Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Media Ethnography- Use of Facebook

For my Media Ethnography, I chose to do a study regarding the use of facebook by its users. For my research, I first created a survey on, then I analyzed a specific facebook profile in relation to my survey results.

Here's the link to my survey on survey monkey!

Research Methods:
I wanted to find information regarding why and when people joined facebook, and why and what they do on facebook while they are on the site. So, I made this survey. Unfortunately, I soon realized while creating my survey that survey monkey only allows 10 questions to be made. I simplified all of my research points into 10 questions, which was no easy task. I figured that even though it was only 10 questions, it would still help me, and it did. I made a facebook event to invite all of my facebook friends to take the survey.
(Yes, I understand the irony of having a facebook event inviting facebook friends to take a survey about their use of facebook. It was purely for a practical reason. It was the easiest way to find a lot of people really fast to take my survey.)
In the facebook event description, as well as in the description on the survey website, I explained that the survey is for this class, must be 18 in order participate (I did not want to spend more time with receiving parental permission), and no private information would be shared during this analysis write-up. In addition, in order to create some sort of motivation for people to participate in the study, I advertised that any participant would be entered into a drawing to win a prize (I randomly chose a participant who will receive a recording of Freelance Whales (an amazing band) performing on a radio show with interviews that I will send via e-mail).
There were 128 participants who took my survey. (I soon realized that I am only able to see the first 100 responses for free, which is still quite helpful for my study).
The sample was 44.4% Male and 55.6% female.
Ages ranged from 18-34 (My focus for this study is the twenty-something age range that is frequently discussed as the focal group to use facebook, partially because these were the first to use facebook when it was only offered for college students in 2004).

The majority of my sample joined facebook in 2006 (40.5%):

When asked why they joined facebook (general idea from written statement):
Because everyone else was: 49% (41 participants)
To keep in touch with friends/ social networking: 38% (32 participants)
To keep in touch with family: 3% (3 participants)
Other reasons (picture sharing, relationship statuses, bored, to express one's self, transition of myspace, to be like a sibling, etc.): 10% (6 participants)
(There were 83 who answered this question, 17 skipped this question).

I asked how they felt when they joined facebook:
82 participants answered this question, and 18 skipped this question.
The majority (84.1%) of my sample associated the adjective "social" as a feeling when they joined facebook.

I asked how they hoped they would feel with their use of facebook:
Again, the majority (84.1%) of my sample associated the adjective "social" as a feeling that they hoped they would feel with their use of facebook. Interestingly, the adjectives "Accepted", "Popular" and "Well-liked" increased from the previous question.

I asked how often they go onto facebook:
The overwhelming majority (71.1%) of my sample said that they go onto facebook multiple times per day. Only one person used facebook as little as a few times per month.

Finally, I asked how often they participate in certain activities while on facebook:

The majority (54.9%) of my sample said that they view status updates every time they are on facebook. Also, 72.9% view other friends' facebook profiles every time, or almost every time they use facebook.

In addition, I took notes on the facebook use of a specific person on facebook. She will be known as "Macy" for the purposes of this study. I began studying her profile on this past saturday morning.
Macy has done the following things on her facebook since Saturday:
Changed her facebook status: 17 times.
Some of her statuses include: " 'A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend' --author unknown", "snuggling with [name removed for privacy] puppy!", "has only been as work less than 3 hours and already wants to go home!!", "Hanging out with the family at Xylon Park", "Is having brunch at Granite City with [name removed for privacy]".
Changed her facebook profile picture: 2 times.
Added pictures: 7 times.
Commented on others' statuses/ others' walls: 7 times.
Became friends with: 3 people.
Liked pages: 32.

Based on my research, I found that twenty-somethings use facebook as a means to "fit in" and feel accepted with their "friends". The reason twenty-somethings initially joined facebook was to feel accepted with their friends in the real world, by joining this online society of not only these friends who they wanted to initially feel accepted with, but also new friends that they "meet" online. Once they have entered the facebook realm, they now want to feel accepted now only with the initial friends in the real world who "told them to join facebook", but now feel a sense of urgency to fit in with new friends that they now have in this online social network.
The fact that the majority of my sample joined facebook in 2006, is extremely noteworthy. On September 26th, 2006, facebook became open to the public; anyone over 13 with a valid e-mail address was now allowed to join. Previously, facebook was only for college students (then opened to high school students). At this point in 2006, facebook had become so popular that it was undoubtedly changed to be open to anyone because of pressures to make it so by people who were not allowed to be on facebook. Therefore, the majority of my sample of twenty-somethings joined facebook in 2006 in order to "fit in" with the new cultural norm that has become facebook.
The most powerful piece of evidence that I found in my research was the answer in the survey to the question: "Why did you join facebook?" The majority answered that they had joined facebook because everyone else did. They wanted to fit in with what everyone else was doing. It became important to join facebook when it was gaining so much popularity.
In addition, when asked what adjectives they associated their feeling with when they joined facebook, the majority answered that they felt "social". When they did join facebook, my sample felt like they were apart of this new online society, and therefore felt social when they became apart of it.
Similarly, when asked what they hoped they would feel with their use of facebook, the majority answer was again "social". However, the adjectives of "accepted". "popular", and "well-liked" increased from the previous question. When they joined facebook, my sample wanted to feel accepted and fit in with this new online society and culture.
The majority of my sample uses facebook multiple times everyday. This shocking, yet not surprising statistic makes perfect sense. Facebook users want to feel apart of this society that gets changed and added to every minute of everyday, and users want to know whats going on. Therefore, they feel the need to enter into this society as often as they can, and they do: multiple times everyday.
Finally, the majority of participants in my study said that they view others status updates every time they use facebook. The majority also views others' profile pages either every time or almost every time they go on facebook. When these twenty-somethings use facebook, they dont use for the games or applications, they use it for the social purposes. They want to stay updated on whats going on in this online culture, and then they view status updates and profiles, they feel accepted in the society, as they know what is going on.

The use of Macy's facebook directly supports my findings in the research. Macy feels a constant need to fit in to her facebook network society, therefore she is on facebook multiple times every day, sometimes multiple times every hour. She changed her status 17 times in the days of saturday-wednesday. She wants others to keep up with her status, as she does with others- a sort of circular acceptance. It doesn't matter what the content of the status is- from the mundane (take naps and eating brunch) to the philosophical (the quote about grandmothers)- as long as she updates, she feels that she is accepted in this society. Finally, Macy liked 32 pages during these few days. By associating herself with culture icons, groups, items, or ideologies, Macy is hoping that other users will see these associations and think, "hey, that's cool, I like those things too". And Macy can go onto others' profiles and do the same with their page associations- again this idea of the circular acceptance.
Macy is a perfect example of my research that I found using the survey. Twenty-somethings use facebook as a means of acceptance with not only their friends in real cultural society, but to be accepted into the online society that is more or less a virtual extension of real culture.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Media Ethnography Discussion

After finally seeing a screening of The Social Network a few days ago, my interest was sparked in facebook's impact on culture. A large component of the film that I felt was particularly fascinating was the role that facebook has played in our new online social culture that has made our actual social culture less legitimately "social". Throughout the film, Mark Zuckerberg is constantly being depicted as socially awkward, not paying attention to conversation when people are speaking to him, being "plugged in" to his computer and not being able to recognize the world. At one point in the film, Justin Timberlake's character says, "We lived in farms, then we lived in cities, and now we're gonna live on the internet!" This is the current trend that facebook is implementing onto us: a world in which we are more concerned with our social network online, than our social network in real life.
When looking at my own experiences with facebook, while it may not be as extreme as I just made it out to be, even I spend a lot of time and energy in maintaining my social network on facebook. I joined facebook in 2006, when it was still a prestigious online network of only college students (you had to have a college email in order to register). I was a junior in High School, however, I was enrolled in a C.I.S. (College in the Schools) course of Hebrew, so I had a University of Minnesota ID and Email address. I remember one day I was spending time with my older brother and cousin, whom I have always thought of them as being "really cool". My cousin showed me this website called "facebook", which he described as a cooler myspace in that it is only for college kids, and its not creepy like myspace. So, I wanted to be more like my older brother and cousin, so I joined facebook using my University of Minnesota ID. And thus, I felt really cool, joining this prestigious network.
I had this unconscious motivation to be seen as "cool" online, so I constantly added more and more to my profile information- my music, movies and tv shows are filled to the brim with my interests. I thought that if people read it, they would think I'd be cool, and thus "friend me" on facebook. I wanted more and more friends, which I equated with "cool". In the same way, I joined as many groups as possible with the themes of favorite bands or TV shows or social issues regarding peace, etc. In addition to the motivation to be "cool" with these groups, I noticed that everything I did on facebook was also motivated by the thought that "Hey, girls might see my facebook, and then they might wanna date me!" I noticed facebook encroaching more and more on actual society. Like in the film, I constantly overheard people saying "facebook me", or "tag me in those pics". When I actually did enter college, my interest in facebook increased even more. I was constantly "friending" people that I met. I wanted more and more friends on facebook. I changed my facebook status daily, and checked the main facebook page regarding others' statuses multiple times everyday. I then saw facebook being incorporated into other forms of media. I saw facebook being talked about movies, on TV shows as sponsors and so on. As I am writing this blog entry, I am watching Law and Order SVU and there was an ad that came up at the bottom of the screen that said "go onto Facebook and find out more about shows on USA".
When I asked my girlfriend to be my girlfriend, right away, we went to facebook and changed our relationship status to in "in a relationship" with each other. It was as if, when I asked her and she accepted to be my girlfriend, it was only official in real society. We then had to make it official in our online social network. Once I got an Ipod touch, my addiction to facebook worsened. Now that I had access to internet all over campus or anywhere I could get a free wiki signal, I wanted to see facebook more often. After every class I check facebook, every time I get back to my apartment, I check facebook. I have this constant need to see whats going on in my "online social world" and with all my "friends" whom I haven't seen in years or only see once a month, or once a year. I made a personal rule that I would not friend anyone on facebook that I have not actually met in real life.
My facebook use has changed over time. At the beginning, it was all about trying to be "cool" and getting as many friends as possible. Now, it seems that I use facebook to keep up with my social network of friends to see their opinions and what they are up to.
Facebook has even influenced the business world in terms of hiring employees. At camp one summer, during staff week before camp started, we each had to attend an information session regarding facebook. We were taught that most companies look at people's facebooks who have applied to work for them. In addition, when working with kids, we were taught, like businesses, kids will look through our facebooks and make judgments about us regarding our interests, wall posts and pictures. Therefore, we were taught to limit our profiles to just our friends, and even change your name so that business can not find you. Finally, we learned the all important quote that, "you should not put anything on facebook that you don't want your grandmother to see." Whenever I add things to my faecebook, I think about what one of my campers would think about if they saw it. Furthermore, whenever I take pictures with friends, I make sure that there is nothing inappropriate, because I KNOW that it WILL be put on facebook, and I WILL be tagged in it. Despite all of this, I know that I surprisingly have a moderate addiction and use of facebook. I have friends that are more addicted and use facebook exponentially more than I do.
Despite all of the negative impacts associated with facebook, it is a tool that can be beneficial to classroom education. Using facebook chat and events, it can be an effective form of communication for students discussing homework or projects. In addition, a facebook profile can be created for a literary or historical character which can be "communicated" with or analyzed (make 2 facebook profiles of characters such as Shakespeare and JD Salinger and have them chat with each other on their walls.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Critical Media Analysis

Here's my VoiceThread about depictions of African Americans in the Media!

Lesson plan about Media Representations:
1. Choose a racial/ethnic/minority group that you would like to discuss with your class.
For example: African Americans, Latinos, Muslim-Americans, Asian-Americans, Jews, ETC.
2. Discuss media representations/use of stereotypes of those groups:
For example:
African American Stereotypes: Highly sexualized, rap or R&B artists, gangsters, uneducated. (Past stereotypes: Blackface, Mammy, Coon, raping women, uncivilized, eating watermelon and fried chicken, etc.)
Latinos: Lower working class (McDonalds or a maid), broken english, etc.
Muslim-Americans: Terrorists, violent, sexist, broken english, etc.
Asian-Americans: Kung-Fu Hero, Dragon Lady, asian nerd, Charlie Chan, etc.
Jews: Media/Hollywood Producers, rich, big noses, only thinking about and handling money.
3. After students are aware of the extremely negative stereotypical representations of these groups in the media, make a writing assignment for them to either do in class, or as a homework assignment:
Give the students a prompt that they are executives at a film or television production company, who has been given a script for a TV show or Film that is blatantly racist (For Example, a television show call Kung-Fu Kenny about an Asian American High Schooler that fights crime by night and is a math tutor by day.)
Their assignment is to first identify the stereotypes and negative representations that are seen in the media piece. Then, their main assignment is to create an alternative film or TV show that challenges these specific stereotypes.
For extra credit, the student can even shoot some of their creation.

This assignment not only introduces students to negative stereotypes of minorities in the media, but also challenges them to create something that serves to benefit society and alter the course of these stereotypes.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happy 21st Birthday!

Happy Happy happy happy happy Birthday Julie!!! I hope you have a great birthday! You are the best girlfriend in the world and I love you!!!

Bry Bry

Critical Lens!

This is a clip from Marie Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola. (I was not able to rip the clip from the dvd, so I found this online. For my purposes, "the clip" is 2:55-10:50.) The clip shows the climax of the film in which the lower classes in France begin their famous revolution by storming Versailles and kidnapping the royal family.
Here is the clip!

Feminist Lens:
The fact the director of the film is a female plays an extremely significant role in the feminist approach to this film. Marie Antoinette, for those who do not know, was the Queen of France when the French Revolution began in 1789. She is infamously known in history as a selfish Queen who thought of nothing else than her parties and food. In addition, she is noted as actually being one of the many causes of the French Revolution with her famous sarcastic response to lower classes' plea for food: "Let them eat cake". Okay, enough of the history, back to the film analysis. How could Sofia Coppola create a film whose main character is so tainted by history, and have her be the protagonist who is identifiable with the audience? The answer is able to be seen using the feminist lens. Sofia Coppola, as a woman, has constructed a version of Marie Antoinette that has been greatly humanized, in this way, the audience is much more easily able to identify with her character. In this film, Marie Antoinette is depicted as a young woman attempting to deal with all of the pressures of being a young Queen and yet still enjoying her youth. Therefore, the audience is made to sympathize with her situation. A perfect example of this occurs in the clip when all of the royal employees are forced to leave Versailles due to the warning of the lower classes coming to attack. As they all say goodbye to Marie, she is seen left alone, standing in the room, framed by the doorway as the camera slowly dollies backwards away from her to dramatically highlight her loneliness at Versailles. This haunting shot forces the audience to sympathize with her situation. Later, the royal family is seen waiting in a room (for their impeding doom?) where the only sounds are that of the screaming, crying baby and that of the screaming mobs. The upset baby humanizes Marie Antoinette and her situation as the audience sees her with her child, and we think to ourselves (She is a real person with a child! I don't want anything to happen to her or the child!) Another side of the feminist lens involves the role of the woman as a Queen. As the lower classes are rioting in front of Versailles, Marie Antoinette enters onto the balcony to face the raging crowds. All she does is bow to the people. One would think that the king would address the people in this situation, however, since the director is a woman, she has chosen to have her Queen address the people in this scene. And what does she do? She bows in gratitude of her people, something a king would never do. Finally, more can be seen in her role as queen. Marie twice, during this clip, says "My place is here at the King's side". Throughout the rest of the previous scenes in the film, the only times she is seen in the same shot as the King, there is an incredible amount of awkward tension between them, highlighting their awkward relationship. So, why then, is she now feeling the need to "be at his side", and even feel comfortable enough with him to grab his hand during the final dinner scene as they share a moment in which they realize what is going to happen and actually want to spend this moment with each other. The answer lies in the music of the film, surprisingly. Throughout the film, the music is that of popular modern rock music (for example, "I Want Candy"). The reason Coppola has chosen to have modern music in a historical setting, is to emphasize Marie Antionette's youthful, playful nature. However, once the time has come for her to actually step up and be in her role as Queen when her entire monarchy is in jeopardy, then she must become serious. At this point, all of the music changes to classical music that fit the time period. Coppola, as a woman, has decided to end her film by displaying her protagonist as a positive political leader, almost as a martyr, standing her ground despite a knowingly deadly future (the opposite of her actual historical stigma).

Marxist/Classist Lens:
At it's core, the film is a discussion of the impetus of the French Revolution; the lower classes revolting against the royal monarchy and upper class in general. The question is, how does Sofia Coppola chose to represent the classes based on this violent dichotomy of lower versus upper classes. Throughout this clip, the upper classes are depicted as highly civilized and humanized, while the lower classes are depicted as uncivilized and archaic. Recall the shot that shows the Royal family sitting and waiting, while the only sound is the wildly screaming baby and mobs. Again, the screaming baby serves to emphasize the very human aspects of the upper class. In actuality, the lower classes are never fully shown in a single shot of the film. The first exposure the audience has to a depiction of the lower classes is a bit earlier in the film from this clip. There is a shot of Versailles with voice-over of a screaming mob and one man screaming "And when they went to the queen to tell her her country had no bread, you know what she said?!" At which point it cuts to a shot of Marie in a bathtub saying "Let them eat cake!", and then it cuts to Marie sitting in her bedroom with her friends as she says,"That's such nonsense! I would never say that!" This is a perfect representation of the lower vs. upper classes in the film. The lower classes are heard as a barbaric group claiming that the Queen (upper classes) has said a sarcastic malicious quotation against them, to which the Queen her self says that she would never have said such a thing. Here, the lower classes are shown as demonizers of the upper class that falsify a quotation to aggravate the lower classes and rally them aroung a cause. While, the upper class is sitting in a room having a civilized conversation and benevolent by claiming that she never said that quotation. Finally, when the lower classes are shown storming Versailles, they are depicted as extremely archaic and uncivilized. The lower classes are seen as an angry mob with pitchforks, flames, and archaic looking swords. They are not even fully seen in a shot, the camera either shows the tops of their heads from behind, emphasizing their weapons, or from the front for a short shot so that the audience is not able to make out any faces. On the other hand, Marie Antoinette bows to them, showing her civility and benevolence. There is an explicit dichotomy of the upper versus lower classes and civility versus incivility in the film.

Lesson Plan for using lenses to analyze advertising:
1. Discuss the role of ideological meaning behind advertisements- how they are subconsciously sending out a secondary message besides the intended product or service.
2. Show a commercial for Mucinex- D. Watch it here!
3. Discuss how the commercial can actually be analyzed using the Marxist Lens to communicate an anti-lower class sentimentality:
1. Discuss how the "Mucus" are depicted (Lower, working class, white collar worker, tape on tv, shoddy apartment, white beater, suspenders, tough guy voice, etc.)
2. Discuss the implications of depicting "Mucus" as lower class (mucus =bad and want to get rid of it == lower classes are bad and should be rid of?)
4. Show clip of Dove marketing beauty campaign (the one shown during class). Watch it here!
5. Discuss how this commercial can actually be analyzed using the Feminist Lens to communicate stereotypical depictions:
1. Discuss how the women are depicted (want to be a teacher, want to be a mother, putting emphasis on physical beauty)
2. Discuss how these are stereotypes of women and how that can be dangerous to the viewers.