General description: Please look at the “Facebook profile” as an analyzable text, which is always determined by one or more ideologies, and which is also a highly significant medium for the transmission of such ideologies. Please examine carefully both sides of this equation. Please provide plenty of examples to back up your analysis.
Study design options:
The design of your study could follow any one of these formats:
1) An analysis of several elements of a given profile.
2) A comparison between two or more profiles.
3) An analysis of a given audience’s reaction to/consumption of one or more profiles (yours or someone else’s) – you could use participant observation, surveys, interviews, or all three, here.
4) An analysis of the changes undergone by a profile over a period of time.
Potential objects of observation: the news feed, status updates, groups joined, photo albums, profile name, profile picture, personal information, wall messages, scheduled events, added applications, etc.
WHAT YOU COULD DO IN YOUR ANALYSIS:
1) How is a particular identity category (e.g., gender, ethnicity, religion) constructed through the profile? Which values, beliefs, and norms “generally” associated with that category (e.g., “toughness” for “men,” “craziness” for “college students,” etc.) are emphasized, and which aren’t? Why might that be? How exactly are these values, etc. operationalized? (i.e., what exactly is the connection between the value and the actual photo/application/message/etc.?). What are the sources of (cultural) “common sense” that make this operationalization possible? (i.e., history, literature, etc.). You might want to do some historical/literary research in order to answer this question.
2) “Coolness.” Do you think this person is trying to look “cool”? What is your definition of “cool” (to which his/her profile conforms). How exactly is this “coolness” created? – Please take these questions extremely seriously. Don’t assume your audience has any prior understanding whatsoever about the concept of “coolness.” Unfold layer after layer of those values, beliefs, and norms that go into the construction of “coolness.” If you find an interesting value, etc., that you might want to know more about, do some more in-depth research about how that value, etc., came about, and maybe also how it came to be associated with the concept of “coolness.” Is the concept of “coolness” itself a new one? (not the word, the concept!). If you want to go the historical route, how has “coolness” been conceptualized and operationalized in other eras, in other places? Using elements of the FB profile under study, draw a parallel between past understandings of “coolness” (say, for college students) and current understandings of it.
3) This might be dealt with as a question in its own right, or might be attached to the question above: How does this person’s Facebook profile either challenge or confirm (or both) one or more “dominant ideologies” present in this person’s “culture”? Is “coolness” a challenge to the dominant values, beliefs, and norms, or simply a seductive, clever way to ensure that they are properly “internalized” (i.e., taken for granted)?
4) How does the medium of the Internet affect the way we re-present our “identity” and our “culture”? By writing “represent” as “re-present,” I am acknowledging the paradox of “representation”: we are dealing with both a “representation” (insofar as something “out there” is “shown again”) and an actual “presentation” (insofar as “identity” is constituted in repeated communication events, such as FB communication). Consider the constraints that the Internet and the Facebook format bring with them. What avenues for expressing/constructing our “identity” and “culture” do these constraints make possible and, conversely, what avenues do they exclude? If you were to re-design the Internet as a whole, or just the Facebook general parameters, how would you do it so as to better re-present your “identity” and “culture”? (And when you say that something is “better” than something else, you know that I will ask you “According to whose/what criteria?”).
5) Compare and contrast “Facebook reality” with “physical [real?] reality.” How does our understanding of various categories/concepts (identity-related or otherwise) differ from one environment to another? Examples of categories/concepts: “friend/befriending,” “giving” and “receiving,” “connecting,” etc.
6) Do something else. Please feel free to consult with me in person (after class or by appointment).
Note: Please make sure to incorporate plenty of concepts, theories, and information discussed in class, in the textbook, and in the handouts. Us these concepts to structure your response.
- Careful analysis and not just description — 10 points
- Good articulation between theoretical concepts (explicitly used and defined) and concrete examples — 10 points
- Overall coherence (good writing skills, solid editing!!, no grammar & spelling mistakes, no awkward phrases, good text organization, etc.) — 5 points