PhD candidate Baird Campbell has been awarded a National Science Foundation Dissertation Research Improvement Grant to fund his dissertation research in Santiago, Chile. An abstract for the research can be read below.
For many, social media are valuable because they allow a wider variety of voices to be heard and more varied accounts of events to become part of the public record. For social scientists interested in how social media are affecting our society, these claims raise a number of important questions. How does the social media record differ from a traditional archive? How do the "selves" that people produce digitally compare to those they inhabit in ordinary interpersonal contexts? The research supported by this award, which trains an American graduate student in methods of conducting empirically-grounded scientific research, will address these questions. The research is important because we need to understand all aspects of how social media affect our society and our institutions.
The research will be carried out by Rice University anthropology doctoral student, Baird Campbell, with the guidance of Dr. A. Cymene Howe. The researcher has chosen Santiago, Chile, as his research site. This is an appropriate site because Chile went through a marked political transition in the late 1990s. This created a unique boundary and clear contrast between past and present, and led to the rise numerous groups trying to re-write history and change their own public images through social media. The researcher will take advantage of this contrast and activism to compare traditional and official written accounts with contemporary digital archives. He also will conduct participant observation in activist groups; interview a stratified sample of group members, comparing their in-person narratives with their digital ones; conduct focus groups, stratified by age, to account for generation differences; and collect data thorough an on-line survey. Findings from this research will contribute to social science theories of the relationship between social media, social memory, and history. It will also help policy makers who must regularly evaluate the role of social media in the society at large.