Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Online Community

I’ve decided to research the role of language on identity in teenage girls.  I have a niece who is a junior in high school.  I plan to observe her and her some of friends on Facebook.  I’m hoping to be able to determine how much of this specific group’s identity is linked to their actions and language online.  Does it restrict their language or allow more freedom?  Do they write differently online than they would speak to those same friends in person or on the phone?  I’m still trying to flush out exactly what that will entail, but I think with some additional thought and information I will be able to figure it out.  

The majority of the participants will be in the age range of 14-18 years old.  I’ve put together some information for the parents of the participants.  The parents will have the information about the research as well as the opportunity to not allow their child to participate.  The interests of the participants will vary within the group, however, I think they will have overlapping interests with my niece who is part of many different groups in her high school.  Most of the girls will attend Palmer High School and be part of some of the same social circles.

I will play an interesting role in the research.  I will have to friend the participants (aside from my niece who I’m already friends with on Facebook) and then I will focus on observation.  But the problem then arises that because I am also friends with the participants we are linked, so to speak.  In that sense, the research cannot be completely objective.  I don’t think this will be a problem, but it is something to think about when I compile the research at the end of the semester.

I think Facebook is an interesting site because it allows people to speak openly and frequently with people without seeing them in person.  Interestingly, people that are within the same social circle and see one another everyday, still communicate on Facebook on a regular basis.  I’m focusing strictly on young women, mostly because I think focusing on both sexes will be too much for this particular project.  That being said, I think I might be able to use this as a possible thesis topic and expand it to potentially include other groups of people.


  1. Firstly, you’re a very brave person to get that involved with that many girls in that age range. Which brings me to the bulleted comments

    1: This field is basically what digital literacies is about: who are using tech (mostly teens sorry twenty somethings and older they have us outnumbered and have more free time and more nimble thumb joints) and how are they using social media specifically. I think your going to find lots of weird and awesome things in your research.

    2: You do a really good job of presenting the most pertinent information for your research project. One of my chief concerns is how are you going to do the comparative study? It’s going to be hard to get all the girls to talk on the phone around you, plus, people tend to change their behaviors especially speech patterns when being observed. These factors may make your research difficult, since the girls may censor themselves or act out because you are observing. I’m not trying to make your task seem more difficult, I’m just voicing thoughts, and I hope you have a great response to these concerns.

    3: I think you might consider narrowing your subject down, but it may be difficult to narrow at first. I say observe for awhile, document what they talk about, then choose a specific topic that reoccurs (boys, music, teachers, homework, special events) and look specifically at the language or how much more interest a specific topic gains over others. That might help you focus in and make this topic more manageable.

    Shanna, I think your topic looks really interesting, and like a somewhat fun challenge. I hope it goes well, and can’t wait to see what information you uncover.

  2. Like you, I am also interested in how their identities play out in this online social setting and I am looking forward to following what you discover--especially since our goals are very similar. Some of the questions you are posing are intriguing, such as “Does it restrict their language or allow more freedom?” I am curious as to how you will determine the restriction or freedom that their identity on line will allow, versus how restricted or free their identities are in school and at home. I will agree with Lars, and I believe we mentioned this in our last conversation: How you will obtain the comparative/contrast observation. Are you planning on an outing with them? That could possibly work. How about attending a sport function at their school, in order to observe how their identities in the real world versus their Facebook identity.

    Another thought I had, as far as compare/contrast: Writing samples, I think would be easier if you were to ask them for poems, essays, fun/social emails, and texting on phone and so forth would help you allow you that contrast material. I am not sure how exactly you could go about it, but I think that the compare/contrast is a valid and worthy question—but I am not sure how or what would be the best method.

    I also see that you mentioned they have common interest, would it be possible that they had other common interest on-line? Perhaps comparing their identities on Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, or Instagram would allow you to see differences between those sites? How does the discourse between Instagram and Facebook contrast or compare would be quite interesting. If their online identity and how it is shaped within in a particular social setting this is what interests you, I think following the girls through at least one other social sites would give you a better understanding to what is happening in Facebook at least. However, this could also be too broad and not focused enough. I believe I am struggling with the same issues within my observation and how exactly will I establish the comparative study.

    I am excited to see how we will overcome some of these obstacles since I feel that both of ours are similar in what we want to achieve. I also believe that as we begin to observe, we may be able to better articulate what it is we are trying to achieve and analyze. Sometimes it is just rewording our questions that will align with what we need to observe, analyze and answer. Looking forward to how we will work through some of these questions and what we may discover.