News Archive

Participants Needed!

04.12.2011 by Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch

This call for participation is now closed. Thanks!

Facebook users are sought to participate in an online study titled "News Content in Online Social Networks," conducted by researchers in the College of Communications at Penn State. All participants will be entered to win a $100 VISA gift card. Participants will be asked to interact with a news story and Facebook and then complete an online questionnaire about the news story and their Facebook use. This study can be completed online and should take no more than 30 minutes to complete. This study is being conducted for research purposes by a graduate student at Penn State. Those who are at least 18 years old and who consider themselves active Facebook users are invited to participate, by visiting online. Contact Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch at or at 814-441-3337 with questions.

A Talk on Racism on Facebook

08.11.2009 by Jeff Ginger

I had the honor of giving a talk on my studies related to racism and Facebook to Dene Grigar's students at Washington State University, Vancouver, recently. They belong to the Digital Technology and Culture program, which sounds like the sort of program I would have loved to enroll in as an undergraduate. In my talk I expanded on some of the topics touched on my two papers, The Missing Box and Social Capital and the Chief.

You can download a written version of the talk here.

Summer 2009: Return to Social Media

06.07.2009 by Jeff Ginger

I think it's been just about every week that I've had a young aspiring graduate student contact me asking for advice on how to best go about researching something on Facebook. It's trendy, what can we say. But there's also a lot of opportunity in the folds of this well-worn social network. My greatest suggestion to those seeking guidance is this: get to know your social research methods. No I'm not just talking about how to conduct a good interview or run a statistics test. The makings for good research actually form before all of this. Often it's really easy to rush into a project without really fully thinking about why you wish to study something and what ultimate effects or contributions your research will have. Rarely are graduate students told that they should pick a data-collection method not just on account of its validity or generalizability but also based on how well it fits their personality, resources or available time. Also remember it's okay to mess up. Students are pressured to perform so much in graduate school that they often believe the stakes for admitting a mistake are higher than they might really be. It's better to acknowledge drawbacks and limitations (and learn from them!) than to present faulty research. You might start a project with surveys about behaviors and eventually come to realize you really wanted to capture meanings with interviews - that's okay. You're here to learn. Remember that and be confident.

Okay, enough dispensing wisdom, I'm like what, 25 years old? Figured it was time for a summer update. I get to teach a social media class next year! This means I'll probably start working with this site a bit more, but we'll see. Other than this I only have two major items of note:

I had the privilege of giving a presentation on Facebook and ubiquitous learning at the HASTAC conference at UIUC this past spring. You can see the PowerPoint or better yet read the paper (starts on page 7).

It's summer. It's my last 'break' summer before I hit the remainder of my classes, area exams and the loss of most of my free time. Now's perhaps the best opportunity to talk to me if you have ideas or questions about Facebook!

Spring 2009: Transitions

02.20.2009 @ 5:00 PM by Jeff Ginger

Over the past couple of weeks I've received a surge of emails from various researchers interested in Facebook. Somebody important must have posted this site somewhere (AOIR?), because I've been out of the game for a bit. I figured it was about time for an update!


Jeff Ginger - I've found my way to a new area of study in Community Informatics but still maintain some interest with Facebook. I've come to realize just how handy of a resource this place can be for aspiring graduate students, so I've kept it up. Feel free to continue sending me questions related to Facebook research, if nothing else I can offer connections, perspectives and advice. I've managed to meet some of the big names (Cliff Lampe, Nicole Ellison, danah boyd, Fred Stutzman) and tell them about the site, so it's now officially "on the radar." I'm also happy to host papers and materials for open access here.

Jenny Ryan - Jenny Ryan is currently living in New York City, and is about to begin a new internship with the Berkman Center's Media Cloud project. Yet another unfortunate victim of our sinking economy, she's had ample free time to work on her first publications- a chapter on memorialization and commemoration on Facebook for a Stanford collection entitled The Psychology of Facebook, and another chapter on neotribalism and psytrance on for a collection entitled Psytrance: Local Scenes and Global Culture. Available for freelance social media consulting, she is also working on turning her MA thesis, The Virtual Campfire, into a book. While awaiting responses from several Ph.D programs, she has been channeling her energies into Webnographers, a wiki for resources pertaining to virtual ethnography- and would love for you to contribute!

Eric Gilbert - is a bit of a celebrity in HCI these days. He's managed to snag two Best Paper awards at CHI, and some of us are considering imposing term limits. He just pushed out a paper on measuring strength of ties (social capital) with the use of Facebook, which is pretty swank. Lately Eric and Jeff have been kicking around papers on HCI and CSCW in a weekly reading group, but with only a little emphasis on Facebook.

Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch - is freaking out over comps questions and her dissertation and hasn't been worrying too much about Facebook research recently.


New Papers - Kelin Kitchener and Matthew J. Kushin have added a paper exploring political discourse on Facebook. Alex Lambert and Stephen Bezek have a paper on enabling secure email with social networking.

Webnographers - Jenny now has a Webnographers wiki, dedicated to organizating the literature, journals, academic programs, people and other online resources that provide, in effect, a cyberanthropologist's toolkit. This is helpful for anyone interested in digital ethnography.

Connecting Researchers - I've added a section to the wiki listing most of the researchers I've come in contact with that have something to do with Facebook. Use this as a place

The Wiki - Hasn't really taken off, and the Resource Pool is badly in need of an update. If you check it out for sources, help to add more.

Jeff's Masters Paper Anthology - I plan to release a different (shorter!) version of my Masters Paper that overviews most of the research I've done to date on Facebook. This should come out in the next few weeks, if I can stay on track.

Summer Updates

08.04.2008 @ 4:28 AM by Jeff Ginger

The summer has brought with it a number of major updates to the site! Some of the most pertinent are as follows:

We're looking forward to hearing what you guys think!

Welcome to the New Facebook Project

05.20.2008 @ 1:49 AM by Jeff Ginger

The Facebook Project... has changed.

Originally started as a sociology research project by Jeff Ginger, a graduate student at the University of Illinois, the endeavor has expanded to include several researchers, students, librarians, and enthusiasts who all have an important interest in common: Facebook.

This website is the digital representation of our intellect. Our efforts are specialized and yet reflect a measure of cognitive diversity; our aim is to help visitors better document, understand, and employ and its many impacts and implications. We hope to provide through this website an effective resource for researchers, educators, and librarians.

Open Access Is the Bees Knees

04.24.2008 @ 12:13 PM by Jeff Ginger

I was just notified this morning that the Social Capital and the Chief paper is the number three download in the entire University of Illinois Open Access archive, IDEALS. I can safely say I have no idea how this happened. I mean I know Facebook is a popular subject and the Chief is a big deal... but holy crap! In light of this I realized that people are probably visiting this website a heck of a lot more. Two things:

1) This summer I will make sure to do an update sweep of that paper to bring the background section up to speed and see if I can't add proper citations to the sections that came from Elena's social work notes.

2) The Facebook Project website is on hold until I can finish my Masters paper. Once it's complete I will change it over to a completely collaborative enterprise to establish a wonderful resource for researchers, librarians, graduates, and educators. This includes releasing ALL of my data online (with documentation and methods). Not sure how I'll put up the ethnographic fieldnotes yet... but if you're interested in getting involved or are someone who would like to add their work, ask me about it.

Abstracts and the IRB

02.17.2008 @ 5:41 PM by Jeff Ginger

Hey guys, I know it's been a while. This semester was a rush, too many classes and events happening at once. It's calmed down a bit now and I'm in the process of finalizing the Masters paper and transferring (officially) to GSLIS. The reason I haven't put up the Masters is because it doesn't make sense yet - I have three readers who are going to have me edit it soon. For now I've put the abstract online so you can see a bit more of what it's about.

I'm in the process of battling the IRB to begin my first qualitative study. They're pretty obnoxious. Not only have they increased the number of required tests to be a researcher they're now doing things like making me script out everything I say to my participants and find completely isolated and quiet rooms to interview them in. If I were doing an ethnography in say, a cafe, I wouldn't even be capable of conducting interviews, I really don't understand. And while they might script everything they say to every person they ever talk to the rest of the world doesn't. This isn't talking about sexual practices or administering science experiments - I'm just talking to students about how they use Facebook on a daily basis. It's almost as low risk as you could get.

The most unfortunate part of it is that there's no way to give feedback. I can't question their rules or statements, and the more I fight them the longer it takes. I don't even have the opportunity to try to understand their irrationality. There should be a process and negotiation to determine what is ethical, not some unknown bunch of fearful academics cooped up in a building somewhere who get to make rules without explaining them. The process is not democratic or transparent.

Anyway, complaints aside I should be able to start interviews sometime sooner or later. I plan to look into the role of Facebook in everyday life for students. More on this subject later..

Winter Break-Out

12.28.2007 @ 1:15 AM by Jeff Ginger

All three papers have been completed. See the summaries below:

  1. Cyborging of the Mind in a Permanently Beta Digital Ecology: Expression, Sharing and Construction of Identity
    Facebook has set a precedent in presentation when compared face to face identity as well as digital identity in the previous (pre-SNS) internet paradigm. This paper employs a blend of STS theory, Cyborging of the Mind and Permanently Beta, and explains its use as a model to analyse Facebook. Furthermore it explores a two-year data set comprised pf various aspects of UIUC Facebook usage and includes specifics on the use of personal identity management as a privacy regulation strategy.
  2. Social Capital and The Chief
    This research report reveals rather shocking student use of Facebook regarding perspectives on Chief Illiniwek, the recently removed mascot/symbol of the University of Illinois. Inspired by a class tasked with investigating the race-related campus climate at UIUC the paper draws on the preliminary findings from a half semester project. The work includes sociological analysis informed by (digital) social capital and social work leadership theory, and uses content analysis and statistics to make suggestions for further analysis and potential areas in need of social change. Jeff presented for this paper at the Ethnography of the University Initiative Conference, feel free to see the PowerPoint presentation for a quick overview.
  3. The Missing Box: The Racial Politics behind Interface and Identity
    By not making a race/ethnicity box an available profile category on Facebook and by recognizing that it is a visually dominated SNS, Facebook serves to inadvertently or covertly perpetuate two racist norms: the colorblind mentality and racialized (visual) classification of others. This paper quickly traverses through theory of identity and its digital form and as well as the complications of interface in order to help readers arrive at the conclusion that a racial/ethnic category should be added to the basic Facebook identity options. Guidelines for a successful implementation are provided. If you're looking for a short powerful read jump on this one.

Thanksgiving Check In

11.23.2007 @ 12:27 AM by Admin JAG85

Last update before the big final-draft push during finals week.

I wanted to make the website a little more concise and accessible to people who have no idea what I'm doing. To clarify: over the course of this semester I'm going to finish my Masters and break apart the research proposal floating around on the website into a few papers. Right now I've got two, maybe (hopefully) three papers in mind:

  1. Cyborging of the Mind in a Permanently Beta Digital Ecology: Expression, Sharing and Construction of Identity - Facebook has set a precedent when compared to face to face identity as well as digital identity in the previous (pre-SNS) internet paradigm. I seek to explain my understandings of cyborging of the mind and permanently beta in this paper, making it a fore-runner to my future work.
  2. Social Capital and The Chief - Student use of Facebook as it relates to perspectives on Chief Illiniwek, the recently removed mascot/symbol of the University of Illinois. This paper looks at the campus climate at UIUC and employs sociological analysis informed by digital social capital and social work leadership theory, and uses content analysis and statistics to make suggestions for further analysis and potential areas in need of social change. I just presented for this paper at the Ethnography of the University Initiative Conference, take a look.
  3. The Missing Box: The Racial Politics behind Interface and Identity - My first attempt at Library and Information Science genre paper, I'm probably much more tied to Sociology then I ought to be. Regardless this paper is a concise and salient composition of HCI (Human-Computer-Interface) and Digital Divide issues evident in the interface of Facebook More precisely told there is no Race category on Facebook and this design decision presents a number of problems. I go further to propose a solution in the form of a modification to the current interface. If you're looking for a short powerful read jump on this one.

In the meantime I finished the Props to Facebook article I've been putting off forever, read this if you're a critic or if you'd like a good introduction to my work.

Research Proposal

05.14.2007 @ 11:00 AM by Admin JAG85

I've completed the first revision of my formal research proposal! The sixty page paper includes an introduction to the importance of Facebook, my theoretical framework and conceptual model, as well as preliminary ares of research. I plan to continuously reinforce and update this work until it eventually becomes my masters paper.

Read more!

IRB Approved!

05.02.2007 @ 5:07 PM by Admin JAG85

I got the green light from the Institutional Review Board to release phase one of the project: surveys. I haven't chosen my release date yet but the Division of Management Information is ready and waiting with an 1100 person sample form the UIUC undergraduate population.