An Anthropological Study on Social Media

An Anthropological Experience on Social Media

Anthropology is the study of culture, sociology is the study of society. Culture is defined as a set of shared attitudes and beliefs that characterize a society or people group. It’s the tangible and intangible institutions, beliefs, and attitudes that make them a people group. Included in a culture are norms, standards, or rules about acceptable behavior.

~ Maritza Ruiz-Kim

The archive of all my tweets, from the day I started Twitter until I finished this project. (1/24/10-12/1/10)

Part 1: Immersed

Researched the Field

• Started on Twitter, advocacy work for pediatric cancer.

• Reached out online to people I didn't know in real life. Disorienting. Exhausting.

• Then: exhilarating! amazing! instant! nationwide! connections made with advocates & cancer organizations.

• Finished the project, logged off Twitter.

• Needed art community. Homebound. Unable to connect with local artists. 

• Logged back onto Twitter.

• Found one artist, which led to many artists.

• Twitter feed became two communities, side by side.

• Unconnected but intertwined. 

• What made community? What was important?

Observed and Analyzed

• Used Twitter feed of accounts followed as community sample.

• Unfollowed the least personal of the person accounts (no more than 5).

• Received angry message from anonymous person about the unfollow.

• Read completely through every twitter stream of every person followed (not organization).

• Gathered sense of individuals through bursts of words.

Experienced and Realized

• Saw sense of felt privacy in the public online crowd.

• Voyeur or eyewitness? Read through people’s public conversations.

• Saw the elevation and preservation of fleeting thoughts.

• Saw how interactions worked (and didn’t work).

• Observed: who communicated with whom, what was said.

• Who was ignored, what was ignored.

• When I was ignored, who ignored me.

• Who followed whom, who wasn’t followed.

• How people organized each other.

• How I organized others.

Hypotheses Developed

• We resent the restrictions of social (interpersonal) hierarchies, but accept the benefits and perpetuate them anyway. 

• We prioritize attention on our discomfort despite evidence of our privilege.

Individual tweets from people I followed on Twitter in 2010

Part 2: Documented

Crafted a Story

• Looked for personal information pieces.

• Didn’t excuse any account.

• Included 2-3 tweets from every person account.

• Printed them.

• Cut them out individually.

• Studied them.

• Thought about a universal story.

• Saw people’s needs, wants, hopes.

• Saw people experiencing each other’s words, sorting each other.

• Experienced people’s words, sorted them.

Connected Hypothesis to Story

• Decided how to tell the story.

• Decided what observations to highlight.

• Chose information to support subjective observations.

• Arranged information into piles.

• Found words/tweets/connections that proved my points.

• Curated people’s words to tell the story I wanted to tell. 

Set Out to Prove Hypothesis

• Categorized people’s words with made-up systems. 

• Culled the ones that were irrelevant to the story as I saw it.

• Hid them, didn’t trash them. 

• Buried them by gluing them down first.

• Disappeared them under the other tweets.

• Built the story I had intended to tell in the first place.

In process of burying information that didn't serve my story.

Part 3: Replicated

The Hypothesis Came To Life

• Continued to select, sort, and arrange tweets according to the story I wanted.

• Noted people frustrated by the restrictions of social hierarchy.

• Saw people prioritizing attention on their own experiences over others'.

• Narrative developed that mirrored the data I was sorting. 

• Had this as a conversation with myself. 

• Wanted to have the conversation with other artists.

• Didn’t find anyone interested. 

• Got frustrated by the restrictions of social hierarchy.

• Prioritized attention on my own experience over others'.

• Lived my hypothesis.

• Wrote that experience into a script.

Artifact from an Anthropological Experience; 2010; vellum, acrylic, watercolor, aluminum, inkjet on panel; 16″ x 20″
Postcard Announcement for The Interview, Dec 2, 2010, Seven Art Fair, Wynwood District
The working chalkboard for the classroom/ open-access nature of the 3 day event (mine was the first time slot on the first day).
Set up for the performance of The Interview, read by an artist from my Twitter feed
Me introducing the artist, from my Twitter feed, who played the role of me in reading/performing The Interview. An experiment about forcing empathic understanding.
After the reading/performace of The Interview script. We all survived the creepiness of me having this artist play the role of me talking to myself. I was happy with the outcome.