Online Multi-Contextual Analysis: (Re)Connecting Social Network Site Users with Their Profile

Online Multi-Contextual Analysis: (Re)Connecting Social Network Site Users with Their Profile

Alyson Young (The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA), David Gurzick (University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA) and Anabel Quan-Haase (The University of Western Ontario, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-040-2.ch032
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This chapter proposes online multi-contextual analysis (OMCA) as a new multi-method approach for investigating and analyzing the behaviors, perceptions, and opinions of social network site (SNS) users. This approach is designed to extend methods currently available for the investigation of the use and social consequences of these sites with techniques that converge upon and triangulate users’ perceptions of their online behavior. Using quantitative measures of SNS usage, OMCA provides a much neglected level of analysis. We discuss current methodological practice in SNS research and introduce OMCA as an alternative approach. We then describe two studies that have employed OMCA to illustrate the method’s diversity and potential for providing new insights. Finally, we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of OMCA in comparison to single approaches and draw conclusions for theories of SNSs.
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Social Network Sites

Social network sites1 (SNSs), such as MySpace, LinkedIn, and Facebook, have rapidly increased in popularity. Statistics show that approximately 80 to 90 percent of undergraduate university students are active participants (Strater and Richter, 2007) and that adult use of SNSs in the United States has nearly quadrupled in the last four years—from 8 percent in 2005 to 35 percent in 2009 (Lenhart, 2009). The popularity of these sites is due to users’ ability to converse with their friends and peers, to share digital cultural artifacts and ideas, and to connect with vast networks of peers (boyd and Heer, 2006). Through the construction of a profile users are able to signal aspects of their personality, which assists in identity formation and performance (boyd, 2007).

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