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Introduction to Social Network Sites CSC8008 Dr. Rob Comber.

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1 Introduction to Social Network Sites CSC8008 Dr. Rob Comber

2 Aims Over the next two weeks – Basics of social network sites What defines social network sites? Who uses them? How much? What do they do? – Analysing social networks Perspectives – social capital vs. social support, persuasion, marketing and social contagion Community vs. networks Methods – qualitative vs. quantitative

3 A redundant introduction? In all likelihood you have visited a social network site in the last week, day or hour – 1 in 5 hours spent on the internet in the UK is spent on Social Network sites (SNSs)

4 Who here use a social network site? What are the most popular? What websites do you use that aren’t SNSs?

5 SNS vs. others SNS Facebook Twitter Not SNS BBC Blackboard?

6 Defining SNSs Lots of sites recognised as SNSs are available – But what makes a SNS a SNS? Get into groups of 3 and discuss. – Write a short description of a ‘generic’ SNS

7 A brief history… The history of SNSs is not very well defined No clear ‘origin’ 1997: SixDegrees first SNSs (as we might recognise them now) is launched 1999: The features became incorporated in other services, such as the blogging platform, LiveJournal. 2000: SixDegrees closes 2001: CyWorld, a Korean SNS, is launched (and still going strong) 2002: Friendster, the first widely popular American SNS, is launched 2003: LinkedIn, MySpace, Last.FM and other ‘interest- based’ SNSs launch 2004: Facebook launches as a Harvard only SNS 2006: marks the launch of Twitter and the opening up of Facebook to everyone

8 Defining social network sites The most widely accepted paper on the history and definition of SNSs, defines them as “web-based services that allow individuals to: – (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, – (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and – (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” boyd, and Ellison, 2007.

9 What do these mean? “construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system” – How do we ‘construct’? – Public/semi-public? But not private? – Within a bounded system?

10 Constructing ‘Construct’ usually means to build from the bottom up – But on SNSs, it usually means something more like “fill in the blanks” – But this has been one of the big differences between sites What does the user “construct”?

11 MySpace vs. Facebook

12 Public/semi-public Most SNSs have some features to limit the availability of your profile/data – But are usually based on you opting out of making your profile public More important than this is the idea of which publics you want to address – Who are the publics we address?

13 Bounded system What does this mean? – SNSs are ‘bounded’ be their domain address – But we interact with people outside of those E.g. Face-to-face, but also on other sites (e.g. Like button) – What binds the system/users?

14 Working backwards Bounded system -> publics -> constructing. Bounded system of Social Network Sites is... – The Social Network

15 Social Network theory Social networks describe the people in a network and the relationships between them – People are nodes – Relationships are ties

16 A simple network A C B A knows B, and B knows C. A and C are connected through their relationship to B. Strong tie Weak tie Node Strong tie

17 Draw your own social network Get a piece of paper and spend 5 minutes drawing your own social network

18 A more complex social network What did your social network drawing end up looking like? – Where did you put yourself? – How did you show the relationships between you and others? – Did you differentiate between groups of people? – How did you show who you were close to?

19 Some example diagrams Small/personalCorporate/HierarchicalOrganisation/Hierarchical

20 Social networks Social networks are evident in all social interactions – We can examine organisations, corporations, families, neighbourhoods, cities, clubs… Just about anything as a social network

21 Family tree

22 Organisation Do you think this describes any real company? Or a family tree really describes how a family interacts?

23 From structure to publics The structures create opportunities for publics – Bob knows everybody And is connected to everybody – Andrew only knows Bob So only Bob should see his information Do you agree?

24 Publics Even if Andrew only knows Bob, he is present on Bob’s profile - in his friend list, and so on. Therefore, some of Andrew’s data is made public to people he doesn’t know – And there is no real way to limit that, except not to connect with anyone (a private profile isn’t a social profile)

25 Features of SNS ties Social network ties are: – Public Your ties to others are visible to an unknown ‘networked public’ – Mutual When you connect to someone, they connect to you – There are no ‘one-sided’ ties – Decontextualised It doesn’t matter if you are a colleague, a friend, an aunt – you are connected in the same network – Univariate Again, it doesn’t matter if you are my best friend, or someone I met at a party four years ago, you are still my ‘Friend’ – there are only two levels of connection – on and off. – Donath and boyd, 2004

26 Social network ties AEBCD When I connect with someone: Others can see it (public) The person I connect to, is connected to me (mutual) It doesn’t matter who I am connecting to, it is shared all the same (decontextualised) It is the same as every other tie I have (univariate) AB

27 Social network ties Get into groups of 3. Discuss: – What consequences might there be from all social network ties being public? – Why does it matter that my relationships don’t have the background information with them? – And that they are not expressed in a way that uses the contextual information?

28 Why do people use SNSs? There a plenty of reasons to use SNSs – And they depend largely on what SNS you are talking about – So let’s pick one… – Facebook

29 SNS = Facebook? “in April 2011 Facebook was visited by 24.8 million UK internet users, more than six times as many visitors as to the second most-visited site, Twitter.” - OfCom More than 90% of social networking time is spent on Facebook

30 Facebook has dominated the SNS space, and many would consider it the only SNS worth developing for, analysing, or using.

31 Growth across demographics AB: upper-middle/middle class, C1: lower middle, C2: skilled working, D: semi-/unskilled E: retired/unemployed

32 Cross-cultural? But SNS use is extremely cultural – Have you heard of Qzone? Habbo? Renren? – How about Orkut? Vkontakte? CyWorld? Hi5? Orkut belongs to Google, but has only become popular in India and Brazil – So they’ve launched Google+ to the rest of the world


34 Why use Facebook? Joinson (2008) Two part study – first part, 137 users (88 female, mean age=26.3) What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about what you enjoy most when using Facebook?

35 Uses and gratifications (Joinson,2008) ThemeNumber of mentions ‘Keeping in touch’ Contacting friends who are away from home Chatting to people I otherwise would have lost contact with 52 Passive contact, social surveillance Virtual people-watching. 19 ‘Re-acquiring lost contacts’ Finding people you haven't seen for a while 15 ‘Communication’ Being poked Private messages Writing on walls 15 Photographs Tagged in picture Posting and Sharing pictures 11 Design related Ease of use 4 Perpetual contact Seeing what people have put as their 'status' Seeing what my friends have been up to today 4 ‘Making new contacts’ Talking to singles Joining groups 5

36 Study 2 241 participants Based on previous study: “How important are the following uses of Facebook to you personally?’ 1 (very unimportant) to 7 (very important).

37 Factors of Facebook gratification Social connections - Finding out what old friends are doing now Shared identities - Joining groups, events Photographs Content - Applications within Facebook, games, quizzes Social investigation - Virtual people watching Social network surfing - Viewing other people’s friends Status updates

38 Predicting use - frequency Women logged in more often Based on the 7 gratifications – Those more interested in photographs and status updates logged in more often – Those interested in social investigation logged in marginally more often

39 Predicting use - length Younger people spend longer online Only content gratification predicted more lengthy use – May be inherent in the time taken to play games, quizzes, etc.

40 Predicting use – number of friends Younger people have more friends People who are registered for longer, or who visit more often have more friends People more interested in content had less friends People with higher score on social investigation had more friends

41 Users vs. Non-users Ofcom carried out qualitative analysis of users and non-users

42 Users 5 categories of users – Alpha Socialisers (a minority) – people who used sites in intense short bursts to flirt, meet new people, and be entertained. – Attention Seekers – (some) people who craved attention and comments from others, often by posting photos and customising their profiles. – Followers – (many) people who joined sites to keep up with what their peers were doing. – Faithfuls – (many) people who typically used social networking sites to rekindle old friendships, often from school or university. – Functionals – (a minority) people who tended to be single- minded in using sites for a particular purpose.

43 Non-users 3 categories – Concerned about safety – people concerned about safety online, in particular making personal details available online. – Technically inexperienced – people who lack confidence in using the internet and computers. – Intellectual rejecters – people who have no interest in social networking sites and see them as a waste of time.

44 Where do you fit? And of what interest is that position to others? – Advertising? – Recruitment? – University?

45 Next week We will be looking at how we can begin to analyse social network sites – Networks vs. communities – Persuasion, marketing and social contagion – Social capital vs. social support

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