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
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.
• 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.
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.
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.