MAKING AND BREAKING RULES ON THE INTERNET

Katrin Tiidenberg, Crystal Abidin, Andra Siibak

Abstract


This panel explores how social norms get troubled and rewritten on social media. It brings together three presentations, all of which speak to the central conference theme by engaging with how specific rules and norms regarding privacy, friendship, shame and commodification are appropriated, rejected or transformed. We analyze the rule breaking and rule making through social media practices like teacher-student interactions on Facebook, friendship and flirting on Tumblr, and microcelebrity attention seeking practices and self-presentation on different social networking sites. Our arguments are predicated on the well established sociological reasoning that rules for any conduct are discovered, created and sustained by social actors through their everyday practices, and become particularly visible, when broken (Garfinkel, 1967). We also rely on the thesis that different groups differ on “what behaviors are normative and which are not” (Ren et al 2010: 125), thus a specific group’s cohesion may rely on explicit or implicit questioning of an otherwise widely accepted norm. The latter is particularly relevant for analyzing human coexistence in digital contexts. While “social media constitute an arena of public communication where norms are shaped and rules get contested,” (van Dijck, 2013:19), there are no universally applicable norms and values that apply to the internet as a space (Albrechtslund, 2008). We argue that it thus becomes a particularly fertile space for groups and communities to negotiate “constitutive rules,” which “create the possibility of the very behavior that they regulate” (Searle, 2009: 10). Our empirical data is geographically and culturally broad, ranging from a study of lifestyle Influencers in Singapore, schoolteachers and students in Estonia and sex-bloggers in the USA. Based on it we interrogate the interconnections of social media practices, wider social norms and platform affordances to offer explanations, descriptions and provocations on how breaking norms can be a calculated strategy to capture attention (Sorry not sorry: influencers, exposés, and para-apologetic transgressions); an outcome of the practices and socio-technical affordances of a particular community (Queering friendships - blurred lines of relationships on tumblr); or how lines are being drawn in the sand of what constitutes acceptable social media behavior for teachers and students (Nightmare readers and double standards – the case of teacher-student interactions on Facebook). References Albrechtslund, A. (2008). Online Social Networking as Participatory Surveillance. First Monday, 13(3). Available from: http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/2142/1949 Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in ethnomethodology. Penguin Ren, Y., Kraut, R., Kiesler, S., Resnick, P. (2010). Regulating Behavior in Online Communties, in (Eds) R. E. Kraut & P. Resnick. Building successful online communities: Evidence-based social design. MIT Press, 125-178. Searle, J. (2009). Making the social world: The structure of human civilization, Oxford University Press Van Dijck, J. (2013). The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media. Oxford University Press: Kindle Edition.

Keywords


social norms, breaking social norms, social media practices, constitutive rules

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