Annewil Neervens

New Media Blog

(Re-)constructing Social Networking Sites: Examining Software Relations and its Influence on Users October 17, 2009

Filed under: New Media,Online Social Networking,Personal,Thesis,Work — Annewil Neervens @ 20:53 p10

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 3.0 Netherlands license). This thesis was written in a total period of about five months under the supervision of Prof. dr. Richard Rogers, with Dr. Geert Lovink as the second reader. As I already mentioned in previous posts, 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. All of these topics have been researched by using – what I call – ‘interface information’: the information you’ll find by examining a user’s profile. 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 new 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


MA thesis on Social Networking Sites and Software September 10, 2009

Filed under: Blog,New Media,Online Social Networking,Personal,Thesis — Annewil Neervens @ 20:53 p09

It was a long, fun and interesting journey (and yes, I must admit, it was also tiring at times), but I’m happy to announce that my MA thesis on the software behind social networking sites (SNSs) is finally finished and submitted. Right now I’m waiting for the ‘official’ grading to be processed, but once that’s in I will post my thesis entitled ‘(Re-)constructing Social Networking Sites: Examining Software Relations and its Influence on Users’ on here ASAP.

As you can tell by the title, it treats both the software (the very construct) of SNSs and the influence this has on the user. One of the main claims in this writing is that software research – especially when it comes to SNSs – is still underdeveloped and more attention should be paid to the input just as well as the outcomes, which are now usually the subject of SNS studies.

Stay tuned!


What added value lies in your online connections? October 5, 2008

Filed under: Online Social Networking,Opinion,Web 2.0 — Annewil Neervens @ 20:53 p10

With different social networking sites, connections are also different. This might seem obvious, but how do these connections differ and what does that mean?

In their paper ‘Public Displays of Connection’, MIT Media Lab professor Judith Donath and academic danah boyd write:

‘Networks are the extension of our social world; they also act as its boundary. We may use the network to extend the range of people we can contact; we may use it to limit the people who can contact us. Most of the networking sites so far are designed to grow networks, not limit them. Yet costs and limits can add value. The expenditure of energy to maintain a connection is a signal of its importance and of the benefits it bestows.’

Especially the last sentence of this paragraph seems somewhat paradoxical to me. Isn’t the whole point of social networking sites that contacts (friends and acquaintances, either known in real life or not) are easily managed without the awkwardness of face-to-face contact, and possibly more important: without having to spend lots of time and energy in the maintenance process? It surely has to be easier and less time consuming than making appointments and ACTUALLY spending time with them in real life?