Anthropology of social networking
- A New Public Order: Network Politics and the Tea Party Movement
- Facebook in Trinidad
- Occupying Cyberspace: Indonesian Cyberactivism and Occupy Wall Street
- 'Online togetherness' of Brazilian migrants on social network sites
- Secret communication systems in Facebook
- Shifting Fields: Social Media, Religion and Popular Culture in Brazil and the Diaspora
- What 'friends' on the screen may mean: social networking shaping the Filipino diaspora
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Child in India? Sorry! No Facebook then!
Mon, 20 May 2013 11:57:07 +0000
The Delhi High Court had questioned the Union Government of India on why minors (children below 18 years of age) were on Facebook and Google. This was in response to a case filed by an ideologue of a major political party in India. The issue they wanted explained was how someone under the age of [...]
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What is social media about?
Thu, 09 May 2013 11:53:59 +0000
In this post I will summarise my individual interest in this project and how it relates to my previous work. In my PhD I discussed a particular and apparently individual reaction to the lack of appropriate alignment of the individual to the external forces that come from society. I showed that in rural southeast Romania [...]
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‘What is social media?’ – a definition
Tue, 30 Apr 2013 23:01:01 +0000
Having described our project as the Global Social Media Impact Study, we realised there was just one little thing we hadn’t actually done. This was to define, at least for our purposes, what we mean by the words ‘social media’. Our studies are ethnographies, there is pretty much nothing we would not wish to include. [...]
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The secret world of the inbox
Wed, 24 Apr 2013 20:03:35 +0000
This is my last week in my field site until 2014. I’ve been hussling to spend as much time with as many people as I can in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been invited to a wedding, a ceremony of Hindu prayers (a puja), a political rally, a cd launch by a local band and [...]
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Chinese ‘WeChat’ social media app will make the world look around and shake!
Mon, 22 Apr 2013 01:38:40 +0000
Two years is a long time in the world of social media. This point has been reinforced to me multiple times in the last few weeks since my return to China. When I was in the country carrying out research for my PhD in 2011, no-one in my fieldsite was talking about WeChat (威信 weixin). [...]Read more...
Secret communication systems in Facebook
Giustina Trevisi, Digital Anthropology MSc, UCL
"Tell the truth. Uncover a few secrets."
This investigation was a study of emerging Colombian communication systems, specifically Facebook. I employed a variety of online and offline ethnographic methods followed by the analysis of mediated content/output. It was discovered that youths in Columbia are implementing quite elaborate secret communication systems in Facebook. Through this research I have exposed three types of strategically crafted secret messaging systems. The first type of secret communication is Fake relationship status or untrue information regarding their relationship status that has a particular meaning to their social group. The second, secret codes or "Encrypted" communications are public posts that have a secret meaning that deliver a precise message that leads to a particular action and can only be deciphered by a particular person, and third, Indirect messaging system, or public posts understood by most of their Facebook Friends but have a special meaning to the targeted receiver/receivers.
These elaborate practices regarding secrecy have an impact on how youths relate to their social groups, how they manifest intimacy, strengthen their friendships and manage their romantic sphere. For example, in Fake relationship status girls are falsely “married” to other girls in Facebook. Thought this they are communicating to their social group that the relationship is very close and the indexed meaning is that they are best friends. But people outside their circle could misinterpret relationship updated as real a same sex marriage because they are unfamiliar with young people’s idioms of practice (Gershon, 2010). These practices in Facebook are ways in which young use secrecy as a strategy of inclusion and exclusion. Young people code messages and attribute secret significances to their Facebook posts or status updates as a way to communicate with a small group of people or a particular person (Simmel, 1950) they are narrowcasting or diffusing information to exclusive audiences (Walher et al, 2010).
On the other hand, Secret codes or “encrypted” communications in forbidden relationships help couples acquire a sense of “bond” or “we” through the sharing secrets or codes and simultaneously achieve a greater scene of privacy. For example, a couple that is involved in a forbidden unofficial parallel relationship has developed a secret messaging system around the Facebook profile pictures. Whenever the young man changes his Facebook profile picture, in which he appears with his official girlfriend, to a picture where is alone this means that he is available. The concrete message is that they will arrange a date with his unofficial girlfriend; it is a cue for her to prepare herself for the date. Youths have developed encoded communication to deliver specific information to others and so strengthening their relationships. In this case, changing a profile picture is public to everyone in the network, but the significance is closed and exclusive. Through being private in a very public media they have found a method to regain their privacy and control precisely that which many people regard as lost when they commit to social communication through Facebook.
It is important to take note that these strategic encrypted communications in Facebook are about one fourth of all the information collected during the fieldwork. However, this research focused on this particular aspect of the data because this particular genre of usage has not been previous acknowledged in anthropological and other academic studies of SNS. These secret or encrypted communications in Facebook have dual significance in that they are differentially understood by a specifics person or group of people. Therefore, these communications question the extent of transparency and truthfulness that is usually associated to Facebook (Miller, 2011). It has also been evident that young people in Colombia are developing different idioms of practice and media ideologies regarding Facebook, which are challenging Mark Zuckerberg’s perception of this network as a intrinsically a truthful extension of identity. This study shows a new facet of how people are producing content and re-appropriating idioms of practice within secrecy.
Gershon, I. (2010). The Breakup 2.0. Cornell University Press.
Miller, D. (2011). Tales from Facebook. London: Polity.
Simmel, G. ( 1950.) The Sociology of George Simmel. NewYork : Free Press.307-376.
Wegner, D & Lane, D. (1995). The cognitive consequences of secrecy. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 69, pp. 237-25
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