I started my research on Facebook. More specifically, my research is on a collection of individual pages on Facebook. I thought about conducting research on other sites, and in all honesty, I wish I would have. Or I should say, I wish I had chosen a different group to study. However, that is not necessarily pertinent to this particular post. I chose Facebook because I think it gives people, specifically adolescents/young adults, the ability to interact together and form identity groups and alliances.
The participants in my group are teenage girls between the ages of 16 and 18 years old. There is one boy who participates in one conversation, but his comments will not take a large role in my research. They all live in a small town (Palmer, Alaska—approximate population 5900 in 2010), and they attend the same high school. All of the participants are friends, move in the same social circles, and most are members of the same extracurricular activities. I chose this particular cohort because I thought it would yield a large amount of data that I could sift through to find exactly what I thought was important. The problem thus far has been that the group of adolescents I’m studying are not active Facebook users; therefore, I had a difficult time finding adequate data.
One participant is my niece (noted as MS in my data sets) and the others are her friends. That being said, I play an interesting role. I am an active Facebook user (less so now that we’re at the end of the semester), so I see the activities in which MS participates. I am not friends with her friends, so I am only privy to the conversations in which she is included and among those, only the ones that are public. At this time I have not had an issue with not being able to access information because of privacy issues.
My problem has been a lack of data. Currently I have collected two main data sets. The first was a meme that was posted on MS’ wall by a male friend. Then a conversation ensued about the meme and the upcoming school year; this conversation included 5 participants. The second data set was a video that was posted on MS’ wall and included far more participants, of which MS was not an active one. The second data set gave more relevant information and that helped me to narrow my research.
I analyzed my data in a broad sense in my first data set. I looked at the number of specific occurrences of typographical anomalies, different and specific uses of a particular vernacular—mainly internet speak or text, the use of emoticons, and some additional numerical data. My second data set included some more specific information, not only because the actual data set was larger (25 versus 43 comments). I decided to pay attention to audience, specifically how the language of the participants changes depending on their audience. The changes were more localized in the second data set because there were adults and other people from outside the original social group present. I want to focus on how that change in language creates, or helps to create, an online identity for the participants.
I plan on looking mostly at the Transforming Economic Conditions and Social Relationships tradition. More specifically, Knobel and Lankshear’s article “Digital Literacy and Participation in Online Social Networking Spaces,” and Black and Steinkueler’s article “Literacy in Virtual Worlds” and their idea of affinity spaces. I’ve also looked at the Transforming Identities tradition, particularly McLean’s article “A Space Called Home.” This article is related to an immigrant adolescent girl and her use of instant messaging; however, I think the concept of identity can be applied to my research as well. Thomas’ article “Digital Literacies of the Cybergirl” is another important article that I will look at because it looks at how women behave in online spaces and how those spaces can effect their identities. As of now, the last tradition I will focus on is Transforming Reading and Writing, particularly Haas’ article “Young People’s Everyday Literacies” as well as Lam’s “Multiliteracies on Instant Messaging in Negotiating Local, Translocal, and Transnational Affiliations.” For the literature review, I’ve located some specific journals—Journal of Sociolinguistics and American Speech—that I plan to use for my additional sources.