08 March 2016

How people use social media

The Economist reviews of some of the key findings of the anthropological, multi-sited “Why We Post” project. This project was conducted by nine anthropologists led by Daniel Miller of University College, London.

Ethnographic research was conducted over the course of
15 months at locations in Brazil, Britain, Chile, China (one rural and one industrial site), India, Italy, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turkey. They embedded themselves within families and their surrounding communities. That, the team believes, let them form a nuanced view of the roles of social media in their study sites which could not be gained by analysing participants’ public postings.
For those of us turning an anthropological lens on the (study of ) media (like Michael Wesch), it comes as no surprise that new technologies, including social media, shape and reshape human relationships, and that cultural context matters. This study "challenges the idea that the adoption of social media follows a single and predictable trajectory."