audience study

Shaping of the Project: Audience Research

This project has been a definitely been on quite a journey. From the initial idea of the transmedia narrative carried out across different forms of social media to now being more of an abstraction/visualisation type piece. From my fine art background, I have always felt most comfortable with working with creative art, however I find it a massive struggle to overlap fine art and digital art due to my lack of confidence with the technical side of things. I feel that my technical skill never quite does my creativity justice. I am aware that this is why we have the option to collaborate, so they we can utilise other peoples skill sets, however I feel that from my own personal perspective I wanted to challenge myself and force myself to improve in terms of my coding and technical ability which this project has allowed me to do. Additionally I feel that I put too much emphasis on this graduate project being a “thing”, a “product” that had to have a point to it, i.e. something that had a start and an end or was more of a sellable package like a game for example. From the very beginning I wanted to create something people would interact with and appreciate without it being just “another app” or “another website” . I have always had an interest in media audiences and the sociology/psychology surrounding why people engage with it, and this was extended further with my dissertation research which was about audience who watch TV and use Twitter simultaneously. Instead of using what I knew about social network to create one, I wanted to make something that looked at it from another angle and since social media has been such a phenomenon in the last 10 or so years so I felt this would have plenty of scope. This idea had come from ongoing observation of people. From being in uni and using social media to communicate with course colleagues and sports teams, to working in a busy restaurant and over hearing people discussing what they had seen on social media over dinner. It fascinated me how much it came up in conversation. This is where I decided to put my observation to good use. Until now the observations I had been making were relatively “indirect” (Wilson 2002). I think this fascination came from my own personal usage of social media. Yes it is something I have and use, but I regularly question my own usage and test my own dependance on it. I enjoy going on holiday and not taking a phone, and I sort of judge myself for using it if I am say, away on holiday. Social media used to be about sharing things, but the accessibility of the internet and the popularity of internet devices has meant that we can share as and when we like, absolutely anywhere with signal, which lets be honest is everywhere. The question I always ask is that if people are having a good time and what not, then surely they can’t be having that good of a time if they willing to stop to post something online? Its not like before where you would come home and take time and effort to sit at a proper computer attached to the online world with an ethernet cable.

What was interesting is that once you start taking notice of something, how much you see it, but then when I questioned people, most commonly, they were always quite quick to deny how much they actually engage in social media. This made me question how any research that I carried out might be difficult because people wouldn’t be truthful. If I was to question people directly “this would assume that they have an ability to recall earlier behaviour accurately- which may not always be true” (Wilson 2002).  This is why the research process needed to be thorough however, it needed a different structure to normal because by asking to them to “make self observation” (Wilson 2002), their answers would be likely to change. Having made this observation, I feel the application of Wilson’s (2002) social research methods was the best suited.

observation

When studying something so large scale and broad as social media I feel this was a good decision, especially when wanting to create something artistic which isn’t really that artistic – it needed to be broad. By using focus groups, interviews, questionnaires and general indirect/direct observations in a less formal environment I feel that this gave me a solid overview of the subject without overkilling it and still allowing for creative flair.

 

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Audience Profile

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  • The Social Media User

Meet your average social media user. Someone who regularly browses their newsfeed, maybe uploads their own content occasionally, but generally uses social media to keep in contact with friends, view funny videos or images people post and just to pass time when their bored. The average user knows that there is hype surrounding social media but neither gets flustered by it, nor ignores it. Their the middle of the road type of user, can live with it and can live without it. They are the ones who will stop and interact with The #Life. Its important to reiterate that The #Life is not trying to portray a bad or good opinion of social media, it is just a visual representation of the behaviours carried out online and offering an interesting perspective. Therefore, the target market of viewers will be those with an interest in viewing something a bit different, someone who is not so involved with social media that they have a very firm opinion of it and somebody who can take a step back and appreciate the observation/representation. Note how I haven’t referred to the user as either a he or a she,  because my project is not gender specific and can be appreciated by all.

  • The Non Social Media User

Due to the comparison elements of the project I feel that even non social media users will be able to relate to what is trying to be portrayed. This section of the audience I would assume to be slightly older, or those who are not that familiar with Social Media directly but are aware of it and what it has become. Social media is such a big thing now that it is impossible to have not come across it… even my 84 year old Grandad has Facebook and him and my Nan regularly sit and see what their grandchildren are getting up to.

 

Although the target market stated is quite broad, I don’t think should be seen as a bad thing. Social media is a big enough topic to be understood by most and the creative aspect off the mini pieces included within the project will be appreciated in their own right. Kelley and Ugenheimer (2008) highlight how “arriving at the right audience appears on the surface to be a simple exercise” (p.59), however their must be careful crafting and planing to get the best results. Kelley and Ugenheimer (2008)  suggest that the target market can appreciate a given piece from a number of different ways depending on their own circumstances. For example, some may “make sense of it from a business perspective, a marketing perspective, a media perspective, and a creative perspective” (p.59) . The aim of this project has always been for the audiences to arrive at their own conclusions and take from it what they see fit, so although defining a target market is possible, the nature of the project makes it more of a “media exercise” (Kelley and Ugenheimer 2008, p.59).

Sound Recognition Test

 

A collection of common media sounds have been collected in order to test if people recognise them, and to see the effect in which they have on them. This small test aims to consider how sound plays a key part in our connection to the online world.  This research hopes to reveal  whether the user feels more inclined to respond to a notification if they hear the sound, and if they keep hearing the sound.

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The decision to include a sound recognition text was to take a slightly different direction instead of just asking people outright how they feel about social media. This overcomes ideas that people will say what they think you want to hear. By proving or disproving that people were aware of theses social media sounds and what the meant meant that it did not matter if they were pro social media or anti social media, it meant that they were still aware of it and has still developed this idea that people are living simultaneously in a blurring online and offline world even if they are not prepared to admit it.

I feel like sounds will play a large part in the final project because, sound if used correctly can cause a range of psychological responses.

 

sounds

Focus Group

 

Key themes:

Everyone is aware of everyones else’s behaviour, such as “stalking”, “liking”, or “browsing” people therefore making it acceptable because “everybody else does it”. The idea that people are totally aware and in control of what they are doing online was common. The hashtag did make a difference when trying to decipher what people were trying to get at by their picture. This was interesting because it means the words are technically becoming just as important as the overall images, which kind of defeats the object of sharing a visual image and then needing somebody to read about to be able to fully understand it.

 

 

“I can now take selfies and not get bullied” (Hannah Beard, 22) … how social media protocol is changing.

Interviews

 

What is fascinating is how when you start to investigate what people think of social media, you cannot help but notice just how much it comes up in conversation. Its almost like social media has created this massive u-turn… It used to be a space to display stuff that happens in your everyday life. But now the stuff that happens on Facebook is becoming the hot topic of everyday life… so are people putting their lives on Facebook because they have a great life, or are they putting stuff on Facebook because they don’t but they want to feel like they do?

The video above is a small snippet of the key themes which arose after questioning a group of 18-25 year olds, i.e. “digital natives”, about their favourite social media channels. This idea of being “stalked” and being a “stalker” was reiterated through out, and the contradictory notions between older people asked compared the younger people asked was very interested. On the one hand some said they didn’t want to hear about the ins and outs of another persons life, but then others said that was what was great about it. It seems that Instagram is very much the social media of the minute, with Facebook and Twitter taken a back seat

Identity Theory and Social Media Participation

Identity Theory in regards to Social Media participation:

Individuals employ a social identity online…. Tajfel (1981) combines   “four linked concepts: social categorisation, social identity, social comparison and psychological group distinction” to construct better understanding of self-identity.

The social categorisation process is the “bringing together social objects or events in groups which are equivalent with regard to an individual’s actions, intentions and system beliefs” (Tajfel 1981, p.254). So this means that for a transmedia story to work, it needs to “bring together social objects or event in a group” in order to make it desirable by a large audience.

Leary and Tangney (2005) explain how social identity is when the representation of the self is recognised as part of a social group, suggesting that social media users construct an appropriate ‘self’ to portray themselves online.

Ashmore et al. (2001) highlights the complexity of self and identity concepts, offering a further breakdown of social identity as the belief of group belonging, in which receiving acceptance from other group members is deemed an important facilitator of successful group membership. In terms of social media, this could be represented by the number of Facebook ‘friends’ or Twitter ‘followers’.

Leary and Tangney (2005)  states how social identities are “not simply individual cognitive constructions” (p.480), instead they are developed with shared attributes and beliefs of other individuals in mind.

Tajfel (1981) includes a relevant description of ‘social actions’, which play in construction of the social self.

The social comparison concept offers explanation linking social identity theory with social categorisation (Tajfel 1981). Leon Festinger (1954) concludes that social comparison is the drive humans have to evaluate their own opinions and abilities, by measuring them against the opinions and abilities of others who make theirs available. Social media facilitates communication between one to one, and one to many, allowing for social comparison to take place. The active users, are either consciously or unconsciously offering information about themselves to other users, hence making social comparison in an online space possible.

The social comparison theory offers insight  into social media networks “as a system of orientation which creates and defines the individual’s own place in society” (Tajfel 1981, p.258). Users are able to participate online and  in order to construct themselves socially and personally.

Social identity is very complex and social groups cannot necessarily be defined fundamentally. Psychological group distinction discusses how social attitudes; intentions and actions can be used to express the characteristics of a particular group (Tajfel 1981). The benefits, opportunities and other “consequences of membership” within a group can only achieve true satisfaction and status if defined in relation to an alternative group because “groups are…capable of any definition because of their insertions into a multi-group structure” (Tajfel 1981, p.259).

Ashmore, R.D., Ussim, L.J., Wilder, D., 2001. Social Identity, Intergroup Conflict and Conflict Reduction. London: Oxford University Press

Leary, M., Tangney, J., 2003. Handbook of Self and Identity.  NY: The Guildford Press

Tajfel, H., 1981, Human Groups and Social Categories: Studies in Social Psychology.  Cambridge USA: The Cambridge University Press

Twitter Research Case Study: “Made In Chelsea”

“Made in Chelsea” is a popular reality TV show series shown on channel E4. The show captures the lives of young, rich and fancy free individuals living in and around the wealthy London Borough of Chelsea. The audience members are led to believe that the people and their lives are real…however “some scenes are created for entertainment purposes”. The characters from the show are all active Twitter uses with a massive following. The images included below are recorded moments of the live newsfeed during the same time the show was running on air. It was surprising to see just how active the Twitter feed was when you would normally expect the viewer to be glued to their TV screens.

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