Exploring social networking sites: Thinking through the interaction
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This study examined the role of the user within the context of technology and society through the close inspection of social networking practices of a sample of young Irish users. A relatively new research method known as the 'Think Aloud' approach was employed during this study. Social networking behaviours and practices were recorded whilst participants were asked to literally think aloud and verbalise their actions and interactions whilst using their preferred networking site. Facebook and Bebo proved to be the two most popular sites amongst participants. A reflections log kept by the researcher, together with a focus group and TA observations assisted in the isolation of user behaviours and interactions. During the TA dialogue, the dynamic relationship between the user and the technology became very evident. Findings indicated that the ways in which users construct their identities within social networking websites are encouraged to a certain degree by the design and structure of the system. However, further analysis revealed that the intentions of the designers do not determine practice, as most users seem to find ways around managing challenging systems or altering the system to their required tastes. The overall findings of this study contribute to an increasing body of research examining the role of the user within the development of social networks.
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