In reality, they are most likely to be encountered as hybrids or in transition from one type to the other. The research presented in this chapter deals with collectivities in which both media and strong social relationships play a crucial role for their members. Therefore we put a special focus on the actor constellations that emerge from media-related communication on the one hand and friendship on the other.
To be able to identify several actor constellations and how they are interrelated with media use as well as with each other, we apply a social network approach. The loosest link hereby is the possibility to perceive others and their actions. More obvious links would be any form of direct interaction, such as conversations. The relevance of these direct links can be explained by the criteria Baym lists for online communities and networked collectivism. In addition to the shared practice by means of using a specific medium, this includes social norms Baym , since social norms require at least a minimal level of perception of others.
Hence, direct links become a necessary prerequisite for what we call collectivities. In a broad understanding, any audience could be seen as a media - based collectivity since it has an orientation towards the respective media content in common Grunig and Stamm : However, to emphasize the aspect of direct orientation to each other and respective actions, we subsequently use the term of networked media collectivities.
Thus, these are defined as networked sets of actors with shared communicative practices e. Examples are a group of people who discuss TV series, football fans who gather to watch a match or avid users of a micro-blogging service commenting on an ongoing political discussion. In all three instances, media play a constitutive role for the communicative construction of a collectivity, either as conversation topics, as means of communication or both.
Networked media collectivities can be densely knit or even be congruent to families, groups of friends, groups of work colleagues or other kinds of collectivities. However, they can also transcend these or may even construct detached collectivities and thereby lead to blurring of traditional social borders. In cases of frequent and direct interaction, members of networked media collectivities may develop a strong identification with group membership.
The networks formed by those collectivities rapidly exceed the point where any actor can have a complete overview over their structure or identify their boundaries. Several studies argue that there still is a strong relationship between face-to-face and online communication. Caughlin and Sharabi show that there is a positive correlation between the frequency of online and face-to-face communication.
That is to say that online communication is most frequent with those persons we communicate with in person as well. The strong overlap of computer-mediated and face-to-face communication networks can at least partially be explained by the fact that new communication technologies are diffusing within the pre-existing social structures that are represented by face-to-face communication Baym et al. Offline relationships may not only be relevant for the adoption of new communication technologies.
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Latent tie theory assumes that offline relationships are also crucial for the maintenance of online communication Haythornthwaite , Digital communication technologies make it very low cost to socialize van Zalk et al. But normally they remain weak ties Granovetter ; Baym and Ledbetter that dissolve when the communication technologies lapse Haythornthwaite The relevance of media content as an object for everyday interpersonal communication is documented in various empirical studies.
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In fact, a substantial proportion of everyday conversations is related to mass media content Friemel ; Keppler ; Weber Since then, it has been pointed out that conversation topics have become more heterogeneous differentiated and media themselves have become more important as a conversation topic Gehrau and Goertz Moreover, conversations about media content are able to fulfil important social functions Friemel Media provide a constant source of conversation topics. Mass media content especially has the potential to serve as a ground of common knowledge from which conversations can arise DiMaggio ; Friemel This can be a means to define inner structures and boundaries of collectivities.
To display a shared preference for specific media content, to give an example, is one of several possibilities to express a sense of belonging and distinction from others Hepp It has been shown that conversations surrounding mass media content can be an instrument to constitute hierarchy in relationships Lull On a more general level, media content can also provide a starting point for the negotiation of norms and values in groups Hurrelmann and in this way serve as one foundation for the construction of collectivities Hepp et al.
Conversations surrounding media content can thus be seen both as a means to facilitate the construction of media-based collectivities as well as a factor that mediatizes collectivities. Collectivities are important for their members as they provide access to various forms of resources and support.
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This is generally referred to as the concept of social capital , which is closely related to social network theory Bourdieu ; Coleman Social capital can be defined as the resources that an actor is able to access or profit from because of his or her embeddedness in a social network Lin ; Esser Well-known studies have shown the importance of social relationships for access to information when looking for a new job Granovetter ; Marsden and Gorman However, the concept of social capital is not limited to the perspective of single actors.
A whole collectivity can be researched as a social network to assess the resources brought to bear by its members as internal social capital Lin : 62f. They are not directly accessed by actors through specific relationships, but can be seen as a feature of a specific collectivity itself. Examples range from the development of a climate of trust, to the adherence to and reinforcement of social norms, and the emergence of morality among a defined set of actors Coleman ; Esser In analogy to the general notion of mediatization and the idea of mediatized collectivities, we can assume that networked media collectivities are likely to become more prevalent in various types of social settings.
In a nutshell, communication technologies make new means available to interconnect, and diversified media contents provide more topics for communication the assumed consequences of optionality, social contingency and new chances for participation. Both play a crucial role in the establishment and maintenance of collectivities. The trends of a changing media environment mentioned in the introduction are assumed to affect the development and maintenance of various forms of collectivities and their social capital.
At a first glance, the trend of differentiation of media as contents and technologies might lead to an erosion of traditional social structures.see
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It has been argued that both weaken boundaries of families, groups or even whole societies. In a widely discussed work, Robert Putnam argued that the increase in consumption of mass media—particularly watching TV—led to a dramatic decline in various forms of civic engagement in US society Putnam His empirical data show strong negative correlations between screen hours and attending public meetings, writing letters to Congress and being member or officer in a local organization. Similar effects are found for the relevance of TV for entertainment.
Dependent on the relevance of TV as the primary form of entertainment, he found lower values for volunteering, writing letters to friends and relatives, attending club meetings, going to church and working on community projects. Putnam admits that the correlations reported cannot answer the question regarding the causal direction between TV use and the various forms of civic engagement.
Nevertheless, based on other research such as the natural experiment on television reception in three Canadian communities in the s MacBeth , he argues that the causal direction is likely to be directed from TV use towards civic and social life. Hence, according to Putnam, an increase of media use e.
TV , and especially the use of entertaining content versus news and information has a negative effect on various forms of collectivities. McPherson and colleagues found that the core networks of US citizens decreased by about a third between and , while the number of social isolates rose substantially McPherson et al.
This publication had a strong impact and is widely discussed in academia owing to its strong empirical foundation, since it is based on GSS data. However, subsequent methodological tests have revealed that the decrease is likely to be an effect of questionnaire design that made people name fewer persons Marsden and an interviewer effect Paik and Sanchagrin Furthermore, the finding of a decline is corroborated by almost no other evidence.
Hence, no general decline in socializing since the s can be found, apart from the downward trend in socializing with neighbours Fischer ; Marsden and Srivastava With a reference to technologies for interpersonal communication, Manuel Castells predicted fundamental changes for the organization of groups, social structures and societies as a whole Castells Moreover, other authors assume that traditional groups and their structures are changing through the influence of the Internet.
Boyd argues that on social networking sites every person is embedded in their very own egocentric network and the context of every person is different and only partially publicly visible. Wellman et al. It is described as a change from densely knit groups to sparsely knit networks Summarizing the previous paragraphs, we are facing theoretical and empirical arguments which suggest either a decay, a transformation or a renaissance of social patterns and collectivism in a networked society Castells , ; van Dijk The divergent interpretations can partly be explained by the different foci of the respective studies.
While some offline activities seem to vanish, focusing on these leads to pessimistic conclusions. On the other hand, the Internet makes new forms of social support and civic engagement possible that draw a more positive picture of the societal changes related to the changing media environment. Therefore, the only valid approach to studying collectivities in a changing media environment is to study multiple relations simultaneously.
Methodologically speaking, we have to collect multiplex network data Wasserman and Faust in which multiple relations are taken into account and can be analyzed in relation to each other. In our case, these multiple relations can be various types of media technologies and different media content that people interact with through these different media technologies. However, pushed to its extreme, this would result in a research design with an immense number of dimensions number of media content x number of communication technologies x number of communication partners x types of social support.
We therefore decided to focus on the question of how communication about different media content is linked with friendship ties. Hence, differences in communication technologies are not considered and friendship is used as a proxy for social capital. For the empirical analysis of these hard-to-grasp collectivities, we investigate networked media collectivities among adolescents for two reasons: First, adolescents are known to have a more focused social network among their peers than is the case for other cohorts.
For younger children, their parents are still a much more important point of reference. Adults are often simultaneously embedded in different social settings such as family, friends and workplace. Second, adolescents are usually among the early adopters when it comes to new communication technologies and services.
To investigate the figurations of networked media collectivities empirically, we have to address the communicative practices, the frames of relevance and the constellation of actors Hepp and Hasebrink Hereby, the communicative practices are operationalized as the frequency of use and the frequency of interpersonal communication about different mass media contents which are important to adolescents. This includes the question whether there is still enough shared interest in specific content even though media content has diversified.
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Based on the results of these two kinds of communicative practices, we proceed to analyze the relationship between the two. With a reference to the concept of figuration, the second research question gives an insight into the frames of relevance. It is about the importance of different media content, to be able to communicate about them and thereby construct a networked media collectivity. RQ2: Are frequencies of mass media use and interpersonal communication about these contents correlated with each other? The remaining constitutive feature of a communicative figuration is its actor constellation.
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This includes both the actors as well as the ties between them. In contrast to most of the previous research, we are not only interested to find out the type of persons the adolescents talk to e. Since we focus on the figurations among adolescents we are able to zoom into the actor constellation and reveal the actual network structure among all persons participating in our study. From the literature review in Sect. With our multiplex approach, we are able to disentangle the structural patterns of several overlapping collectivities before we assess their individual relevance for friendship in a later step.
Our third research question therefore is RQ3: How frequently and within what actor constellation do people communicate about different media? In addition to the individual analysis of communication about different media, we are interested in the relationship between these different networks of media use and media-related communication.
How similar are the patterns of different actor constellations? Phrased in methodological terms, RQ4: What is the structural correlation of different communication networks?
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Finally, we turn to the link between media use and social capital. To carve out the relationship between media use, media-related communication and friendship ties we include the friendship network in the same analysis as above. Again in methodological terms, RQ5: What is the structural correlation between communication networks and friendship networks?
Answering these five research questions allows us to empirically describe networked media collectivities with respect to different features that are constitutive for communicative figurations. Furthermore, we are able to answer the question concerning the relationship between networked media collectivities and access to social capital. Finally, this provides a good starting point to reflect on the potential consequences of deep mediatization for collectivities and our society.
The first aim of the present study is to describe the social domain of networked media collectivities as communicative figurations. Hence, it is necessary to extend the scope beyond that of individual attributes and take the actor constellations, communicative practices and frames of relevance into account that constitute these figurations. In order to do so, we apply a social network approach. Social network analysis is especially suitable to detect actor constellations and allows us to quantify how media collectivities coexist and interfere with each other.
The data were collected in three middle schools in a major German city Bremen. As social network structures are of particular interest here, we sampled four grades in which all students were invited to participate in our survey. This includes two 10th grades as well as one 11th and one 12th grade, respectively.
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