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Understanding Sociability in Social Network Sites

Singapore.
The next session panel at ICA 2010, on post-convergence, starts with Zizi Papacharissi, whose focus is on sociability on social network sites. She begins by noting questions over whether social networking makes people more or less social; in reality, however, social media are simply integrated into media habits overall. Also, there is a question over whether these new media are more or less social than others - again, in reality, all media are social. Finally, are these online places more or less social? Perhaps the real answer is that online spaces and achitectures have specific social affordances.

Facebook in Norway

Singapore.
Our CCI roundtable on methodological challenges and cultural science was next in this pre-conference at ICA 2010, but we were presenting from my laptop so I couldn't blog it... Skipping to the first of the post-lunch sessions instead, we're starting Knut Arne Futsaeter, whose focus is on the growth of Facebook in Norway as a process of diffusion. Norway is a world leader in Internet access (at some 92% of the population), and Facebook is one of the most popular social media sites (with a market penetration of 50%).

Researching Transmedia TV Consumption through Online Diaries

Singapore.
The next speaker at this ICA 2010 pre-conference is Nele Simons, whose focus is on the reception side of the emerging 'TV 2.0'. The two constituent trends here are digitisation (detaching TV content from the TV screen) and convergence (leading to cross- and transmedia forms) - so what does it mean today to engage with a TV series; how may we study it?

We need to reconsider our methodological approaches - one approach, which Nele explored, is a semi-structured, online TV diary that helps researchers understand audience members' viewing practices, with online follow-up and in-depth interviews. The semi-structured diary included categories such as watching episodes of a series (in whatever format), consuming media-related extras), consuming other extras, producing related content, and communicating about the TV series.

Fansubbing in China as a Form of Produsage

Hong Kong.
The final speaker in this session at The Internet Turning 40 is Donna Chu, who highlights the different forms of content creation which are emerging in Web 2.0 environments as the nature of production and consumption is shifting. Does this mean that users are empowered or exploited in this environment? What forms of civic participation are possible here?

Some of these questions are not new, but continue similar discussions in the area of fandom - fans have been creating content for a very long time, and have now simply moved online to share that content. Fans mobilise in support for discontinued TV shows, create petitions to save characters which are to be dumped from TV shows, etc. TV fans who participate in this way, though, are also contributing free labour to these TV shows, and could be seen as being exploited.

Interpreting the Development of Twitter

Hong Kong.
We're starting the last day of The Internet Turning 40 with the session that I'm in as well - but the first speaker is José van Dijck, who introduces the idea of 'interpretive flexibility' - an approach for examining technologies that remain in flux. Why and how do technologies become dominant over time; how can we trace this process while it is happening; and why is it important to do so? She is applying this specifically to Twitter (and microblogging in general) here.

There are four factors here: technologies and services, mediated social practices, cultural form and content, and business models. All of these are important when examining emerging platforms, of course. Microblogging, José says, is both a tool and a service - and its versatility is crucial to its success. When it was launched, it was unclear what it would become; by 2007, it was adopted and integrated by a large number of other social media platform, and in the process adapted its interface and technological specificities to their needs (but this took place the other way around, too). Since then, there has been an 'appliancisation' of Twitter, turning it into a closed, applied platform, and reducing its versatility and openness.

Rumour Transmission through Social Networking

Hong Kong.
The next speaker at The Internet Turning 40 is Yuqiong Zhou, whose interest is in how rumours are transmitted on the Internet - in this case, through the Chinese messaging service QQ. Rumour transmission is driven by personal anxiety and social disorder, and propelled by people's belief in the rumours; this transmission, in turn, further deepens their belief in rumours. Rumours are unverified but broadly circulated information items which yield from people's discussion and constitute a kind of abnormal public opinion.

The Global Financial Crisis as Opportunity for Resistance

Hong Kong.
The final speaker in this session at The Internet Turning 40 is Jack Qiu, who highlights the impact of the current financial crisis (in a study focussing on China and South Korea) and begins by playing a melody originally created to commemorate the Kwangju massacre in Korea which has now been repurposed as a kind of pan-Asian "Internationale" (and was performed in this version by the New Labour Art Troupe, a migrant workers orchestra in China which has released three CDs so far and also published its music online under a Creative Commons licence).

The Role of the Internet in Establishing a Fifth Estate

Hong Kong.
The second day of The Internet Turning 40 at Chinese University Hong Kong is upon us, and we're starting with a paper by William Dutton. He begins by noting a current story of mobile phones and online communication being used to mobilise workers in China in protest against working conditions - and he says that this illustrates the potential of new media as a fifth estate. The original three estates (clergy, nobility, commoners) were a feudal concept, of course, with journalists added later as a fourth estate, tasked with keeping the other three honest.

Lonely Adolescents and Social Networks

Hong Kong.
The final presenter in this session at The Internet Turning 40 is Louis Leung. He begins by pointing to previous study examining the impacts of preferences for online use for offline interaction, and in his own work focusses especially on adolescents - a time which is characterised as a time of transition, challenge,and turbulence, a developmental time of identity formation, increased independence, and of having to deal with the challenges connected to this.

Past studies show, for example, that over half of 9- to 18-year-olds have pretended to be someone else online; many have posted material about themselves online and thereby expressed and experimented with their identity; some may also have expressed otherwise suppressed elements of their own identity. Heavy Internet users also use the Net more strongly for identity formation and relationship formation, unsurprisingly. There is a difference here between the 'now self' and the 'possible self' in such activities, and an individual's identity combines the two.

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