Public displays of connection

Here’s an intriguing read from BT Technology Journal written by Judith Donath and danah boyd. It discusses the phenomenon of public displays of one’s connections in a variety of online social networks. Although published in 2004, it remains fresh:
“The public display of connections is one of the most salient features of the social sites. The focus of this paper is on the social implications of this display. Why do people display their social connections in everyday life–and why do they do so in these networking sites? What do people learn about another’s identity through the signal of network display?”
More papers from MIT’s Sociable Media Group


3 Responses to Public displays of connection

  1. Interesting article. To some extent this is a problem of hermeneutics — different age groups have different perspectives on the meaning of social networking. There are also all sorts of reasons for engaging in the activity, and, one could argue, that online networking is not substantively different than cocktail networking, except in terms of mode (and familiarity of form). For instance I use certain networking sites to help maintain my policy research activities, and to better understand the interactions between different stakeholders in associated policy domains.

  2. paul says:

    Hi Paul
    Thanks for the comment.
    Interesting that you participate in networks and at the same time evaluate the networking as an observer.
    There’s lots of potential for organizations to use these technologies in outreach and communication with their publics. I’m collaborating with some people in the American Educational Research Association to explore how these tools might be used to disseminate research findings above and beyond print journals.

  3. Paul,
    Somehow I missed your reply.
    While not necessarily common in my field of policy research, participant/observation occurs, and is not uncommon in some ethnographic/social research. This has been debated in several venues that I follow (such as the AOIR (Association of Internet Researchers) listserve), where the issue comes up of how one approaches the study/observation loif groups which require at least nominal registration. How else does one gets access to certain communities unless you “join” them. In this case though one technically is a member, by not actively participating you reduce the observation effect. This secondarily raises both ethical and IRB issues as well as methodological ones.

    However in my case, the observation/participation is closer to the former, as I am interested in applied policy studies, many of the people in my network have similar policy interests, and therefore the observation of network growth/activity is ancillary to any primary collaborative policy “brainstorming” that might take place.

    Please feel free t contact me off line if you are interested in chatting about this further.

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