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Researching Online Visual Displays on Social Networking Sites: Methodologies and Meanings

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Social networking sites, particularly Facebook, have been rapidly assimilated into young people’s daily social lives. Facebook has attracted much research attention in the social sciences, although the site’s widely used photo sharing functionalities have been underexplored. In this article, we argue for the use of innovative methods to access and explore young people’s digitally and visually mediated worlds from their own perspectives. We use an illustrative research example that explored students’ drinking cultures on Facebook. Nine undergraduate students engaged in interviews with an Internet-enabled laptop, sharing their Facebook pages and discussing online photos and photo-sharing practices. Screen records of Facebook activity alongside participants’ talk provided multiple modes of data, which were analysed together to show that Facebook photos were important discursive resources that had implications for students’ identities, friendships, and drinking practices. Creative qualitative approaches such as these can provide novel insights into young people’s social worlds.
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Keywords: drinking cultures; qualitative methods; social networking sites; visual methods; young adults

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Psychology, Massey University, New Zealand 2: School of English and Media Studies, Massey University, New Zealand

Publication date: July 3, 2015

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