NYT: Facebook and social network research

The New York Times has published an article on how different researchers are using social network data generated on Facebook: “On Facebook, scholars link up with data“. It is interesting to hear about the different perspectives and ways in how researchers use publicly available Facebook network data. Some are conducting research using their own students as subjects by letting them write papers as a required assignment in classes they have to take, others actually harvest data from the site, etc. Researcher are using passive observational data (generated through behavior of people on the sites) and also some reported data about behavior as perceived by users.

The issue that comes of up for me is: how valid is observational data if you don’t know the intentions of people using Facebook? I believe that there is a need to understand what drives online behavior beyond the mere structural composition.

Here is why: In our last Organizational Behavior class which mainly consists of young professionals we had a interesting discussion about the use and necessity of online social networking sites (SNS). A lot of people who are no longer in their college network (= don’t use Facebook or MySpace) are either not aware of SNSs or don’t understand why people spend time connecting to their former colleagues online instead of picking up the phone or writing an email.

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About Ines Mergel

I am Full Professor of Public Administration at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at University of Konstanz, Germany. Previously, I served as Assistant and then Associate Professor (with tenure) at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, NY. In my research, I focus on informal social networks in the public sector and the adoption and diffusion of digital service innovations in government organizations. I teach classes on social media management, digital government, public management, and social network analysis.

One thought on “NYT: Facebook and social network research

  1. Hello Ines,
    Regarding your paragraph, you are right, other way is the right way to think. However developed countries doesn´t mean developed societies. Just watch around you, the people are waking in the streets do not see the eyes of the other people, do not smile to other people just for the joy of been similing. So in a world hyperconnected the people lost the most primitive and basic tools of communication.
    So “Facebook” and those tools are for societies who lost the track of some basic way of human communications.
    Cheers
    Horacio, Buenos Aires

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