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Chapter 32: Online Multi-Contextual Analysis > SOCIAL NETWORK SITES - Pg. 543

Online Multi-Contextual Analysis primary focus of these studies has been on the social change affected by the SNS, as well as the complex intersection between social change and system design and use. Key issues addressed in terms of social change are the development and maintenance of social relationships online and offline, the representation and changing notions of the self on these sites, and changes around privacy perception and enactment. However, with emerging research streams, new research struggles also arise. Similar to studies of the Internet, stud- ies of social media wrestle with the limitations of `old' data collection methods for examining these new media forms (Quan-Haase, Wellman, Witte & Hampton, 2002). This chapter adds to the current discussion of new media and methodological concerns, opportu- nities, and challenges (Markham & Baym, 2009) by proposing a new approach to the study of SNSs. Specifically, we examine the utility and feasibility data on profile choices, and an overview of site navigation and usage. We show in the chapter how OMCA's key principles help in gaining insight into users' decisions about how to use SNSs and the motivations for certain behaviors on the sites. This is, to our knowledge, a much neglected area of investigation in SNSs research. This chapter commences with a review of the current work on SNSs, focusing in particular on the methodological approaches employed by researchers. Then the chapter shifts to describe OMCA as a new approach to investigating SNSs and learning about users' perceptions and attitudes directly. What follows is a review of two examples of research projects that illustrate the application of OMCA to SNS research: (1) Fieldtrip, an online community platform that combined user surveys with detailed records of member activity on the site and (2) an examination of Facebook, which paired profile data with user commentary and