Boyd, d.m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007)

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boyd, d.m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), 210-230.

Purpose of article

To describe the different social network sites (SNSs), their historical information, how they evolved and why some failed, and the personal and relational implications in different social/cultural contexts, albeit with limitations.

Main Argument(s) and supporting evidence

The paper focuses on how various cultures emerged around SNS over time, while the technology remained uniform. The variety of social network sites (SNSs) has experienced explosive growth in the last couple decades when the initial ones first appeared as a way to connect to others online. SNSs now have become permanently entrenched in offline experiences and may be reshaping them. As people connect to others who are similar in some way there is a tendency to self-preserve and validate identity through the use of impression management and to segregate from those who have different perspectives and viewpoints. And potential relational conflicts result when individuals chose not to present their authentic selves for a variety of reasons. The aggregation of personal information allows social media networks to provide rich data sources for large scale harvesting. Powerful currents of opinion-rich sources such as Facebook channel into a deep ocean of personal insights that create a breeding ground for data mining. Privacy threats are a growing concern as younger users access and contribute on SNS, which, in turn, challenges the notions of public versus private spaces.

Method(s) (e.g., case studies, interviews, thought piece, survey)

Thought-provoking. The article consists of background material and analysis.

Areas / Topics / Keywords

Online/Offline Relationships, Networks, and Network Structures, Social Media.

Author(s)’(s) understanding/definitions of key concepts

Social network structures (SNS) prioritize relationships that help to connect and enhance pre-existing offline connections.

Theoretical frameworks followed by the author(s)

The authors imply the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) framework because they examine the social forces behind technological change.

Novel ideas introduced by this article

SNS are reshaping offline social lives. Online and offline boundaries are becoming increasingly fluid and porous. And what people project to be authentic (e.g. identity) and what is perceived to be truthful may not necessarily be the same thing.

Pitfalls, blind spots, and weaknesses of this article

The article does not thoroughly discuss the relationship between communication and power and how social network sites affect and shift that power dynamic in favour of the organization. The authors briefly touch on privacy concerns but do not address the harm of exploiting users.

Potential Contribution to the scholarship of Social Studies of Library and Information and to the practice of Librarianship

The library profession constructs meaning not only through knowledge but also through collaboration, and it utilizes technology to perform its core function of helping the public with their information needs. Relationship building is at the heart of the practice of librarianship. Enhancing the customer experience requires library and information professionals to understand what social media networks are and how they are used to connect people together, which may not necessarily be based on shared interests.

Page Author: Vivian McCollor