Who am I? You may wonder. Actually that is a question I constantly ask myself. And the answer is not always the same, not only because self-identity is changing over time. In the digital age, identity is constantly re-defined and influenced by social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. What I can say for sure is that my name is Bo Bi, and I am a girl from Jingmen, an old city in central China. I am also a second year student in the Master Program of Social Sciences specialized in digital media and society at Uppsala University, Sweden.
I have always had interest in observing and communicating with different people. I once had a dream of becoming a journalist, so I went to Communication University of China to study journalism. However, after gaining a better understanding of the reality in China, I realized that I was not well suited to become a journalist. I would rather be an observer and researcher. Meanwhile, I became more interested in new media after working with different media formats. This is why I chose the current program. What is the role of digital media in society? How can digital media be used for positive social change in China? These are the questions I would like to explore.
This blog is mainly about social media, the subject I am currently studying. To begin with, what is “social media”? There are various ways of defining this term. Some bloggers have even summarized over 30 kinds of definition, for instance, What is social media? Here are 34 definitions (Lake 2009) and 30 Social Media Definitions (Cohen 2011). To define social media, we should know what is included under the term and what is not. First, social media is not media in the traditional sense. Print, broadcast, and other traditional media provide content for audiences to consume. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Weibo, are different. I believe that it is more appropriate to regard social media as platforms for interaction, since users are not simply consumers but also producers. Secondly, it should be differentiated from related concepts such as Web 2.0. According to Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein (2010, 61), social media is defined as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.” In this way, social media is differentiated from web 2.0. However, for me, Kaplan and Haenlein seem to focus more on technological application while the characteristics of enabling social interaction are not fully stressed.
In my opinion, the distinction of social media from other media is as follows. First, it allows interactions through social sharing. Second, it enables one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many communication in real time or asynchronously over time. Third, it is available to anyone who has access to the Internet. Fourth, it encompasses a variety of content formats. To conclude, social media is a group of Internet-based platforms, which allows users to connect and interact with other people, to share information and opinions in various forms such as text, photo, audio, video or multimedia.
As Cohen (2011) suggests, social media will continue to evolve and its uses will expand. How we define social media will also change.
Cohen, Heidi. 2011. “30 Social Media Definitions.” Heidicohen.com.
Kaplan, Andreas, and Haenlein, Michael. 2010. “Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media”. Business Horizons 53: 59-68.
Lake, Chris. 2009. “What is social media? Here are 34 definitions”. Econsultancy.com.