(SPOILER ALERT if you read this before saturday 8.30 pacific time.. :)).
On saturday morning, I’ll be participating in a round table discussion on Social Networking Sites. Nancy Baym, our chair, asked us discussants to answer three questions in advance; here they are with my answers as well:
(1) Identify your angle on studying social network sites.
I see practices consisting of individual episodes framed by three structural dimensions:
(a) rules: shared routines and expectations on how to use a given application or combination of applications to obtain sought gratifications
(b) relations: the social connections articulated and/or built through use
(c) code: the underlying software and its architecture
Structural dimensions are not determining actual use, but rather are (re)produced through it
(2) Identify the topic(s) they think are most in need of study.
How is social capital accumulated on social network sites? Do they increase, decrease, not change at all existing differences in social capital between different groups (class, ethnicity, gender, milieux?)
Where does power lie within social network sites? With the developers? The users? The regulators? A combination of all three?
(3) Identify the 2 or 3 trickiest parts of doing the kind of research.
The analytical model of networking practices (see (1)) does call for an multi-method research design – who is funding these kinds of ambitious projects? :)
Research ethics: Are there legal and/or ethical restrictions in using data that is provided by the users on the sites?