This week’s reading by boyd and Ellison (2008) focuses on the definition and history of Social Network Sites (SNSs) and their progression as the Web has advanced. I agree with the distinction made between the terms social network site and social networking site; although these terms are often used interchangeably, boyd and Ellison (2008) decided to use the term network rather than networking. Networking ‘emphasizes relationship initiation, often between strangers’ (boyd & Ellison 2008, pg 211) but this is not the primary function of many SNSs. Most users of SNSs are not ‘networking’ as in attempting to meet new people, but are connecting with people already in their social network (boyd & Ellison 2008).
A history of SNSs is explored in the article (2008), demonstrating their transformation as the popularity of such sites has increased and the capabilities of the Web expanded. Early SNSs such as SixDegrees.com, Friendster and Ryze were eventually replaced with sites such as MySpace and Facebook that are highly user-responsive and able to be easily manipulated by users to suit their own personal tastes and preferences.
I believe that SNSs are popular because they provide a simple way for people to remain in contact regardless of their geographic location. However, there is also an element of self-presentation; friendship links ‘serve as identity markers for the profile owner’ (boyd & Ellison 2008, pg 220) and affect how we are seen by others. SNSs raise many privacy issues as they are ‘challenging legal conceptions of privacy’ (boyd & Ellison 2008, pg 222) and have been the source of moral panic in the past. Most SNSs have responded to these concerns through amendments to privacy policies and by raising awareness of these matters.
– Katie Challita 3663620
boyd, dana & Ellison, Nicole (2008), ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship,’, Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, vol.13, pp.210-230
Image sourced from http://janeknight.typepad.com/socialmedia/2009/10/a-history-of-social-media.html
This week’s article by Cohen (2008) focuses on Facebook and the issues of privacy, the commodification of information, and the potential for social networking sites (SNS) to be used to create alternative messages. These areas were analysed through a gender-based lens, concentrating on young women and their perceptions of these issues.
The focus groups in the study found that SNS ‘present few opportunities for disseminating alternative messages or images about female sexuality’ (Cohen 2008, pg 211). I agree that the design constraints of Facebook limit the ability to communicate messages; however, I think that Facebook is a valid tool for raising awareness of social issues and could be used in conjunction with a more direct and proactive approach. High exposure and the possibility of online peer-to-peer communication and sharing indicate a possibility for wide-spread distribution of positive messages.
Participants of the study failed to see the potential of Facebook for communicating alternative messages due to its commercial aims – user-provided information is sold to third parties who can then specifically pursue their target market (Cohen 2008, pg 211-212). When I turned eighteen I noticed an immediate change in the advertisements on my Facebook page. My age (eighteen), gender (female) and relationship status (single), resulted in advertisements for dating websites featuring images of young men – these advertisements would not have appeared if I was under 18, male or in a relationship.
The focus groups determined that whilst they were ‘enthusiastic about the social possibilities of Facebook’ (Cohen 2008, pg 212), the commercialistic nature of Facebook and its functional constraints limited the potential for SNS to be used to project alternative messages especially about female sexuality.
– Katie Challita 3663620
Cohen, N 2008, ‘Gendering Facebook: Privacy and Commodification’, Journal of Feminist Media Studies, vol.8 issue.2, pp. 201-214
Image from Facebook.com‘s Official Facebook group