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How The World Changed Social Media

How the World Changed Social Media
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Daniel Miller; Elisabetta Costa; Nell Haynes; Tom McDonald; Razvan Nicolescu; Jolynna Sinanan; Juliano Spyer; Shriram Venkatraman; Xinyuan Wang | February 2016

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About the book

How the World Changed Social Media is the first book in Why We Post, a book series that investigates the findings of anthropologists who each spent 15 months living in communities across the world. This book offers a comparative analysis summarising the results of the research and explores the impact of social media on politics and gender, education and commerce. What is the result of the increased emphasis on visual communication? Are we becoming more individual or more social? Why is public social media so conservative? Why does equality online fail to shift inequality offline? How did memes become the moral police of the internet?

Supported by an introduction to the project’s academic framework and theoretical terms that help to account for the findings, the book argues that the only way to appreciate and understand something as intimate and ubiquitous as social media is to be immersed in the lives of the people who post. Only then can we discover how people all around the world have already transformed social media in such unexpected ways and assess the consequences.

About the author

Elisabetta Costa is Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the British Institute at Ankara (BIAA). She is an anthropologist specialising in the study of digital media, social media, journalism, politics and gender in Turkey and the Middle East. Find out more about her work here. ot tweet her @elisax00

Nell Haynes is a postdoctoral fellow at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the American University in 2013. Her research addresses themes of performance, authenticity, globalization, and gendered and ethnic identification in Bolivia and Chile. Visit her website here. or tweet her at @doctoraluchador.

Tom McDonald is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, The University of Hong Kong. He received his PhD in Anthropology from UCL in 2013 and has published numerous academic articles on Internet use and consumption practices in China. Find out more about his work here, or tweet him at @AnthroTom.

Daniel Miller is Professor of Anthropology at UCL, author/editor of 37 books including Tales from Facebook, Digital Anthropology (Ed. with H. Horst), The Internet: an Ethnographic Approach (with D. Slater), Webcam (with J. Sinanan), The Comfort of Things. A Theory of Shopping, and Stuff. Find out more about his work here, or tweet him @DannyAnth.

Razvan Nicolescu is a Research Associate at University College London, from where he obtained his PhD in 2013. Trained both in telecommunication and anthropology, he has conducted ethnographic research in Romania and Italy. His research interests focus on visibility and digital anthropology; political economy, governance, and informality; feelings, subjectivity, and normativity. Find out more about his work here, or tweet him at @razvanni

Jolynna Sinanan is a Vice Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). From 2011-2014, she was a Research Fellow in Anthropology at UCL. Co-author (with D. Miller) of Webcam. Her areas of research are digital ethnography, new media, migration and gender in Trinidad, Australia and Singapore. Tweet her at @jolynnasinanan

Juliano Spyer is pursuing his PhD at the Dept. of Anthropology, UCL. He obtained his MSc from the UCL’s Digital Anthropology Programme. He wrote the first book about social media in Brazil: Conectado (Zahar, 2007) and was digital adviser for the presidential candidate Marina Silva in 2010. He is originally trained as an oral history researcher. Find out more about his work here and here, or tweet him at @jasper.

Shriram Venkatraman is a PhD candidate at the Department of Anthropology, University College London. He is also a trained professional statistician and prior to his doctoral studies at UCL, held leadership positions at Walmart, USA. His research interests include technologies in work places, organisational culture and entrepreneurship. 

Xinyuan Wang, is a PhD candidate at the Dept. of Anthropology at UCL, She obtained her MSc from the UCL’s Digital Anthropology Programme. She is an artist in Chinese traditional painting and calligraphy. She translated (Horst and Miller Eds.) Digital Anthropology into Chinese and contributed a piece on Digital Anthropology in China. Tweet her at @amberwanguk.


Table of contents

Introductory chapters What is social media | Academic studies of social media | Our method and approach | Our survey results 

The ten key topics Education and young people | Work and commerce | Online and offline | relationships | Gender Inequality | Politics | Visual images | Individualism | Does social media make us happier? | The future

About Why We Post

Why do we post on social media? Is it true that we are replacing face-to-face relationships with on-screen life? Are we becoming more narcissistic with the rise of selfies? Does social media create or suppress political action, destroy privacy or become the only way to sell something? And are these claims equally true for a factory worker in China and an IT professional in India?

With these questions in mind, nine anthropologists each spent 15 months living in communities in China, Brazil, Turkey, Chile, India, England, Italy and Trinidad. They studied not only platforms but the content of social media to understand both why we post and the consequences of social media on our lives. Their findings indicate that social media is more than communication – it is also a place where we now live. 

This series explores and compares the results in a collection of ground-breaking and accessible ethnographic studies. To find out more, visit http://www.ucl.ac.uk/why-we-post