My Statement Regarding Research

My interest in researching online social networks, especially Facebook, comes from my interest in other writers such as Howard Rheingold, Pierre Levy and Henry Jenkins and their work looking at symbolic interactionism within social networks.

Rheingold’s methods always looked at the vortex between technology, culture and critical analysis. The “technologies of cooperation” described by Rheingold will help local communities develop instant access to points outside the community. These technologies will transform the local to a series of “computation nations,” a community extended through the wires and waves of communication. Rheingold makes the argument that eventually this connectivity will lead to the “era of sentient things,” that is a fluidity between computers and humans (Rheingold, 2002). I have been impressed by Rheingold’s previous research looking at text messaging in the early 2000 as a future popular method of communication. His use of case studies mixed with insight from a multi-disciplinary approach created a deep and persuasive analysis of culture, society and its use of technology. Levy added relevant theory to help explain technological changes within society. Finally, Jenkins provided the praxis and the exemplars to show how society has adapted to the changes in technologies and how those changes have impacted communication trend. These three researchers provided thick descriptions of the connection between society and technology and I believe I could add to the realm of knowledge in this field. I wanted to design my research to look at the future of communication through the artifacts of today.

Ontologically, I am a post-positivist. Post-positivism refers to “the belief that there is a reality independent of our thinking about it that science can study…all observations are theory-laden and that scientists (and everyone else, for that matter) are inherently biased by their cultural experiences, world views, and so on” . This seems like a fair assessment of my view of reality and the nature of being. I believe reality is a composition between a series of phenomena, interactions and reactions. Reality is created through the patterns that are observed by the actors in the environment. To describe this level of reality, one must be able to write what they discover with clarity and provide thick descriptors of the social environment. These descriptions are best served when they describe the “natural environment” and how the actors within the realm interact with the environment and the other actors. Therefore, a realistic approach to research should take into account that causes of the phenomena are “assumed to be multiple, interactive and evolving” . Analysis in the ontological system occurs through “the intersection of a interpretive paradigm, their related references in a naturalistic paradigm and an overarching hermetic empiricism (Guba & Lincoln, 1979, p. 14). The strength of post-positivist paradigm is the belief that a triangulation method of analysis will enhance the explanation of phenomena.

Since most of my previous research has dealt in the field of cybernetics, it seems logical that my definition of knowledge falls under the realm of cybernetic epistemology. Cybernetic epistemology defines knowledge through a system model, where knowledge is comprised of the paths, nodes and awareness of environment. This cybernetic system evolved from a multidisciplinary approach where reality is perceived through a systematic lens. The paths would represent the interactions that occur between the nodes, which represent people, events, groups and/or a sentient unit (Bateson 1967). Within this model, knowledge is gathered and dissected through a recursive generator of predictions about the world. Knowledge begins as a binary relative, as it exists within the system or it doesn’t. If the knowledge is present within the environment, the knowledge will exist within the subset of a certain subject. Moving toward a sense of praxis, I believe cybernetic epistemology works like the Internet. Information and knowledge exists within the boundaries of the networked environment. The researcher must know how to access the relevant information, evaluate what knowledge is relevant by comparing to other information and by feedback given by others (“folksonomy”) and be able to use the knowledge within the context of the overall environment. Cybernetic epistemology uses coherentism to address the regression problem present in epistemology, as knowledge must cohere to the network in order to exist within the network.