MA 795 Synthesis: Facebook Profile Pictures & the Future of Social Society

For my first and second case studies in this course, I chose to utilize the theories of Carolyn Miller, Prior et al., and Michel Foucault. For this final case study, I chose to combine these three theorists into one, synthesized theory that will best describe and analyze my object of study (OoS), Facebook profile pictures. These three theories, Genre theory, Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), and Archeology, all provide a lens for looking at how both the user, based on agency and urge to connect with others in the network, and communities of other users, based on how they interact with the user and their own profile pictures, interact and connected within the network. The limitations these theories posed in during my initial case studies are solved when combined with the other theories. While Genre theory did not provide an way to fully view the connections made with other users in the network, both CHAT and Archeology supply a way to view these connection based on the user’s profile picture. CHAT and Archeology, however, did not provide a way to view the agency and choices behind the user’s profile picture, which Genre studies supplies.

Although I was given the choice to change my OoS, I decided to continue with my work on Facebook profile pictures based on its relation to my career goals. Because of my interests in digital media and technical communication, I wish to purse a career in either media publications or technical writing. Facebook has quickly become one of the main social outlets, not just for millennial, but for society at large. This site is now a leading source for news and entertainment, as well as family and friend connections. A person’s entire world can be neatly organized and updated through a user’s Facebook account. After all, my personal Facebook account acts as multiple publications: newspaper, family tree and photo album, alumni newsletter, and US weekly to name a few. After reaching a 500-member mark for Facebook, its creator, Mark Zuckerburg, is quoted as saying:

“Back, you know, a few generations ago, people didn’t have a way to share information and express their opinions efficiently to a lot of people. But now they do. Right now, with social networks and other tools on the Internet, all of these 500 million people have a way to say what they’re thinking and have their voice be heard” (Heussner, 2010).

Perhaps this is why Facebook has become so popular. Not only does Facebook provide multiple information sources in one convenient space, but the site is also a place that allows people to share what they are thinking. And while these thoughts might not be opinions every wants to or should hear, the public is given an infinite digital space that they have a certain amount of control over. One aspect of the site that provides this agency is the profile picture, the subject of this case study.

As seen in my initial case study, “Duckfaces, Political Messages, and Cats: Genres Theory Applied to Facebook Profile Pictures,” “because an individual can select any image as his/her profile picture as long as it adheres to Facebook’s policies, the individual has an opportunity to choose an image that he/she believes best represents him/her or his/her relationships with others. The various intents behind this choice, as well as the power relationship associated with the photograph or image, determine which genre is associated with the profile picture” (Kubat, 2016, p. 1). In said case study, I outline the three most common Facebook profile picture genres: the selfie, the candid photo, and the icon. These three genres are formed on Miller’s (1984) believe that “a rhetorically sound definition of genre must be centered not on the substance or the form of discourse but on the action it is used to accomplish” (p. 151). The candid photo possesses the least amount of agency, since another person takes this picture while the user is unaware. By posting a candid photo as the profile picture, the user is demonstrating an element of trust between the user and the friend who took the photo. The user also typically “tags” this friend in the candid photo, making the rest of the network aware of their relationship.

By tagging the photographer in the profile picture, the user is signally to his or her community that this person is a friend. The friend’s community is also able to see this relationship, thus alerting a larger portion of the overall network. Foucault (1969) would describe this example of discourse as “ not the majestically unfolding manifestation of a thinking, knowing, speaking subject, but, on the contrary, a totality, in which the dispersion of the subject and his discontinuity with himself may be determined” (p. 62). In other words, both the network and the user learn something from this simple connection. While the network gains connection and insight, the user gains insight to a change within his or her self. By giving the agency behind profile picture choice to the friend, the user is revealing something about him or her “actual” or “real” self to the network that mainly knows this user by his or her “digital” self, the persona the user adopts within the social networking site. This connection to a user’s “two selves” harkens back to CHAT, fulfilling the representation and reception aspects of literate activity.

According to Prior et al. (2007), “representation highlights semiotic codes, discourses, [and] genres” (p. 20). In this way, Miller’s approach to Genre theory and Prior et al.’s CHAT combine to describe how the profile picture’s genre is highlight during the literate activity. The concept develops, as Prior et al. note reception, another important aspect of literate activity, “is actual reading/viewing/hearing and response, how meaning is made under what conditions and for what ends” (2007, p. 21). The actions behind posting the photograph, such as giving agency to a friend and sharing this friendship with the network, become just as important as the genre itself. Foucault relates this connection to spirit, “which enables us to establish between the simultaneous or successive phenomena of a given period a community of meanings, symbolic links, an interplay of resemblance and reflexion, or which allows the sovereignty of collective consciousness to emerge as the principle of unity and explanation” (1969, p. 22). The network is thus connected by the agency behind the profile picture and the symbolic link of friendship within the community (see fig. 1).

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Fig. 1

The next profile picture genre is the selfie, which allows for a moderate amount of agency for the user. “This photo was intentionally taken by the individual to show that he/she is independent, which shows emotional and physical strength. This genre also allows the individual to chose elements for the photo that highlight what he/she would like the networks to associate with him/her, such as attractiveness, independence, other desirable personality traits, and interests” (Kubat, 2016, p.2). As the most common profile picture, the selfie is also most likely to be the image a user chooses to “filter.” A filter is often used to show support for a cause within a Facebook community, such as a pink filter layered over a profile picture to support breast cancer awareness. The filter imposes a multi-layered affect on the user and the image.

By posting an image with a community-focused filter, the user is participating in a functional system. According to Prior et al. (2007), “functional systems—typified and fleeting—tie together people, artifacts, practices, institution, communities, and ecologies around some array of objectives, conscious and not” (p. 19.) Foucault’s concept of continuities and discontinuities applies directly to this genre and to the functional system, as it can be used to describe how the network and user change and stay the same. The functional system, as seen above, is fleeting. The moment a new social trend arises; say supporting gay marriage with a rainbow filter, the network changes to adapt. The genre then adapts as well, changing the overall appearance of the profile picture to support the communities within the network. Or perhaps the genre changes, but due to the connection the user has with breast cancer in his or her family, he or she decides not to change his or her filter. These changes and consistencies either strengthen or weaken the overall connection to the community and thus the network, while also connecting the user to other in the community who have reacted in the same way. “The total set of relations that unite, at a given period, the discursive practices that give rise to epistemological figures, sciences, and possibly formalized systems,” or episteme as Foucault would coin the concept, represent the whole the network as a whole function based on the continuities and discontinuities, or genre adaptations, within the functional system. This layering affect can also be seen as a laminated chronotope.

Prior et al. (2007) describes the laminated chronotope as the conceptualization of the network, which “means that action and cognition are distributed over time and space among people, artifacts, and environments and thus also laminated, as multiple frames or fields co-exist in any situated act”(p.18). Within the Facebook network, these “frames” can be viewed at the multiple communities and networks connected within Facebook through genre choice, the ability to tag other users, and the ability to share user pictures and comments (see fig. 2). The ability to choose, tag, and share become the nodes within the network, which change and branch out as connections and relationships are formed. The last genre we will discuss, the icon, further enforces a user’s ability within the network.

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Fig. 2

The icon is not a direct photograph of the user’s “real self,” but is instead an image the user has chosen to represent their “digital self” based on an interest. This genre has the most agency for the user, since it is the only genre that does not incorporate the appearance of the “real” user. Because the icon can represent any piece of the user, such as his or her favorite band, a beloved pet, or humorous meme, it instills a different affect within the network than the other two genres create. If members within a community focused around the icon, such as fans of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the users will create an instant connection a profile with a personal likeness might not create. Since this genre also holds the most distrust for the network, however, the user may make few connections, if any at all, unless the user already has strong connections in real life with other users.

Foucault interjects an interesting perspective on this genre, by noting “the analysis of the archive… involves a privileged region: at once close to us, and different from our present existence, it is the border of time that surrounds our presence, which overhangs it, and which indicated it in its otherness; it is that which, outside ourselves, delimits us”(1969, p. 138). The archive, or the accumulation of the various profile pictures a user has uploaded, is most visible within this genre because the profile picture is cloaked in otherness, allowing the user no limits to his or her connections. At the same time though, we must remember that based on trust and agency, this user may casted out of the network unless the community has a strong connection to the user in “real life” or with what the icon represents.

Based on these observations, Genre theory, CHAT, and Archeology provide a much more cohesive interpretation and analysis of the profile picture, and in turn of the Facebook network as well. As seen in figure 2, the three theories work together, building connections until reaching the constraints of the network. I only wish that these theories provided more insight on what the future holds for social life in society. Are we steadily approaching a purely digital world where users have complete agency and thus can have an entirely different “real self” than their “digital self?” If so, what does the future hold for societal connections and the representation of self?

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Fig. 3

I feel that Facebook will continue to be prevalent in the future, perhaps with increased episodes of catfishing and untrustworthy users, but will continue to provide neatly organized connections for users. If you look at figure 3, you will see a screen shot of my personal Facebook account. My profile picture shows my significant other and myself hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, representing our shared interest and a shared agency. But if users within my network did not know me, they might assume that I was the man on the right with the beard or that this is a picture of my children on a family outing. Despite this possible miscommunication, however, I still have access to my communities and networks; my family, my friends, my job, my alma mater, and the university I am currently attending to achieve my master’s degree. The methods behind my profile picture are simple, to display a happy photo to identify myself within my personal communities. I am not concerned with sharing outside my network, but based on my discussion in this case study; I am interested to see what comes from users who do possess an urge to breach other networks. As Miller, Prior et al., and Foucault would tell us, the possibilities are inherently limitless as the network continues to grow from endless connections.


Works Cited

Foucault, M. (2010). The Archaeology of Knowledge. 1969. Trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith. New York: Vintage Books

Heussner, K.M. (2010). “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Talks to Diane Sawyer as Website Gets 500-Millionth Member,”

Kubat, A. (2016).Duckfaces, Political Messages, and Cats: Genres Theory Applied to Facebook Profile Pictures.” 1-5.

Prior, P., Solberg, J., Berry, P., Bellwoar, H., Chewning, B., Lunsford, K.J., Rohan, L., Roozen, K., Sheridan-Rabldeau, M.P., Spihka, J., Van Ittersum, D., & Walker, J. (2005). “Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity.” 1-29.

Miller, C.R. (1984). “Genre as Social Action.” Quarterly of Speech. 70. 151-167.


MA Scaffolding Synthesis

Which 2 – 4 theories are you choosing and why? How are they similar enough that you can justify getting them to work together? How do they fill each other’s gaps?

  • Theories: I will be working with Genre theory (Miller), CHAT (Prior et. al), and Archeology. Genre theory affords a way to categorize and separate Facebook profile pictures based on the agency of the user, while CHAT and Archeology provide a useful way of looking at the connections between users and the network based on the type of profile picture a user posts.
  • These three theories are similar in that they provide a lens for looking at how both the user, based on agency and urge to connect with others in the network, and communities of other users, based on how they interact with the user and their own profile pictures, interact within the network.
  • While CHAT and Archeology provide a way to view the connections between the users, they offer little in terms of agency for the user. And while Genre theory provides little on the connections within the network, it offers a way to determine agency for the user.

How do these theories align with how you position yourself as a scholar?

  • First, these theories allow me to focus on how society functions in the online world. This is important to me as a MA student in professional writing, because I prefer to work within either the technical writing or media writing realms.
  • Second, these theories provide a way to gauge how younger members of the society are being influenced and how the connections they make will provide the foundation for society’s future. While I am not interested in teaching, I do feel that our younger generations are important because they influence how society and life will change and grow or dissolve in the future.

How do these theories align with your own biases and background (the reason you came to this project in the first place)?

  • I chose this OoS because I feel that our society no longer communicates through the oral and literary technologies, but instead through the digital technologies. As a writer, I feel we must look to the future of writing and literature, which I feel will continue to evolve into a primarily digital world.
  • I also chose this OoS because it seems that most social aspects of humanity now function within a social media site. My job, family, interests, and even classes mostly communicate through Facebook instead of other forms of communication. I feel most people would feel very out of touch with the world if they were not allowed to check their Facebook account. I am unsure whether this points solely to an economy of attention or simply the way our society is evolving, but I find it interesting how important this site has become.

Case Study #2: The Digitally Represented Self: Analysis of Facebook Profile Pictures & the Connections They Create

Surprisingly, I found that two of the theories we read this semester, cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) and Foucault’s Archeology, worked nicely together in regards to my object of study (OoS). Both theories focus on breaking down previous “rules” to create new theories that better apply to the world today. In doing so, each theory addresses ways to organize discourse. Discourse, in a simplified manner, can been seen in the Facebook network as the profile picture. In CHAT, discourse is filter first through a revised version of the five classic cannons. Foucault organizes discourse in a linear manner, focusing on how things change and stay the same despite and because of history. In this case study, I will use both CHAT and Foucault’s approaches to describe how Facebook profile pictures function as the discourse of the Facebook network.

Within the Facebook network, the profile pictures acts as your identifier as your navigate through the various sub-networks the site contains. Hum, Chamberlin, Hambright, Portwood, Schat, and Bevan (2011) note “perhaps one of the most telling pieces of self-disclosure or image construction is the profile photo, the single default photo by which Facebook users choose to identify themselves within the entire network”(p. 1828). Deciding on the appropriate Facebook profile picture is important. It is a decision that takes thought, whether this thought is simply based in amusement or focused on portraying a deeper message. This photo is the image that defines you, that encompasses something about yourself you want other people in the network to know. As Hum et al. also suggest, “if one of the benefits of Facebook is to bring individuals in a community together, then it also makes sense that Facebook provides a means for self-expression in order to form…social, geographical, and political connections.”(p. 1829). A profile picture is exactly that, a form of discourse that allows you to communicate and share your social, geographical, and political views.

Prior, Solberg, Berry, Bellwoar, Chewning, Lunsford, Rohan, Roozen, Sheridan-Rabideau, Shipka, Van Ittersum, and Walker (2007) qualify discourse based on delivery, which “seems to encompass two related but distinct types of issues: mediation and distribution”(p. 7). While delivery used to refer to one’s gestures or stance in the oral traditions, Prior et al. (2007) refocus the term to refer to the time and movement related to a piece (p. 7). When a piece of discourse is created, either orally, literally, or digitally, the piece “travels” through time in a linear fashion through those who share the discourse with others. The discourse, however, is seen based on a fixed point in time. By revising the way delivery is approached into a form of mediation, Prior et al. (2007) remove this fixed trajectory allowing a piece to travel spherically in addition to linearly. This movement through people and time creates an archive, containing the discourse as it was originally and how it has changed through its audience. As a piece of discourse, in this manner of speaking, a profile picture on Facbeook.

Each uploaded profile picture is saved and attached to one’s profile in an archive, creating a literal timeline of their progression since the profile’s conception. One can also potentially see a progression of the person aging and of subsequent life events, since people are fond of posting pictures of themselves as children, at prom, their wedding and so on. Users can also view what people commented on these photos, in the past and present, and can add their own comments to pictures within their network. The profile picture is not static, much like discourse for Prior et al., and can move across the network through one’s ability to tag and share photos. Other users are then invited to comment and share these photos, creating a nearly endless network of connections. Deeper connections can be found behind the profile picture when examining this form of discourse through Prior et al.’s (2007) final version of CHAT theory.

After sharing their multi-step revision process of the five classic cannons, Prior et al. (2007) reveal a completed version of CHAT theory. The theory is separated into three main sections, the literate activity, functional systems, and laminated chronotopes (see fig. 1). These sections fit inside each other, much like a set of Russian nesting dolls. The literate activity (the tools, methods, and affect of an action) resides within functional systems (the connections between people), which resides within laminated chronotopes (how an action is seen and accepted in the world and the actions overall affect) (Prior et al., 2007, p. 19).

Fig. 1

Using Prior et al.‘s (2007) theory, profile pictures take on new meaning. Let us remember that the profile picture is already seen as an important identifier in the Facebook community. “Amongst the various features, the profile picture has been posited as the most important means for self-presentation because it represents the individual in the online platform” (Ong, ANng, Ho, Lim, Hog, Lee, and Chua, 2011, p.181). The profile picture not only represents the user, but also represents and embodies the network as a whole. In order to clearly analysis the profile picture through the CHAT lens, I will outline the discourse from the most intimate (literate activity) to the most broad (laminated chronotopes) facet of the theory.

Representation and reception are the main aspects of literate activity that apply to the profile picture discourse. When choosing a profile picture, a user must first decide how they wish to represent themselves to the network and which picture will gain the desired reception from said network. When the profile picture is posted, it becomes a piece of the functional system. Each time the user interacts with the network, through posting a status update or commenting on a page, this profile picture is attached to the user. A community of these various profile pictures is created within the network as trends arise. “Friends” within a given network will often change their profile picture to reflect a trend they saw on another’s profile picture. Such trends include picture filters that show support for a cause, like pink for breast cancer awareness or a French flag to show support after the Paris bombings, or a type of picture, like the flood of greeting card photos that appear during the holidays. This change in profile picture allows the user to still represent him or herself while participating as part of the community within the network. The overall representation of the community, through these shared profile pictures, further supports the user’s “Internet self,” or the person the user becomes when he or she is online.

Because people are often different in person than they would appear in their profile pictures, the user also has a “real self,” which is who the person is when they are offline. These two selves interact with each other inside the overall network, of Facebook but also the world, and separately, either online or in person. In this way, the profile picture and its connections extend pass Facebook and influence the person, their real life connections, and anyone connected to Facebook. For Prior et al. (2007), this concept is considered a mediated activity or laminated chronotope. This “means that action and cognition are distributed over time and space among people, artifacts, and environments and thus also laminated, as multiple frames or fields co-exist in any situated act”(p.18). Like the Russian nesting dolls, a user on Facebook has many frames, or selves, that are laminated together in the person (see Fig. 2). As a network, these frames are the multiple communities that are connected together within Facebook. Within this network, the ability to tag, share, and change one’s picture in order to connect with the communities within the networks become nodes. The nodes remain the same when looking at profile pictures during a Foucaultian analysis.

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Fig. 2

Like Prior et al. (2007), Foucault (1969) starts The Archaeology of Knowledge by breaking down current conceptions and rules. We are told “we must rid ourselves of a whole mass of notions, each of which, in its own way, diversifies the theme of continuity”(Foucault, 1969, p. 21). He writes that “history, in its traditional form, undertook to ‘memorize’ the monuments of the past, transform them into documents, and lend speech to those traces which, in themselves, are often non verbal”(Foucault, 1969, p. 7). Instead of seeing history in this linear fashion, however, Foucault encourages the audience to see history more spherically. Unlike the Russian nesting doll metaphor for CHAT, Foucault’s theory on discourse, history, and knowledge is more like a carousel. The subject matter sits at the heart of the carousel, with its discursive properties moving on and off the ride but circling the subject matter as well. In order to foster my own understanding, I created a diagram of what a profile picture model of this concept would look like (see fig. 3).

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Fig. 3

The parts of this diagram, the self in reality, what is unique to the self, what functions as part of the community, and lastly the digital self, all surround the profile picture at the center. The image as a whole represents the archive of the network. For Foucault, “the analysis of the archive, then, involves a privileged region: at once close to us, and different from our present existence, it is the border of time that surrounds our presence, which overhangs it, and which indicated it in its otherness; it is that which, outside ourselves, delimits us”(1969, p. 138). Within this archive is the discourse itself, the ways the discourse changes/ stays the same, and where one is situated within the discourse and network.

Foucault describes discourse as “ not the majestically unfolding manifestation of a thinking, knowing, speaking subject, but, on the contrary, a totality, in which the dispersion of the subject and his discontinuity with himself may be determined” (1969, p. 62). The profile picture, then, is not an object that solely represents the self but instead is a vehicle to distribute the self across the network. The self is then determined based on the interactions this picture has within the network communities. This form of analysis becomes similar to our CHAT analysis in that the profile picture becomes of representation of the digital self, one’s self in reality, and the interactions within the network. Foucault explains this connection well, saying “there is a notion of ‘spirit,’ which enables us to establish between the simultaneous or successive phenomena of a given period a community of meanings, symbolic links, an interplay of resemblance and reflexion, or which allows the sovereignty of collective consciousness to emerge as the principle of unity an explanation” (1969, p. 22). The meanings and symbolic links within a network community are largely attributed to the discourse’s or subject’s continuities and/or discontinuities.

Continuities and discontinuities describe how the interpretation of the discourse changes or stays the same based on the subject’s interactions with it (Foucault, 1969). In a similar manner, a user changes his or her profile picture based on the network reaction he or she wishes to receive and on the connection to the community. As we discussed above, a user might change his or her profile picture to reflect a recent social movement or change within the network or to reflect a recent change in self, such as an important life event or sign of maturity (receiving one’s driving license). This causes the discourse and thus the community and network to change based on the reactions of others. Facebook’s ability to save and show the progression of profile pictures also acts in this sense as an archive, showing the changes the user and the community have gone through together and separately. Raacke and Bonds Raacke (2008)’s study of Facebook users showed that 96 percent of the 116 participants used Facbook “to keep in touch with old friends,” with 91.1 percent responding that they use their account to “to keep in touch with current friends”(p. 171). The 74.3 percent of participants who reportedly access their Facebook account more than three hours a day are most likely using this time to build connections, or nodes, with their old and new friends in the network based on such continuities and discontinuities (Raacke & Bonds-Raacke, 200, p. 173). Continuities and discontinuities Facebook communities are reflected within the overall network, or episteme.

Foucault describes episteme as, “the total set of relations that unite, at a given period, the discursive practices that give rise to epistemological figures, sciences, and possibly formalized systems” (1969, p. 191). In terms of Facebook profile pictures, the episteme can bee seen as the entire Facebook network, a group of individual networks and communities that are connected by the discursive practices of users (such as tagging members in profile pictures and forming a comment thread on a profile picture). Users are united trough their profile pictures and comments that give rise to the “possibly formalized system” that is the overall Facebook network. While the profile picture is seen as such a small part of this network, using Foucault’s Archeology and Prior et al.’s CHAT allows one to see how important this discourse is within the network.

Though CHAT and Archeology are very different theories, created at different times in history, both apply to social networking sites like Facebook and can be used to understand the importance behind simple network features, like the profile picture. Both theories provide a way to view the actions and expectations of the user in relation to the communities within the Facebook network through the profile picture. I was pleased to discover that both theories allowed me to analysis the two sides of the user, the digital and the “real” self, as well as the user’s place within the network. Both theories also supported the way the networks within Facebook emerge; when a user shares an opinion through his or her profile picture, grow; as others within the network respond to this opinion by changing their profile pictures, and dissolve; as profile picture trends within the network fade as new ones emerge or when the original opinion of the user is not shared within the communities and networks. While applying the two theories, I did not discover many limitations other than that both theories function without boundaries.

Both CHAT and Archeology are based on breaking down and revising previous theories and thus both Prior et al. and Foucault provide very little guidelines to how far a connection can stretch. While this fact may be helpful in other applications, there are given boundaries within the Facebook community that I was unable to discuss. As a site that allows various ages and people of different backgrounds, Facebook places fairly strict boundaries on what a profile picture is allowed to contain. An image can be removed based on its use of sexual content, profanity, and general offensiveness, causing user creativity with the discourse to be limited. CHAT and Archeology do not provide limits in terms of how a discourse can function. I would have liked to discuss how these limits affect the user and his or her profile picture in terms connections with other users. Despite this limitation, I feel both theories allowed for a greater understanding of my OoS.


Works Cited

Foucault, M. (2010). The Archaeology of Knowledge. 1969. Trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith. New  York: Vintage Books

Prior, P., Solberg, J., Berry, P., Bellwoar, H., Chewning, B., Lunsford, K.J., Rohan, L., Roozen, K., Sheridan-Rabldeau, M.P., Spihka, J., Van Ittersum, D., & Walker, J. (2005). “Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity.” 1-29.

Hum, N.J., Chamberlin, P.E., Hambright, B.L., Portwood, A.C., Schat, A.C., & Bevan, J.L. (2011). “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: A Content Analysis of Facebook Profile Photographs,” Computers in Human Behavior. 18-28-1833. /636/636-ArticleOnFacebookProfiles.pdf

Ong, E.Y.L., Ang, R.P., Ho, J.C.M., Lim, J.C.Y, Goh, D.H., Lee, C.S., & Chua, A.Y.K. (2011). “Narcissism, Extraversion, and Adolescents’ Self-Presentation on Facebook,” Personality and Individual Difference. 180-185. GENERAL/JOURNALS/P101012O.pdf

Raacke, J., & Bonds-Raacke, J. (2008). “MySpace and Facebook: Applying the Uses and Gratifications Theory to Exploring Friend-Networking Sites,” Cyber Psychology & Behavior. 11 (2). 169-175. 554e7a0308ae936 34ec7033d.pdf

Case Study #2 Revised Outline

For this next case study, we must combine two theories and use them together to analyze our OoS. Below is the outline I created to brainstorm for this case study.

Prior et al. focus on remaking the cannons, going from the five classic to the “take 2” that encompasses the five cannons in a three-part approach. In the process of remapping, Prior et al. discover ways to approach one’s individual role and how one interacts with the network as a whole. This opens up the way we view discourse, much like how Foucault presented a less constrained way to view discourse. These theories present limits, however, because they focus much on how we interact with the network and not just self (which the profile mainly represents). These theories also make it a bit difficult to discus how the OoS moves thorughout the network. I see the one’s profile picture as moving through the news feed, through your comments on other posts and pages (since your profile picture is connected to them) but I am not sure how to use the theories to describe this.

Theory 1: Venting & CHAT

  • People use their profile pictures as a way to “vent”
    • Pictures can include political messages/images, pictures from the past (old baby photos), and personal emotion (pictures of one crying, gesturing, screaming)
    • When looking through a person’s profile, each profile picture is saved. You can see a progression of time, starting from when the person created their account but potentially also of the person aging & subsequent life events (old baby photos again, prom, wedding, own children). You can also view what people commented on these photos when they were originally posted and have the opportunity to add to these comments yourself in the present. This is quite reminiscent of the literal vent that was in Rohan’s library, a timeline of different events and comments
  • CHAT
    • Literate Activity
      • Representation & Reception (what people post to represent themselves and how those images are taken)
      • Activity (how and when people post their profile pictures)
    • Functional Systems
      • People: People represent themselves, through their profile picture, as a piece of the network
      • Communities: people are connected through Facebook & through their profile photos via tagging, commenting on photos, and “throwback Thursday” profile pictures that often represent a past friendship/connection
        • Updated your photo to show support for gay rights with a rainbow filter (one that matches other people’s profile picture filters who are involved in the social movement)
      • Laminated Chronotopes
        • Represented: People are often different than they would appear in their profile pictures. This creates two selves, one online and one in reality. Both selves interact with each other inside the overall network (Facebook, but also life) and separately (either online or in person). In this way, the profile picture and it’s connections extend pass Facebook and influence the real world (both influencing self and anyone connected to Facebook)

Theory 2: Foucault

  • Discourse
    • For Foucault discourse is a multifaceted concept, describing both how society communicates and how the communication has changed or stayed the same throughout history. Much like the connection to venting, a person communicates with society through their profile pictures.
      • Profile pictures become a form of discourse, allowing a person but also a community page to communicate a feeling, thought, or image (literally or figuratively) to the individual’s network and the network as a whole (Facebook)
      • People use their profile picture to communicate life events as well, such as changing their profile picture to their wedding photo to announce their marriage or anniversary. A profile picture is often a place to showcase whatever is most important to you, in our personal history, or in the world’s history. When the bombing in France occurred, most profile pictures were adorned with the French flag to show sympathy and support
    • Continuities & Discontinuities
      • How one’s profile pictures change over time, based on aging and maturing
      • Also incorporates the commenting aspect like venting and the “two selves” like CHAT
        • One can view not only how a person has physically changed based on a progression of Facebook profile pictures, but also on the type of photos posted. You can tell that someone has “grown-up” when his profile picture changes from an angsty teen “flipping-off” the camera, to a young man who was accepted to a good college, to an adult who works for a well-known company (perhaps even in a suit or a professional headshot)
        • Profile pictures often bounce between who you want others to see you as (maybe the logo of your favorite band who is also quite popular) to the “real” you (the candid photo of you at a party, laughing and carefree). People often change their profile picture from a “like-inducing” photo (you shot-gunning a beer at a tailgate) to professional photo (you helping out at a local charity or your polish graduation headshot) when looking for a job since potential bosses may look at your page
      • Subject Position:
        • One’s role within the discourse and network, which changes as one ages and matures (or as viewpoints changed based on life experiences)
        • This area echoes CHAT as well. We change our profile picture based on which subject position or section of the revised cannon we wish to be seen in. When you post a profile picture of yourself at the beach (literary activity, something you personally enjoy)à but your at the beach for a polar plunge event (functional system, participating with community)à which will raise money for breast cancer research (Laminated Chronotopes, important to you because someone in our family or network was diagnosed but also important to the world at large), you are defining multiple subject positions you are aligned in.