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Quali social network studiamo?

- Sociological “personal” networks. Sociologists have been working hard to measure people’s

personal networks and much of the theory of social networks stems from analysis done on these

networks. Different scholars have taken different approaches to measuring personal networks,

but, most stereotypically, this takes the form of a clipboard and pencil as a young grad student

queries an individual to recall who they talked to yesterday and indicate who they would lend

money to or call when they are having an emotional breakdown. Most sociological theory stems

from analyses of these personal networks. Social capital, weak ties, homophily, … all of those

theories you’ve heard about are based on personal networks.

- Behavioral social networks. Behavioral social networks are the networks derived from encounters

between individuals. In their efforts to measure personal networks, sociologists have often tried

to get people to manually document encounters with others through diary studies. With new

technologies in place, folks have gone on to generate behavioral social networks through the

traces people leave behind

- Publicly articulated social networks. Articulated social networks are the social networks that you

intentionally list. In some senses, this is what sociologists are eliciting, but people also articulate

their social networks for other purposes. Address books and buddy lists are articulated social

networks. So too are invitation lists. Most recently, this practice took a twist with the rise of social

network sites that invite you to PUBLICLY articulate your social network

(d. boyd, 2009) 18

Studiare i SNS

• Networked Individualism, privatization of sociability, ego-centered

networks

• Le tecnologie della comunicazion erendono maggiormente visibili

dinamiche che vedono i soggetti muoversi senza soluzione di

continuità tra ambienti off- e ambienti online, non si tratta di spazi

separati, ma di ambienti sempre più embedded nella vita quotidiana.

• Fenomeno più ampio rispetto ai Social Network Sites, che però sono

ambienti particolarmente efficaci nel rendere visibili simili dimensioni

e che consentono di tenere traccia delle successive attualizzazioni,

evidenziando la competenza e la consapevolezza con cui gli utenti

mettono in atto tali dinamiche e i correlati processi di self

presentation.

• Inoltre, i SNS rappresentano potenti aggregatori, che incorporano

alcune forme di comunicazione (online: IM, Blog, ecc.) e ne

rimediano molte altre (a partire dalla stessa interazione face-to-face,

Livingstone 2008, p. 395; Bolter e Grusin, 1999). 19

I profili personali

• Nella costruzione dei profili i soggetti articolano consapevolmente gli elementi

che contribuiscono alla gestione della propria auto-presentazione (self

presentation, impression management).

• La voce “Interessi e personalità” di MySpace, ad esempio, si articola in: “Chi

sono”, “mi piacerebbe conoscere”, “interessi”, “musica”, “film”, “televisione”,

“libri”, “eroi” (la quasi totalità di queste voci è rilevabile anche in Facebook,

Friendster, Orkut).

• I soggetti articolano esplicitamente le dinamiche attraverso le quali i gusti e, in

particolare, i consumi mediali forniscano materiale simbolico che contribuisce

in modo significativo alla nostra presentazione agli altri e, in ultima istanza,

alla rappresentazione della nostra identità. Taste statement e Taste

performance.

• Il profilo non è determinato una volta per tutte, al momento della registrazione:

la sua costruzione e manutenzione rappresenta per molti utenti un’attività

impegnativa, cui i soggetti (soprattutto i più giovani) possono dedicarsi con

una certa regolarità, mettendo in campo processi di continua revisione del

Self (Livingstone 2008, p. 403), aggiornando e arricchendo il profilo con

informazioni spesso realistiche, a partire dalla propria fotografia.

20

Profili e presentazione del self

• L'identità è “qualcosa che facciamo”, piuttosto che “qualcosa

che abbiamo” (Buckingham, 2008)

• In MySpace non solo writing identity and community into being

(boyd 2007): inserire codice html e css, offrendo l’opportunità

di personalizzare le pagine attraverso la modifica del template

e l’inserimento di filmati, gallerie di immagini, musica nei

campi originariamente progettati per l’inserimento di

descrizioni testuali

• Il ruolo di primo piano esercitato dai consumi mediali nella

costruzione dei profili e, in ultima analisi, nella presentazione

del self mostra la consapevolezza dei soggetti che, sempre di

più, il materiale simbolico offerto dai media entra con forza

crescente nei processi di autocostruzione (dentro e fuori dagli

spazi mediati). 21

Some highlights from our findings

• Our data show that, both on MySpace and on Facebook, people

mostly add “realistic” information, starting from their picture and

following also with “critical information” such as “relationship status”,

“religious view” and so on.

• As an example, the Facebook users that have answered our survey

almost never show their home address or phone number in personal

profiles (namely, only 6,9% and 8,1%; 4,7% and 4,1% of female

respondents), but are quite likely to add critical information such as

“relationship status” (68,2%), education (80,4%), work (53,6%),

personal pictures (95,6%); political view has been filled out by 35,8%,

while religious view by 41,4% (even including ironical descriptions).

• Competition between self disclosure and privacy concerns: a poorely

articulated profile is less attractive; hypothesis: users seem to

communicate even critical information, if they believe it contributes to

a better self presentation, while hiding those kind of higly critical

information (phone number and address) that doesn’t add any value

to the actractiveness of their profile

• (Francesca Comunello, Simone Mulargia, ESA, Bocconi, ottobre

2010) 22

Continuous revision of the self

• Consistently with the idea of an evolving and “processual

identity”, most users seam to be engaged in continuous

activities of profile redefinition and re-shaping. They often

modify, for example, their profile pictures, their status updates

and even their friend list, engaging in what has been defined

by Sonia Livingstone (referring to MySpace users) as a

“continuous revision of the self” (2008: 403).

• Status updates:

– 8,1% never

– 24,9% less than once a month

– 17,8% 2-3 times a month

– 49,3% once a week or more

– 15,3% almost every day (18,2% female respondents)

– 4,7% more than once a day (5,9% female respondents)

23

Taste performance

• Hugo Liu conduce analisi estensiva sui gusti dei soggetti analizzati in

MySpace, comparandoli con quelli dei rispettivi Top Friends

• Prestigio e differenziazione: “gli interessi degli utenti tendono ad essere più

distanti dai gusti dei propri amici di quanto ci si sarebbe aspettato” (Liu p. 22):

questo dipenderebbe proprio dal desiderio di differenziarsi, di mostrarsi unici

• Ma: contesto più ampio in cui gli utenti gestiscono le proprie relazioni sociali e

integrazione tra relazionalità online e relazionalità offline. E’ ragionevole

ipotizzare che i “migliori amici” elencati in MySpace siano soggetti con cui si

ha una forte relazione anche offline e rispetto ai quali la condivisione di gusti e

interessi così specifici (non il cinema d’autore, ma il cinema di un determinato

autore…) non rappresenti che uno tra gli elementi su cui si basa il legame, e

non necessariamente il più rilevante

• per molti dei soggetti il core delle relazioni sociali (on e offline) non sarà

necessariamente rappresentato da contatti con cui si condividono gusti.

• Soprattutto in relazione alle amicizie più strette e di più vecchia data, la

maggior parte dei soggetti sembra disposta a mettere tra parentesi i gusti (o

almeno una loro articolazione così serrata), fondando invece il legame (la sua

intensità, la sua centralità) sulla condivisione di esperienze.

• Piuttosto, l’articolazione dei gusti può rappresentare uno strumento di

selezione per entrare in contatto con persone prima sconosciute

24

25

“Amicizia”?

• L’articolazione pubblica delle proprie “amicizie”

rappresenta un ambiente che contestualizza

l’identità di ciascuno (Donath e boyd, 2004), e l’atto

di stringere/dichiarare Amicizie online (friending)

rappresenta un’esplicita performance identitaria

(boyd, 2006).Identity as connection (Livingstone).

• Amicizie e conoscenti; “rifiuto” richiesta amicizia

• Top friends e negoziazioni

• MySpace e band: slittamento semantico tra fan e

friend (?) 26

“Friendship” under question

• The terms “friend” and “friendships”, when used referring both to

offline relations and to SNS, rise a number of questions.

• First of all we underline little systematic attention from sociologists on

the topic; the definition of the term itself is problematic, as the

concept appears to be fuzzy and less formalized than other forms of

relationship (see Spencer and Pahl, 2006, Allan and Adams, 2006)

• In SNS, the public display of a friend’s list contextualizes each user’s

identity (as argued by boyd and Donath, 2004), while the friending

activity represents an explicit identity performance.

• We should also evaluate the real meaning of those terms,

considering the strength of the ties we establish online.

• Friending is one of the core activities people perform on SNS, but its

meaning has been repeatedly under question. Some argue that a

wide network, even if based on weak ties, can serve as the

foundation of social capital. Others, on the contrary, underline that

most of Facebook users show a kind of neutral attitude towards their

Facebook friends. 27

Friending strategies

• FB Friends: Average number of friends: 240 (according to

Facebook official data, average FB user has 130 friends)

• Consistently with the findings reported in existing literature,

our MySpace respondents appear to be quite open towards

the friend requests they receive: 69% of them declare to

accept more that the half of the requests they receive.

• The results from the Facebook survey, on the other hand,

show different approaches to friending: 55% accept more than

the half of the received friend requests, while 30% accept

“only a small part” of received requests.

• Young adults we have interviewed (both FB and MySpace

users), confirmed to be aware of different friending strategies:

on Facebook, they act more selectively, preferring to add (or

representing themselves as adding) mainly people they know

offline, while accepting a broader variety of people on

MySpace (from “celebrities” to “people they don’t know

offline”). 28

Friending strategies: some more questions

• Even if we only have preliminary data referring to Facebook users, there seem

to emerge an interesting mismatch between what users say, when asked

about their propension to accept friend requests from specific categories of

persons, and what they say about the global composition of their friend list.

• On the one hand users declare a weak propension to accept friend requests

from people they don’t have a significant tie with: on a scale going from 1

(minimum propension) to 5 (maximum propension), 47% answered 1 or 2

referring to “friends you know from other websites”, 64% answered 1 or 2

referring to “friends of a friend”, 70% answered 1 or 2 referring to “people they

don’t know very much” and 90% answered 1 or 2 referring to “strangers”.

• On the other hand, when asked “how many of your FB friends do you consider

friends in the real world”, 57% answered “less than the half”.

• This mismatch needs further investigation but, even if we cannot exclude that

social desirability plays an important role, our hypothesis is that it deals with

the difference between a synchronic dimension (the idea I have of my

network considered as a whole), and a diachronic dimension (the attitude I

have today towards someone asking to be added as a friend). This hypothesis

has to be related with the acceleration of personal relation’s lifecycles people

experience today.

• Moreover, users seem to have clear friending patterns, showing different level

of propension towards adult family members and young family members,

schoolmates and collegues, etc. 29

“Friendship” definitions on- and offline

• Referring to the strength of the ties we have online, and especially in SNS, we

can underline a mismatch between the friending practices supported by SNS

and what people experience offline.

• SNS require friendship formalization, through the public (and forced)

articulation of social connections; generally, people receive (or send) a friend

request they have to respond to and their friend list is shown on their personal

profile. On the contrary, in everyday life friendships are quite never formalized

or explicitly established and verified.

• As argued in the Digital Youth Report, “because Friends are displayed on

social network sites, there are social tensions concerning whom to include and

exclude” (p. 11). Especially among teenagers, there are constant negotiations

regarding the friending practice (social norms are still “under construction”).

• Moreover, SNS generally support a binary, dichotomous definition of

“friendship” (friend vs not friend), which is far from the subtle definition people

use in their offline lives.

• Top Friends: strong negotiations (“social drama”)

• Facebook Friend Lists: a tool to better manage the different “typologies” of

friends each user has on the platform, mainly related to the rising privacy

concerns. (74,8% of our users never used them) 30

Profiles/taste performances + friendships/friend lists

• Many Scholars describe identity as a complex concept, both referring

to “something unique” to each of us, and also implying “a relationship

with a broader collective or social group” (Buckingham 2008)

• Till now we have addressed the two topics, profiles/taste

performances and friendships/friend lists, as they were separated,

but of course they are not.

• More specifically, friend lists serve as an important part of a person’s

self-representation on a SNS. As argued by Sonia Livingstone when

proposing the idea of identity as connection, Teens (ad SNS users

more generally) use Friends to enact their identity (Livingstone

2008). On the other hand, in environments where they are more likely

to accept as a “friend” even people they don’t know offline, personal

profiles and more specifically the tastes expressed by others, are one

of the main element users consider to decide whether or not to

accept a friend request (or even to request a friendship).

31

Tastes and friending

• When the focus of a Social Network Site is not only “helping to connect with

the people of your life” (Facebook), but also connecting with people you didn’t

know offline, tastes seem to become crucial. This is especially true within

Social Networks that are focused on cultural consumption (MySpace and

Last.fm, if we refer to music) or that are more “task oriented”, such as, for

example, the PlayStation Network.

• We are currently working, together with Sony Computer Entertainment Italy,

on a survey that has involved more than 8800 Italian PlayStation Network

users. Among other topics, we are investigating the way in which those users

create and manage their friend lists.

• Not surprisingly, when using the PlayStation Network, users mainly focus on

gaming. Therefore, even their friend lists are built in a way that could be

defined as “game-driven”: when asked about the main elements they consider

for accepting/requesting a friendship, 65% of our respondents mention as an

important element “sharing the same tastes concerning videogames”, 62%

“having played together”, while only 15% mention as important elements their

avatar or nickname; even “knowing a person offline” (the main element in

most of SNS) has a weaker role: 46%

• On the PSN, people appear generally much less interested in friending: 93%

of our 8800 respondents have from 0 (29%) to 40 friends, while the average

number of friends in other platforms, more social-oriented, is much higher (on

FB:130 – official FB data). 32

Online/offline

• Online and Offline: two separate worlds? (Early distopians)

• As the Internet becomes growingly integrated in our everyday

life, the theoretical framework offered by the networked

individualism has helped to acknowledge that there wasn’t a

deep gap between online and offline sociability. Digital

technology was not leading to social isolation.

• This trend becomes even clearer studying SNS, where people

are connecting to each other in a way they perceive seamless

to everyday life.

• In our research, we have observed people moving from offline

relations towards online relations and vice versa, moving from

an online contact to an offline relationship.

• Maintainaning, reinforcing or repristinating connections?

33

Online/offline via SNS?

• Even on MySpace, where users are more likely to add someone they

didn’t know offline, the maintenance function (maintaining a contact

with close friends, especially if not – more – living in the same area)

has a strong prevalence (91% of respondents use MySpcace to keep

contact with close friends sometimes or often), followed by the

reinforcement function (strengthen weaker relations: 74%, sometimes

or often) and by repristination function (using the SNS to reactivate

broken ties: 50%).

• No relevant gender distinctions. The maintenance function becomes

increasingly important when the respondent’s age grows, while the

repristination function is more positively associated with younger

people.

• Moreover, 76% of the MySpace respondents have met (offline)

people they have known on MySpace.

• And with regards to music consumption: after having discovered a

band trough MySpace, 44% of respondents declare to have

participated to their live concerts (39% have looked for other songs

online and only 17% have added the band’s songs to their own

profile). 34

Privacy?

• Il concetto di privacy, se applicato ai SNS, è frainteso (Livingstone

2008).

• Nei SNS gli utenti sono portati a rendere visibili a un numero elevato

di contatti informazioni comunemente ritenute private (età, opinioni

politiche, religione, ecc.); questo non significa necessariamente che

si tratti di soggetti completamente inconsapevoli o disinteressati alla

propria privacy.

• Piuttosto, andrebbe introdotta “a definition of privacy not tied to the

disclosure of certain types of information, rather a definition centered

on having control over who knows what about you” (Livingstone

2008, p. 404, corsivo mio).

• Questo si lega alla definizione di amicizia con cui operano i soggetti e

alla giustapposizione di (porzioni di network) differenti cui assistiamo

nei SNS. I soggetti, cioè, operano sulla base di una definizione di

amicizia molto più raffinata del dato binario (amico/non amico, o

amico/top friend) generalmente supportato dai SNS, graduando il

livello di intimità intrattenuto con i propri contatti, funzione raramente

supportata da queste piattaforme 35

Giustapposizione di network differenti

• Nei diversi ambienti, la lista dei nostri contatti (dalla rubrica

telefonica ai contatti msn) può rappresentare almeno una

porzione dei nostri legami sociali virtualizzati, che siamo di

volta in volta chiamati ad attualizzare selettivamente

attraverso eventi comunicativi

• Nei SNS, generalmente, troviamo giustapposti contatti che

possono far parte di universi completamente diversi, che non

avrebbero alcuna possibilità di trovarsi contigui in contesti

pratici della vita quotidiana. Troviamo cioè giustapposti, quindi

articolati sull’asse sintagmatico, soggetti che, in altri contesti,

sarebbero collocati sull’asse paradigmatico. Soggetti che, a

meno di non aver impostato in modo estremamente analitico e

articolato i privacy settings del proprio profilo, si trovano ad

essere destinatari di messaggi che spesso dischiudono

porzioni di backstage e di proiezione identitaria cui non

sempre avrebbero accesso in altri contesti. 36

• Non si tratta di una semplice contiguità (anche nella rubrica

del telefono contatti diversi sono contigui), ma della

contemporanea esposizione di tutti i nostri contatti ai

successivi eventi comunicativi che mettiamo in atto operando

(in)consapevolmente successive attualizzazioni che si

rivolgono contemporaneamente alla totalità dei network in cui

siamo presenti nell’ambiente mediato.

• Questo si collega anche a una riflessione più ampia sulle

proiezioni identitarie: ciascuno di noi fa parte di molteplici

network, all’interno dei quali magnifica o narcotizza alcuni tratti

della propria identità (in un contesto di connettività che

Wellman definisce role to role). I diversi network sono loosely

joined, anzi, sono proprio i soggetti a fungere da connettore.

37


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DESCRIZIONE DISPENSA

Questa lezione fa riferimento al corso di Internet Studies tenuto dalla Prof.ssa Comunello, e analizza in fenomeno dei SNS. Vengono, in particolar modo, presi in considerazione Facebook e Twitter, i loro utenti, divisi per sesso e fasce di età, le motivazioni di uso e le attività, il concetto di privacy e di amicizia virtuale.


DETTAGLI
Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea magistrale in industria culturale e comunicazione digitale
SSD:
A.A.: 2011-2012

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di INTERNET STUDIES e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università La Sapienza - Uniroma1 o del prof Comunello Francesca.

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