Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Facebook and young parents, a how to build a conceptual framework

The idea for my research project to look at young parents (those aged 18-25) use of Facebook.

My reasoning for choosing this specific group is simply through the observation of the field of SNS research concentrating mainly on student groups - and I think non-students may have a very different experience of using SNS for socialising and support - especially young parents who I've seen posting status update after status update about their children! I've tried to look for other research about young parents social support and there doesn't seem to be much focus on young parents social support, especially online social support. Consequently I think there may be an under researched area here.

I'd like to do an exploratory qualitative study, but at the moment I'm struggling to see how I can formulate research questions, so if you have any idea of open questions regarding Facebook as a social function or Facebook as a support function that'd be great.

Offhand I can think of people doing research on use of the internet and online communities for health information and social support, mostly with an emphasis on social capital. An example sequence of readings could go like this:

• Strauss, A. L., Fagerhaugh, S., Suczek, B., & Wiener, C. (1997). Social organization of medical work. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction. (Originally published in 1985 by University of Chicago Press.) Chapter 8: The Work of Patients (pp. 191-209). (Negotiation of patients and medical personnel with technology; cooperative work; legitimate peripheral participation; power relationships)

• Pettigrew, K. E. (2000). Lay information provision in community settings: How community health nurses disseminate human services information to the elderly. Library Quarterly, 70(1), 47-85. (Information ecology; social networks; information flow)

• Orgad, S. (2005). The transformative potential of online communication: The case of breast cancer patients’ Internet spaces. Feminist Media Studies, 5(2), 141-161. (Online communities; social capital; invisibility; power)

Now I know you’re not necessarily interested in health, but it’s the same kind of idea – find an older and broad set of ideas or theories (social inclusion, strength of ties, what it means to be a parent, communities of practice or maybe imagined communities, etc…) and then maybe connect them to a discipline or area of study (information science, communication, education, psychology) and build up to a specific example or site of research (Facebook, for instance).

As for the differences in FB use by cultural group I’d say there’s a great deal of work to be done – most SNS research has been on privacy and youth, and as the major immersive college student user base moves on to the work and young adult world (what you’re experiencing) and the system broadens its scope to new countries and late adopters join (parents, middle-aged women in particular) we’re likely to see a complicating of context and diversifcation of social norms – and an even more pressing need for study.