Beginnings and Origins: Relearning how to live in a Socially Mediated World

It is my turn, as my professor Annika Waern did before me, to welcome you in this public blog. The sole purpose of this blog is the reflection of our thoughts on the rising global phenomenon of social media and their various aspects. Before delving deeper into the analysis of this new world order and its mechanisms, I should introduce myself properly.

My name is Dimitris Masvoulas and I was born and raised in Greece. After finishing my Bachelor studies in Sociology, a series of events and coincidences (some might call it destiny) lead me to the decision to study abroad and narrow down my academic focus in a new form of society, the one which has emerged with the creation of social media. As part of the Masters Programme, Digital Media and Society at Uppsala University, I have learned to observe the social media with a new set of eyes and I can’t stop being amazed by the endless possibilities they offer and their ever-growing power.

What is Social Media?

Although, the term social media has been casually used in the past few years, there is little to no understanding of what social media is. Moreover, there is a general confusion, among public and academic circles, of what should be included under the umbrella term, social media.

For Kaplan and Haenlein (2010), a line should be drawn between social media and Web 2.0 and user generated content. Web 2.0 is a step towards a more interactive, social and cooperative web, allowing the user to participate in the creation of online content. Thus, Web 2.0 should be considered as a platform for the evolution of social media. According to their definition, social media is a cluster of online applications which are build on the foundations of Web 2.0 and allow the production and the transference of User Generated Content (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010 61)

Although the focal point of Kaplan and Haenlein’s article is the creative aspect of the social media, Boyd and Ellison (2007), while focusing on the social networking sites (SNS), discuss the social aspects of the social media and how they help the users maintain and expand their existing social circle.  Social Networking Sites, like Facebook and Twitter, are online services that  allow the user to create a public profile within the boundaries of each site, communicate and connect with his existing network of friends while expanding it through the access in a new list of connections which exist within the network ( Boyd and Ellison 2001 211).

How can we categorize the various Social Media?

Although most people would agree that popular social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube, all fall under the large category Social Media, they are unable to distinguish them into subcategories. In an attempt to resolve this problem, Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) combined various theories from the field of media studies (social presence, media richness) and sociology (self-presentation, self-disclosure). This lead to the classification of Social Media, with respect to the level of interaction between the users, content exchange and varying degrees of self presentation and exposure. For example, when it comes to social presence and media richness, virtual games and social networking sites offer the highest level of interaction and content exchange. However, if we are looking for the highest levels of self-presentation and self-disclosure, blogs are first on the list while virtual games usually display minima levels of self exposure (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010 62).

Beyond the definition

After going though the definition of Social Media, I hope that our dedicated followers have a better understanding of what is social media. In our next installment we will attempt to analyze the structure of a social media platform and try to figure out what makes it tick. Till next time stay tuned !

References

Kaplan, Andreas M. and Michael Haenlein. 2010. “Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media.” Business horizons 53(1):59-68

Boyd, Danah M. and  Nicole B. Ellison. 2007. “Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13(1):210-230

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