3rd Global Conference
Monday 14th March – Wednesday 16th March 2011
Prague, Czech Republic
Geopolitical Identity Construction in the Virtual Global Village. The Significance of Regional, National and Transnational Identities in Online Social Networks
Department of Communication, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
The world as global village (McLuhan 1962, McLuhan/Powers1995) – More than ever before, this future vision seems to become true with the rapid appearance of online social networks: Where formerly “village gossip” is exchanged between people who live door-by-door, nowadays the interaction partners can live in completely different parts of the world (cf. Nash 2009, Papacharissi 2009, Hampton/Wellman 2000, 2001, 2002). But online social networks are not only used to exchange information, they are used to a big part for self-presentation. Whereas for the traditional social- as well as individual identity-construction, in the real-life the geo-political origin of a person plays a quite important role (cf. Gellner 1995: 15f), it has to be questioned what significance these regional, national or even transnational roots have for the users of online social networks. Two main but oppositional effects are imaginable: Firstly, the increasing interactions via online social networks, which offer the possibility to communicate and socialise with people from all over the world, result in a decreasing importance of the national or even regional belonging because the users feel as members of a global community. Secondly and contrary to the first assumption, the communication and presentation in online social networks give rise to a rediscovery of the own regional or national roots. The citizenship becomes to an integral part of the own identity conception. As indicator for the latter assumption, the variety of Facebook groups can be mentioned that explicitly thematises the belonging to a certain nation or region. So the main aim of this study is to answer the question how users of online social network Facebook, deal with their regional respectively national identity in the World Wide Web. And what forms of national identity construction can be found in online social networks?
These questions will be answered with an online survey of Facebook users who are asked on the one side about their identification level (namely regional, national, transnational), their attitudes toward their own nation (patriotism, nationalism and national pride) as well as their attitudes towards the European Union and multiculturalism in their own country. One the other side their using and self-presentational behaviour in the online social network is asked. Additionally the self-thematisation of various national orientated Facebook groups are analysed to get an impression how national identity can be constructed and reactivated in the virtual “global village”.
Studying Collective Memories in Wikipedia
Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento; Bruno Kessler Foundation, Italy
The aim of this research is to investigate the formation of collective memories in Wikipedia. Considering Wikipedia as a collective memory place [1, 2], we focus on pages about traumatic events such as “September 11 attacks” and “7 July 2005 London bombings”, since they can be investigated in the frame of cultural trauma research [3, 4]. We consider the final article as the representation of the crystallized collective memories, which are socially built through direct edits to the article and discussions in the associated talk page by Wikipedia users.
It has been argued that one of the main functions of collective memory is to satisfy the needs of the collectivity in the present . For example, Wang identified “emotional bonding” and “therapeutic practice” functions, which serve the purpose of developing a sense of “collective intimacy” and to make sense of past events . From this perspective, commemoration through memory sharing activities during anniversaries plays a crucial role in the collective memories processes.
In our research, we focus on edit activity on English Wikipedia articles and talk pages during anniversaries. We extracted the pages edited by at least 50 different users, resulting in 450758 articles and talk pages. Out of them we identified around 90 articles and talk pages related to traumatic events, and using regression analysis we compared their edit activity around anniversary with all the other pages. We found that during anniversaries users’ activity on articles and talk pages related to traumatic events increases significantly, while this increase is not observed for the other pages.
Our findings provide a first empirical and large scale validation for the study of collective memories in Wikipedia, opening the way for further research on Wikipedia as a collective memory place.
Traumatic Events and Digital Memories: Processing and Remembering the Earthquake in Abruzzi
IULM University – Communication Dept – Milan
The paper aims at presenting the main results of an empirical research about the use of Facebook’s groups in the specific circumstance of the earthquake in Abruzzi, a traumatic event that involved and shocked a Nation (Italy).
I carried out my analysis, starting from the assumption that the Net can be considered as a Narrative technology (Walzer, 2000): a technological and interactive environment where people exchange above all fragment of personal stories. At the same time, even if it is a multimedia context, where it is possible to use a lot of different languages (such as visual, audio-visual and textual) the Internet is made up of textual narratives, that are characterised by the Post-orality codes (Locatelli, 2007). In this way, as boyd (2007) suggests, all the contents proposed on the Net are searchable, replicable, scalable and, above all, persistent.
In the first hours after the shake, it was registered a great activity on the Net (and in my specific case of study, Facebook’s groups). A lot of people from Abruzzi, L’Aquila as well as around the world used interactive spaces of social networks sites to communicate, to inform, to organise the rescue actions and also to leave a track of what was happening.
Through my empirical research, I wanted to know if the Net could be considered as a new social context where negotiating and constructing the collective memory (Halbwaschs, 1951) about the earthquake. For this reason I carried out: the qualitative content analysis of 21.000 posts, published on the first five groups about the earthquake in Abruzzi; the visual analisys of 500 photos used in the groups profiles; and 25 e-mail interviews with people that use this spaces to leave a message.