Tag Archives: social media

On Facebook, Death and Memorialisation

Over at the UCL Social Networking Sites and Social Sciences Project, Danny Miller writes about his research at a London hospice where he has been exploring the resonance of new media at the end of life:

Alongside my ethnographic research in The Glades I have now been working for over a year alongside The Hospice of St Francis. When I am in the UK I try to spend a day a week interviewing their patients who are mainly terminal cancer patients. I was delighted to hear this winter that the wonderful hospice director Dr Ros Taylor was awarded an MBE in this year’s honours list. My intention in working for the Hospice was a concern that a project of this size should also have an applied or welfare aspect where we could see the direct benefit. The initial work was simply an attempt to see how the hospice could benefit from new media. The report was published on my website, but once I was working with them I realised that in a way the hospice was the clearest example of what the whole team have endeavoured to demonstrate through this blog.

The hospice movement represents no kind of technical or medical advancement. It is entirely the product of a transformation in collective consciousness. Previously it was assumed that when people knew they were dying this was tantamount to a stage in merely their withdrawal from the world. We talk about ‘investing in our children’ as though there were long-term financial assets. The same logic would condemn the dying as of limited value. The Hospice movement was all about saying that knowing someone is terminal should be seen as an opportunity. It is no longer a medical issue, they will not be cured, instead we can concentrate on their quality of life and make this stage of life, since that is what it is, as enjoyable and fulfilling as it could be. Everything that Dr Taylor says and does demonstrates this, as does my colleague in this research Kimberley McLaughlin a senior manager of the hospice.

On reflection this is perhaps our single most important finding also as anthropologists of social media. People become fixated on the technological advances of new media. What each device can now be capable of – the latest app or smartphone or platform. These certainly feature throughout our work. But the vast majority of our blog posts are not about that. Instead they describe changes in the same collective consciousness: the social uses that people creatively imagine for these media as part of their lives.

The two issues come together in my observations of Facebook in relation to death and memorialisation. One of my early informants was a woman who felt that she wanted to use the experience of terminal cancer to help educate the wider world about her experience. A subject people tend to avoid but need to gain a better understanding of. I last saw her six days before she died and she was quite clear that using Facebook as almost a daily blog had enabled her to do just that. I am hoping (if I obtain the funding) to make a film based on her and other patients who have used Facebook in this manner.

I would be equally positive about the ways people have found to use Facebook in memorialisation and grief. Previously we have tended to use highly formal and religious institutionalised frames for dealing with death. As I argued in my book Tales From Facebook, this was out of synch with changes in our notion of the authenticity of the individual. Where once we took formal posed pictures, now we like to capture images that seem spontaneous, informal and thereby more ‘real’ to us. Similarly we needed a form of memorialisation that contained this element of personalisation and immediacy. People on Facebook can put both serious and jokey memories and do so at a time of their choosing. I find these sites poignant and effective. I don’t find other social media sites, such as Twitter or Instagram, as having the same potential, so I hope we retain this capacity of Facebook.

But the point is that the inventors of Facebook were certainly not thinking about its relationship to death or memorialisation. Rather, as in the case of the invention of the hospice movement, this reflects a change in our collective imagination in what we could potentially do in relation to death and grief. This is why we argue it is anthropology rather than more tech-driven studies of new media that are most suited to understanding what social media actually become. Most of these reports reflect not the technological potential, but the imaginative realisation of social media.




CFP: Youth 2.0: Connecting, Sharing and Empowering? Affordances, Uses and Risks of Social Media

March 20th – 22nd 2013, Antwerp, Belgium

The submission deadline (abstract) is November 30th 2012. Paper abstracts or panel session proposals can be submitted at: www.ua.ac.be/youth2.0

UCSIA & MIOS, University of Antwerp, are pleased to announce the organisation of an international, multidisciplinary workshop on young people’s uses of social media in general and social network sites in particular. Contributions from a wide range of theoretical and methodological perspectives and from diverse scientific fields are welcomed. Next to individual paper submissions, proposals for organized panel sessions will be taken into consideration.

This international event will address a number of relevant questions related to the use of social media by children, adolescents and young adults. Keynote presentations and parallel sessions center around four main topics:

1. Identity construction (e.g. self-disclosure, impression management, privacy)
2. Social relations (e.g. social capital, social engagement, cyberbullying)
3. Interests at stake (e.g. social media marketing, advergames, viral marketing)
4. Supporting and empowering (e.g. media/digital literacy, online counseling, parental mediation).

For a more detailed overview of questions and issues that will be covered, check our website: www.ua.ac.be/youth2.0

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3-year PhD Scholarship (Understanding Mobile and Social Media in the Pacific) – Deadline 31 October 2012

School of Media and Communication, RMIT University Australia

Application deadline: 31 October 2012

This three-year scholarship is for a PhD candidate will contribute to the fieldwork for an ethnographic study of mobile and social media in 1-2 Pacific countries. S/he will spend at least 12 months over the three years of candidature documenting, archiving and analysing mobile and social communication practices and infrastructure. As a discrete case study, but key component of the comparative study, the PhD candidate will participate in and contribute to a recently funded Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant “Mobilising Media for Sustainable Outcomes in the Pacific Region” (see below for project summary). They will also become a PhD Member of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre: www.digital-ethnography.net

Eligible candidates will have a BA, BA with Honours or MA/MSC in Communication, Anthropology, Sociology, Science and Technology Studies, Informatics, Media Studies or other related discipline. They must be willing to undertake ethnographic fieldwork in up to two countries in Melanesia, Micronesia or Polynesia with a focus upon online and mobile media. Ideal candidates will have linguistic expertise and/or be willing to learn the language(s) of their fieldwork site(s). International and Australian nationals are eligible to apply. The Scholarship, which covers tuition, fees, a small stipend and other research expenses, will begin in March 2013.

Initial expressions of interest should be sent to Dr. Heather Horst at heather.horst@rmit.edu.au

Please note that all applicants will need to apply for and be accepted to the PhD program in Media and Communication at RMIT University. The Application deadline is 31 October 2012. Application details can be found here.

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Flirtbook BR – A survey about “the flirt” and Facebook in Brazilian culture

By Cláudia Pereira and Germano Penalva

Two years ago Facebook,  already  a fever around the world, became a fever in Brazil, surpassing the  Orkut. Until 2010 it was the most famous social network. It has broken social classes, languages and ages barriers. It has been undergoing processes adaptation and acceptance and use by different Brazilian goals.

In 2011, the Brazilian anthropologist Claudia Pereira from PUC-Rio
(Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro) with Germano
Penalva (BlueID - www.theblueid.com.br), and others researchers, did a
qualitative survey with 1,200 young people across the country to
identify the Brazilian cultural identity inside Facebook.

To study Facebook, with anthropological glasses, we must consider the
diversity of ways what it is used for. There is not just Facebook, but
several facebooks, each group has its own way to use it and in
different groups facebook “works” in a special way. If we consider
that the cultural aspects change the way how a social network is used,
we start our discussion focusing it in the  Brazilian context. So, how
did we create the “Brazilian” Facebook? Which cultural habits change
and how we can use it in our society? Facebook only exists because it
is related with “offline life”; it tightens relationships, strengthens
values and customs. Especially in studies of Roberto Da Matta, while
remembering the “balance appears antagonism” by Gilberto Freyre, and
the “friendliness” of Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, we can analyze this
daily changing and modification by Facebook. DaMatta (1985), the
Brazilian society is opposed to the individualism inside the American
society. Brazilians ultimately appear peacefull, affectionate,
generous, knowing or not knowing their opponent.

They call each other by nicknames, it’s very quickly and
unceremoniously; they become intimate easily. In Brazil, to become a
friend, you just need to know each other. Facebook in Brazil, can be
analyzed as a space of “the Brazilian interaction.” The sharing is
motivated, for example, by the character “kind” of our culture, among
other factors.

The large number of contacts added in the profiles expresses the
ability to make friends quickly and can easily explain the fact that
Brazil is a country that always stands out in this aspect in research
about Facebook. Perhaps what was contributing to this fact is also
another Brazilian feature: the unwillingness to more serious
commitments, so they don’t have criteria for accepting requests for
”friendship”. ..At home we have a name and we are recognized
individually and within the role of the family hierarchy. On the
street we are anonymous and vulnerable to the rules and laws which we
are culturally averse. On the same way, on Facebook, we like to be
recognized for what we are, ours eccentricity, desires, preferences
and authenticity.

The border between public and private space is too thin and we confuse
these two lines. So, when we mix these two spaces we feel invaded by
other people.

This research will demonstrate the interaction of social networks and reproduce traditional values and customs of our society, while it creates new habits and changing

You will find here 11 profiles build from our search results.
Flirtbook Brazil was made in 2011 by Claúdia Pereira  and for the
companies Blue ID and New Vegas, with 1.200 young people aged between 13 to 35

CFP: Social Media, Digital Network and Globalization

China New Media Communication Association Annual Conference, Macao International Conference Macao SAR, China, Dec 6 – 8, 2012

Conference Website: www.umac.mo/fsh/comm/newmediaconference/en/en.htm2012

Abstracts & final papers should be submitted via e-mail to the following address: 2012newmediacon@gmail.com; the abstract submission deadline is  July 15, 2012

The 2012 China New Media Communication Association Annual Conference, Macao International Conference, co-organized by the Department of Communication, University of Macao and China New Media Communication Association (CNMCA) will be held in Macao, a charming enclave of Eastern and Western cultures. We sincerely invite colleagues from all parts of the world to come to Macao, and share with us your ideas about communication and social media.

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