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Who Am I? St Andrews and Facebook: Issues of trust, friendship and communication in modern society.

For my degree, I had to undertake fieldwork for Social Anthropology (was better than writing a dissertation for International Relations, trust me!). For it, I observed Facebook and St Andrews as my ethnographic sites, back when Facebook was exclusive to certain college/university networks. My research took place in 2005-2006; interestingly, Facebook was opened up to all as I began writing up my paper in November 2006.

A lot of people have found the paper really illuminating because the research took place just before social networking really boomed. Have a read of the synopsis - the link to read all the paper is underneath it, if you want to. :)

Synopsis:

This paper considers how the internet is used in modern social interactions and how this is impacting and, ultimately, changing the way we communicate both on and offline.

By exploring the computer-mediated network of Facebook and the university-town of St Andrews, the two spaces have been related to one another, identifying the socialites that have arisen from their collision. The meaning of ‘reality’ and ‘virtual’ in modern society is explored, highlighting the impact of technological advancement. The ethnographic research methods that have been used include observations on both Facebook and in and around St Andrews, as well the conduction of an online questionnaire and further face-to-face interviews.

Firstly, the section ‘Communities, Society and Culture’ examines the effects of technological impact upon communities, society and culture, and defines the broader themes of this research – questioning the notions of reality versus the supposed virtual.

The second section ‘Friendship’ explores whether modern friendship still constitutes what was once ascertained as ‘traditional’ friendship and relates this to the issue of propinquity. It challenges whether friendship has merely become a contest of popularity between peers, or whether multiple types of friendship have emerged.

Finally, ‘Identity, Trust and Communication’ questions the fluid concept of what constitutes an ‘identity’ because of the removal of time and spatial constraints, and whether this identity is a reality or not. Issues of trust are then related to the concept of friendship in modern times. This section then links the original issue of the use of online communication with offline social interaction, detailing how communication has emerged this way because of the fusion of the two spaces in an educational setting.

You can read the full paper here; feel free to comment on this post if you'd like me to answer any questions.

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