with impunity, just because he is an expert aware of the changes in sense perception.
An analogy used to describe social media in previous media forms would be considering the impact if everyone was given their own television channel or newspaper — and they were given unlimited opportunity to present whatever ideas they could think of. The platform is merely mediating, the content is the user — without the users willingness to share, perform or connect using the platform, there would be no content.
The experience is subjective, in the fact that every user will interpret the environment, interpret other user's actions, and decide themselves what is safe to post and what is not safe to share, how they choose to present themselves and interpret meaning from the information shared by others. How to people react to a new environment like this? We have no precedence for such social environments since the software is designed to coerce more user interaction. In this kind of environment, the social network user is put in a precarious position, where the urge to share can be overshadowed by the fear of that others reactions will be and the task of performing or enacting different personas for different groups of people ,much like 'real life' social contexts.
All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts. The private sphere being the backstage, and the public sphere being the front stage and every audience member or situation dictating a symbolic interaction. Intersubjectivity and identity as co-construction through interaction with others was further explored in the field of phenomenology and hermeneutics by scholars such as Paul Ricoeur.
Ricoeur theorized that the self is revealed through interaction with others, making contact with others an intersubjective relationship which is further embedded in social customs, groups, communities and cultural traditions. So it is a mediating stage in a process of communication, man and man; referentiality, or man and the world; but also self-understanding, man and himself.
Individuality exists within a social sphere and what individuals may conceptualize as their own special personality, is actually a continual co-construction with every interaction and appropriation of other subjective markers such as social, collective and cultural identities. In the same way, social networks provide individuals with platforms on which they can construct and communicate identities by cultural markers of identity including who they associate or communicate with, as well as community or collective connections.
The idea of identity by association has been a recurring theme in my own research, which has used an ethnographic approach to researching how artists, writers, academics and other creative professionals understand self-presentation on Facebook. My research was conducted in a casual setting, with face-to face offline conversations based on a list of questions, of how artists construct and interpret identity on Facebook. The findings were surprising in that the tone ranged from neurosis and paranoia to critical and cynical reactions from my informants.
It seemed that being questioned about Facebook is an uncomfortable conversation for many people as there seems to be a social stigma and judgmental reaction that extends to how they present themselves and interpret the actions of others on Facebook. When asked how they present themselves or how they communicate who they are and if they worry about the way other people perceive them, people responded with rather restricted, curt responses or avoided answering the question by talking about something else.
When asked how others present themselves the respondents reacted much more openly and responsively with enthusiasm and information, albeit cynical and sarcastic at times. The following responses are to a question posed in every interview asking: How do people communicate who they are on Facebook?
How do they tell others about themselves? Then you know what kind of friends he usually has and you can figure out the rest. I think in Facebook is training you to become a detective! You can trace something before you ask! Who he knows, this gives me quite a good idea of what kind of person he is.
So probably, ok. If they put pictures with their friends or certain people in these pictures then they show what kind of social life they have, you know this kind of stuff. If people have children, they have to put all the photos of their children up because then you can see how successful he or she is in this area. Good pictures, good texts — and a good mixture of both.