Friday, July 10, 2009

Smartphones, Social Media, and Sociological Research

Social media is obviously changing the landscape of the production of information in our world.

What has not been discussed much in the sociology is the role that information technology, particularly mobile technology, can and will play in sociological research.

I have experimented with the use of smart phones in my personal and professional life substantially over the past six months. I started out with the LG Vu and then upgraded to the iPhone 3G. What I will discuss below can largely be applied to current smart phones on the market (obviously combined with the appropriate data plan) that allow the following:

* the function to take photos
* the ability to text message (SMS)
* the ability to record audio and/or video

The sharing of such information/or research depends on the user's capacity to upload that information to be shared with others. A smart phone along with a the proper data plan can unleash the sociological imagination in anyone's world.

I particularly have used images and texts across a number of platforms, and have integrated nearly all of these platforms to be accessible at any one point. For example, I currently actively use The Sociology Blog, Twitter, Facebook,, and YouTube. At the same time, I have each of these linked to the other through a Netvibes website.

The real beauty of using the smart phone for exploratory sociological research and the cross platform of sharing information is the role the smart phone can play in the daily living of the researcher, student, or simply out of freelance interest.

There have been several examples where I have been able to bring a current, real time experience to bear via the social networking/media sites mentioned above. These in turn have been brought into the classroom and have given students a very real connection of applying the sociological imagination in real life, providing an example of using mobile technology for research, sharing that information across many channels and amongst many potential audiences, and reflecting with others (in and outside the classroom) regarding individual/group behavior and it's particular role in the social setting.

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