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Social Media as a Context for Identity and Power in Higher Education David Kasch, PhD California State University, February 12, 2014 Long Beach.

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Presentation on theme: "Social Media as a Context for Identity and Power in Higher Education David Kasch, PhD California State University, February 12, 2014 Long Beach."— Presentation transcript:

1 Social Media as a Context for Identity and Power in Higher Education David Kasch, PhD California State University, February 12, 2014 Long Beach

2 Background & Context Social network sites (SNSs) are significant environments o 90-95% of students actively use Facebook (Rainie, Smith, & Duggan, 2013) o Average of 1-2 hours a day, sometimes more (Junco, 2012) General research o Social space (Baym, 2010; boyd, 2008; Rainie & Wellman, 2012) o Psychological health/well-being (Gonzales & Hancock, 2011) o Privacy (Debatin, Lovejoy, Horn, & Hughes, 2009; Lewis, Kaufman, & Christakis, 2008) o Social capital (Ellison, Lampe, Steinfield, & Vitak, 2011)

3 Background & Context Higher education research o Curriculum support (Junco, Heiberger, & Loken, 2010) o Academic impact (Junco, 2012; Kirschner & Karpinski, 2010) o Student engagement (DeAndrea, Ellison, LaRose, Steinfield, & Fiore, 2012) o Alumni involvement (Farrow & Yuan, 2011) o Student culture (Birnbaum, 2008; Martínez Alemán & Wartman, 2009)

4 Purpose of Study Capture an understanding of how undergraduate students approach and interpret their self- presentations on Facebook Contribute a critical perspective of those interpretations to the growing research base on social media

5 Research Questions 1.What forms of self-presentation do students create through Facebook? 2.How do they create these self-presentations? 3.How do they interpret self-presentations by themselves and their peers? 4.How do students’ self-presentations contribute to their experiences within higher education?

6 Methodology Cyber-Ethnographic Methods (Hine, 2005) o Follows the basic tenets of ethnography with a focus on digital forms of participant observation, interviewing, and document analysis Constructivist Grounded Theory (Charmaz, 2006) o Knowledge is a social construction resulting from interpretation and reinterpretation of meaning attached to human activity o Uses open and interpretative data analysis through a process of constant comparison o Eschews a formal theoretical framework in favor of generating new theory o Supports the use of sensitizing concepts to help inform the research process

7 Methodology (cont.) Data Collection o Participants: 35 students, 21 colleges and universities, 11 states Gender: 24 female, 11 male Race/Ethnicity: 26 whites, 9 students of color (4 multi-racial) Sexual Orientation: 29 heterosexual, 6 LGBTAQ o Phase One Use and Demographics Survey (n=35): Google Forms Facebook Profiles (participant observation) (n=35): o Phase Two Semi-structured Interviews (n=25): Skype video chat

8 Methodology (cont.) Data Analysis o Constant Comparative Method (Charmaz, 2006) o Sequential Coding (Charmaz, 2006) Initial Coding, Focused Coding, Axial Coding, Thematic Coding Trustworthiness o Triangulation (Patton, 2002) Methods: participant observation, surveys, interviews Sources: participants Theory: constructivism, critical theory o Member-Checks (Merriam, 2009) o Reflective Journaling (Guba & Lincoln, 2005)

9 Findings Students were sophisticated users of Facebook who employed careful self-presentation strategies for multiple, concurrent audiences Findings emerged from two separate analyses o Constructivist Grounded Theory: The Curated Self o Critical Theory: The Commodified Self

10 The Curated Self Definition A digital self-presentation created through an ongoing curatorial process of organizing (assembling, revising, refining, and editing) media elements (photographs, text, video, and visual endorsements) on a Facebook profile in order to create a distinct digital embodiment of self that is both separate from and a continuation of the user’s physical self- presentation. Key Elements o Photos; status updates; Likes, comments, and About Me pages

11 Scrapbook Pragmatic Tool Relational Tool Entertainment Model of the Curated Self Spectacle Social Personal Layers of Curation Uses of Facebook

12 Scrapbook Pragmatic Tool Relational Tool Entertainment Layers of Curation Spectacle Social Personal Layers of Curation Uses of Facebook

13 Layers of Curation Personal o Involved posting to Facebook as a way to keep track of life events, experiences, and friendships o I've written myself a few messages on my own wall and just kept it private, just for me (Jill) Social o Emphasized self-presentation to communicate, bond, and interact with close friends and family, as well as more distant acquaintances o I just want them to see me. I know that it sounds vague, but I don't post anything to make me sound better than what I am or to make people want to talk to me. You know, I just post things that are significant in my life. (Kristin)

14 Layers of Curation (cont.) Spectacle o Centered around posting content explicitly for others to view, often strangers and authorities o We have a rule, you can only post pictures the day after, so that any time in the here and now, you can have a chance to think about, "Do I really want this on Facebook?" "Who do I really want to view this picture?”…Even if you block it, they can probably find it. So I'm pretty frugal with what I post. (Maddy)

15 Scrapbook Pragmatic Tool Relational Tool Entertainment Uses of Facebook Spectacle Social Personal Layers of Curation Uses of Facebook

16 Entertainment o Centered on scrolling through their News Feeds to learn about Friends’ activity, see new photos, and to explore article and video links o I get on it when I get home, and it's something that just stays in an open tab whether I'm looking at it or not. And then whenever I get bored of whatever I'm doing…I switch over to the Facebook tab and scroll through it really fast before I go back. (Dora) Relational o The default method for communicating with friends and family and a platform for learning about new or potential Friends o It’s also a way for me to feel like I’m still friends with my friends at home because it’s so hard to be over here. (Jill)

17 Uses of Facebook (cont.) Pragmatic o A way to coordinate group projects, support campaigns for student government, or promote student group events o I'm pretty sure what won me the election was just a constant bombardment of the same exact photo for probably 10 days straight. Other than that there's really no photos [on my profile]. (Reed) Scrapbook o A personal and group log of events and communication between Friends through photos, wall posts, and messaging o I lost every single [picture], except on Facebook. So that's one of the reasons I put everything on Facebook because it's a storage place for that …It's also nice to be able to show people like, ‘Hey, I've been to this place in Europe before. Check out my album.’ (Jill)

18 Scrapbook Pragmatic Tool Relational Tool Entertainment The Curated Self Spectacle Social Personal Layers of Curation Uses of Facebook

19 The Commodified Self Definition An amplification of the curated self to exploit hegemonic social norms using an identity surrogate as an object for production, consumption, and distribution. Emphasized identity as a form of capital and a thing one “owns,” rather than “is” or “does”

20 Self as Commodity Being interesting without being personal o I interpret my Facebook profile as it's simultaneously an expression of me and also kind of an advertisement. I don't put everything that goes on in my life or whatever up there because I know that the purpose of posting up there is for other people to see it. (Amanda) Using social feedback to shape appearance of self o Since the idea behind me posting things on Facebook is that other people will see them, there is some sort of response I hope to get. Which is why I usually don't post anything too late…So if I post something and it doesn't get any likes or comments or anything I just assume that either no one saw it or no one cared about it, which makes me kind of sad. (Andrew)

21 Others as Commodities Creeping o I'll go through their profile pictures or their tagged pictures …it's more “let me see what you have on this social networking site. I'm interested to see what you share with people.” (Melinda) o I used to really Facebook-stalk people and then that ruined the way I saw people because I was seeing things that weren't there. (Jill)

22 Others as Commodities Network Grooming o Modifying the list of Friends to associate with peers who bring acclaim or to restrict affiliation with undesirable peers o I pretty much just went through the list and just like “well, haven’t talked to that person,” “I don't even know who that person is,”…coming to college, I accepted tons of Friend requests, because I met people for a second and then four months later never talked to them again. I actually do have a lot of maintenance on [my Friend list] because I don't like people that I don't know to see what I'm doing. (River)

23 Facebook Citizenship Students defined citizenship based on their personal benefit from Friends’ activity rather than what those friends contribute to the larger community Reflected the degree of effort it took to interpret content Good Citizens (low effort/high personal stimulus) o Posting new or unique content (such a photos or news articles) o Providing Likes and comments to posts Bad Citizens (high effort/low personal stimulus) o Posting vague or cryptic material (such as song lyrics) o Being overly emotional in posts (seen as inciting drama and conflict)

24 Discussion Facebook is central to almost every aspect of students’ lives as college students Students are learning the interpersonal skills they will need in an increasingly digital world Facebook is fundamentally a tool – neither good nor bad Students use of social media reflects a cultural shift, rather than inter- and intra-personal deficiencies

25 Implications for Practice Practitioners are likely to benefit from adopting an alternative to the “problematic uses” lens Critical awareness can develop from intentional use as a tool to achieve personal and academic goals Facebook as an institutional tool reduces its role as an active social space for students Encouraging self-promotion and self-branding reinforce the commodified self

26 Implications for Research Need to account for Facebook and social media as significant environment in higher education Researchers should re-consider a “problematic uses” approach in describing student behavior Students’ social media behaviors are a potential model of online learning behaviors Study of student development through theories (new & extant) to address influence of social media

27 Thank You!


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