Symbolic Interaction and New Social Media: Volume 43

Subject:

Table of contents

(16 chapters)
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Dedication

Page vii
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Abstract

This article discusses how certain sensibilities and techniques from a network perspective can facilitate different levels of thinking about symbolic interaction in mediated contexts. The concept of network implies emergent structures that shift along with the people whose connections construct these webs of significance. A network sensibility resonates with contemporary social media contexts in that it focuses less on discrete objects and more on the entanglements among elements that may create meaning. From a methodological stance, this involves greater sensitivity to movement and connection, both in the phenomenon and in the researcher’s relationship to this flow. The goal is to embody the perspective of moving with and through the data, rather than standing outside it as if it can be observed, captured, isolated, and scrutinized outside the flow. Rather than reducing the scope, the practice of moving through and analyzing various elements of networks generates more data, more directions, and more layers of meaning. We describe various ways a network sensibility might engender more creative and ethically grounded approaches to studying contemporary cultures of information flow.

Abstract

Social media such as Facebook thrive with the arrival of Web 2.0. This chapter merges traditional social network analysis (SNA) with symbolic interactionism (SI) to create a hybrid method of SNA to allow researchers to study the sociability found in Facebook. The discussion begins with identifying a common ground of SNA and SI, found in Georg Simmel’s work, and then develops methodological procedures to locate cliques in Facebook networks. A visualization technique is also suggested to further single out the social forms found in Facebook.

Abstract

This paper provides a general comparison between the ethos, methodological mission, and theoretical standpoint of the New Iowa School, established by Carl Couch and his students and Second Life, a three dimensional virtual world that invites particular forms of sociation. Despite differences in orientation and purpose, as well as biases in communication, we propose that the methodological and conceptual emphasis underlying the research generated from New Iowa School experimental studies can provide a useful framework for research into the virtual worlds created in Second Life. In the course of citing similarities and differences between the New Iowa School and Second Life, we also note that contrived worlds in laboratories and virtual worlds in user domains not only have relevant analogical processes to outside, in situ social worlds, but consist of social stages for performances that have application to the various social stages constructed by actors in the real world. In conclusion, we suggest that the New Iowa School and Second Life represent different but compatible realities in their own right, that the conceptual depth associated with the New Iowa School can inform research into Second Life interactions, and that each offer insights into the external worlds inhabited by real actors who navigate across time and space in their everyday lives.

Abstract

To examine how social media restrict and recreate messages within current interactionist scripts in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), this study applies a framework of digital reflexivity highlighting stages of information flow. It applies the symbolic interaction concept of emotional events to analyze the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi and the role of social media in disseminating Bouazizi’s act as one catalyst of the MENA citizen uprisings. The role of social media in the “Arab Spring” merits investigation because social media provide opportunities to examine shifting identities, interactions, and actions of citizen activists in the MENA uprisings. This study is important and timely because little symbolic interactionist scholarship exists on MENA identities and social movements, or on crowd interaction and activism outside the West. The nuanced nature of MENA political activism and complex processes of the development of activists’ “mutable” selves (Zurcher, 1977) are fluid and resistant to symbolically defined social roles, interactionist scripts and reflexivity, and public communication practices in a MENA under political and social transition.

Abstract

Role is an under-studied topic in research on virtual game worlds, despite its centrality in the ubiquitous term “massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG).” In this article, we report on a study of the role concept and its relevance to virtual worlds, with emphasis on the MMORPG World of Warcraft (WoW). In particular, we focus on the concept of structural role, a term introduced to delineate a certain kind of social actor that carries greater-than-average responsibility for facilitating the diffusion of culture across interlocking groups. Beginning with a brief discussion of structural roles, this paper draws on ethnographic research in a raiding guild and interviews with hardcore WoW players to investigate the roles of guild and raid leaders in building and maintaining collaborative group play. Our study explores not only the expectations and obligations for players in key structural positions, but also specific processes through which they are embodied in everyday life online. Data show that an interest or willingness to learn the intricacies of gameplay, to take responsibility for players’ emotional well-being, and to manage a shared definition of the situation are all basic components of the guild and raid leaders’ roles, and guild or raid success is often reducible to the extent to which leaders master these components.

Abstract

Using the perspectives of dramaturgy and symbolic interactionists like George Herbert Mead and Carl Couch this study focuses on paid sex work in the hypermodern, virtual world of Second Life. Using seventeen semi-structured interviews and six months of ethnographic fieldwork, I find that the employment of sexual scripts, carrying off a successful erotic scene, and the creative use of communication and embodiment are highly valued in escorts’ performance of Second Life sex work. Escorts craft an online persona that is a digital representation of the self, which is manifested in the embodiment of their digital body or avatar. In addition to digital representations of the physical self, Second Life allows for multiple methods of computer-mediated communication, and escorts are able to re-embody the first life body through the trading of first life pictures, voice cybersex, and web cam cybersex. The data allow the conclusion that most escorts are unwilling to re-embody the first life body for reasons of personal safety and the desire to restrict access to the first life self. I find, however, that there is a porous boundary between first life and Second Life in which the first life self comes through in the Second Life persona. In the concluding remarks, I explore the implications this study has for the negotiation of privacy for new social media actors who are reluctant to fully disclose their lives yet perform a persistent, archived persona for friends and followers on the Internet. This study contributes to a small, but growing, body of literature on Second Life and expands the existing work on embodiment and privacy in the digital realm.

Abstract

This article presents a theoretical and empirical discussion of the way in which computer technologies (the internet) influence the production of sexuality, sexual fantasies, and specific sexual behaviors. This discussion is based on the case study of an Israeli website for sexual encounters, which its users say has brought out (or enabled) a specific sexuality that would not have emerged were it not for the new technology. This article focuses on a particular population from among the sites users: married men who surf the site to find men with whom to have one-off sexual encounters, and who report a positive experience of “life in the closet.” A total of 34 men were interviewed, 6 face-to-face and 28 in online interviews. The findings include three main accounts: (1) most of the interviewees said that the new technology (the website) enabled them to invent a new existential category, that of “married straight men who sometimes have sexual encounters with other men.” This category is seen as enabling a new sexuality, or a sexuality that would not have been enacted were it not for the internet; (2) the interviewees spoke of how “life in the closet,” and in particular entering and exiting it (which was called a “zigzag sexuality” or the “revolving doors of the closet”), creates an experience of a vital sexuality that fits in with their marriage to a woman and their life as a “straight” man; (3) many interviewees explained how the technology enabled them to keep their sexuality secret, where the secrecy itself was said to create a unique sexual desire. The discussion section shows how the new technology enables individuals to invent a new sexuality, to enact unique sexual fantasies, and to maintain an alternative self, or alternative components of their concept of self.

Abstract

We conducted a narrative analysis of a collective narrative comprising inscriptions left on the locally famed “Apology Wall,” written by thousands of community members in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riot. In considering the Apology Wall as an “evocative object,” this study emphasized the significance of material objects as meaning-making devices. Interpretation of themes was conducted through a constructivist lens, specifically guided by literature concerning meaning-making following negative life events. Results bolstered the significance of the Wall as a sense-making device that provided a forum for the community to collectively share positive emotional expression, construct solidarity and collective identity, and express desires for restoration. By studying this collective narrative, the study not only illuminated how those affected constructed meaning after the Vancouver sports riot, but it also contributes to the literature on how communities, in general, make early sense of and respond to destructive events.

Author Biographies

Pages 223-225
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DOI
10.1108/S0163-2396201443
Publication date
2014-08-11
Book series
Studies in Symbolic Interaction
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78350-933-1
eISBN
978-1-78350-932-4
Book series ISSN
0163-2396