Media networks are raising a lot of interest in every part of the world and hence attract academicians, investors, governments, institutions and users’ attentions. The investors are looking at ways in which social media networks can be turned into business avenues. Davies and Mosdell (2006) assert that this interesting theme of social media brings together academicians from diverse regions to study emergence, impacts and trend of this phenomenon. This introductory article describes features of social media networks and proposes definition that can be used in other studies. A general view of these social network medium is presented and key discussions on changes and developments are also presented. This discussion gives summary and conclusion of existing scholarship concerning social media on objective of further research in future.
Social media networks include MySpace, Facebook, twitter, 2go, whatsapp, Google talks, YouTube and Bebo. For less than a decade, social media have indeed attracted millions of users, most of whom have adopted these networks as their key communication elements (Connaway and Powell 2010, chapter 2). Social media networks with various applications of technologies arouse many other attitudes and interests toward growth of these media. However, new innovations try to keep track of the pre-existing connections, while to some extent help those with shared interests such as political affiliations, social or economic activities to connect. Additionally, Adler and Clark (2003, p.156) contends that networks also cater specific audiences based on common language, racial, sexual, religious or national identities. Moreover, the networks are distinct in terms of how new information is incorporated. The communication tools also bring variety of connections, for example blogs, mobile connections, photo and video-sharing.
The rationale of the study
Scholars from various fields examine social networks so as to know the practices and possible implications and culture arising, meaningful impacts, and how users embrace them. Adler and Clark (2003, p. 441) says, “There are unique collection of articles that analyze a wide spectrum of social network sites using various methodological techniques, theoretical traditions, and analytic approaches”. The goal here is to showcase some interdisciplinary scholarship around social networks.
This introduction provides a concept, history, and scholarly context of the study, the beginning and the definition of the components of social networks. It also presents perspective on the historic development of the networks. Therefore, recent study is reviewed and an attempt to contextualize and identify key works. This proposal is concluded with a brief description of the articles suggesting future research.
Theoretical perspectives used
Social network sites are internet or web services that provide the connectivity which let individuals construct a public profile within common systems and connect to other users whom they share common interests. However, the connections of these social networks vary from site to another. Social network sites are unique because they create and make themselves visible on the social media. It is therefore obvious that these networks allow users meet different and strange people hence become known to each other virtually. For example, the face book users from foreign country get familiarity to the people abroad allowing them make daily greetings to their ‘strange pals’. Baxter and Babbie (2004) note that social network site bring forth connections among different users from different places of the world, though that is not the goal. It is further noted that these connections are frequently for secret dealings among those sharing offline connections.
Social media have incorporated variety of technical characteristics making visible profiles that display created list of friends in the network sites. Benatar (2006, p. 223) notes that social media networks are unique in that users use their identities, some of which are not real. When users log into their network accounts, individuals identify other users who are familiar to thaem. The used terms differ depending on the network site and description on user profile (Davies and Mosdell 2006, chapter 5) Terms commonly used include "friends," "contacts," "fans," and “follow”.
Social media networks vary in their basic characteristics and user perspective. Gatrell, Bierly and Jensen (2012, p.313) notes, social media allow users share photos or videos while others utilize bloggs and instant message services. Some social media based in the web support mobile interactions, for example facebook, twitter, whatsapp and 2go. Most social network sites target users basing on geographic location or the language of the users, but this did not advocate for effectiveness of the medium effectiveness. Koivisto, Juha, Thomas, and Aslama (2010, p. 162) give an example of Orkut, that aimed at English interface but Brazilians who speak Portuguese language became the majority to use this network.
Social media networks are accessible most of which attract homogeneous populations making it common to find groups basing on national origin, gender, age group, level of education, or other factors (Kock 2010, p. 96). All these typically segment society even though that was not the objective of the designers. Since 2003, many social media providers have launched their services considerably, most of which took profile-centric site forms that imitated the success of early networks such as Friendster, in targeting specific demographics. Offredy and Vickers (2013, p.291) assert that passion-centric such as Dogstar made strangers connect basing on their personal shared interests. Nevertheless, while social networks and content generated for users developed, websites began to reflect on media sharing, implementing social media network features. For example, Flicker provided photo sharing; FM provided listening of music, while youtube provided video sharing (Orey, Jones, & Branch 2012, p.177). According to Wimmer and Dominick (2006, p. 222), MySpace developed its strategy by regularly differentiating itself, adding features to suit demand of the user. In 2004, teenagers began to join MySpace, because they wanted to link their favorite bands. Instead of rejecting underage users, MySpace adopted a new user policy that allowed minors. Thereafter, three different groups began to participate; the artists, teenage group, and the post-college social group. According to Priest (2005, p.286), Facebook was designed in 2004 to strictly support different college networks, unlike other social media networks.
In due time, Facebook raised interests amongst high school students, professionals and eventually everyone in the social media network. Unlike other social media networks, Facebook does not allow users make their personal profile visible to public users. Rogers (2009, p.411) observes that a characteristic that distinguish facebook is its ability to allow users to customize individual profiles and can compare preferred movies and photos. Currently, the number of people using the social media networks are not known, although Rubin, Rubin, & Piele (2005) says that marketing research shows social media is gaining popularity in the world. This is why research is carried out to give clear approximation of the users.
Covering laws applicable
Researchers at the department of media and technology should retain records that are associated with media and it components research project in accordance with research conducts and policies (Tracy, 2012, p.242). Data must be kept in a secure and protected manner as per the institution’s policy. The following are the laws that will be applicable in the research
i. All members of a research unit are to be fully informed with respect to what is expected of them at the time they join the unit. Clear and achievable goals and expectations should be defined.
ii. Obligation of the research leaders is to make sure that research abides by the university and department guidelines, maintaining a financial responsibility in operation and create protected research outcome.
iii. In joint efforts, the individual roles and authorships of all participants should be clearly distinguished at beginning of the project.
iv. It is a professional responsibility of faculty, students to inform institution heads if they have uncertainties about the reliability of the work of another member of this academic community and to follow appropriate procedures.
The social medium influences the behavior of the users considerably. For example, Facebook users cannot get all the satisfaction reading from the site once. A repetitive behavior is developed where a user keeps logging into the social site account regularly. However, every different medium have different information richness. So a person using Facebook daily will probably have different version of information from the person using MySpace.
For purpose of this research, study survey will be conducted to find out the use, users, impact and the popularity of the use of social media. The target group in this research will be the young and educated group, preferably college and university students.
Four main hypotheses will be used in the study,
- That use of social media increase with time in the colleges,
- That demographic phenomenon will affect media sources sought to be used,
- That surveillance needs will affect relationships with other media, and
- That certain modality of information will affect individual knowledge, behavior and decisions.
Tracy (2012, p. 354) argues that the last hypothesis above will mean that researchers must predict whether social media drag the users to some non-existent beliefs, become knowledgeable or if they spent their time in what is not deriving benefit.
The research will involve conducting a survey in learning institutions particularly colleges and universities. The participants in the respective universities or colleges will be selected at random to obtain samples of users. The survey used will contain estimately 50 items. Of these, ten will be demographic questions about age, gender and culture; ten will be about the needs of the users about the media such as connecting new friend, searching relationships, adventure and entertainment. Ten will be about users’ connection to the relatives, friends or clients, either by person or by family member. The last twenty will be about students’ and business people’s connection about corporate employments and trade deals respectively.
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