(Re-)Constructing Social Networking Sites: Examining Software Relations and its Influence on Users

On: October 18, 2009
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About Annewil Neervens
I hold a Bachelor's degree in journalism and recently graduated with a Master's degree in New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam. I am particularly interested in online social networks, software and digital influence.

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http://annewilneervens.wordpress.com    

It’s a little overdue, but I hereby ‘officially’ want to post my MA thesis for everyone to read (and/or use under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 license). This thesis was written in a total period of about five months under the supervision of Richard Rogers, with Geert Lovink as the second reader. This thesis deals with the relation between social networking sites (SNSs) and its underlying software, as well as the influence this might have on the user.

The ‘outcome’ of SNSs has been widely researched over the past few years. By outcome I mean user-generated information, such as user demographics and statistics, but also broader issues such as privacy and social capital. All of these topics have been researched by using so-called ‘interface information’: the information you’ll find by examining user’s SNSs. In (Re-)Constructing Social Networking Sites: Examining Software Relations and its Influence on Users, I employ the idea that the ‘input’ of SNSs – the very construct: the software – plays an equally important role and must therefore be thoroughly examined.

The influence of software on the user is also addressed in this writing. By using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine I make use of a reconstructive approach to reveal Facebook’s power (over users) by looking at their history of software changes and subsequent consequences for the user.

Here’s the abstract of my MA thesis:

This thesis examines the relationship between social networking sites (SNSs), software and its influence on the user. Two frames of thought are employed here: (1) there is a void in software research. Especially when it comes to social networking sites, not much research has been conducted as to how profiles are constructed by software and what consequences these constructions may have. This seems paradoxical, since this input might be of great influence on a user’s output (by which is meant both user-generated information found on profiles and the questions as to why and how these sites are used). It is argued here that thorough academic research on SNSs should look at both the input and output. (2) A user is able to shape himself within a profile, but he is also shaped by the software. Software relations and the influence on users are therefore also discussed. Additionally, this thesis makes a new attempt in conducting practical software research by using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to reconstruct the history of Facebook’s software changes. It is thus, that the influence and symbioses of software and the user becomes clear.

You are very welcome to read the rest here:

(Re-)Constructing Social Networking Sites: Examining Software Relations and its Influence on Users

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