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Observation of a New Online Interactive Forum

Choosing a Setting

Overview: What is This Assignment?

Apply what you have been learning in class to the social world around us. Go to an online interactive forum that is new to you (i.e., a forum you haven’t used at all before). Read the comments, look at the visuals, etc. Examine how people present themselves and how they behave. Think about how the culture and/or subculture(s) of that setting compares to an online interactive forum you regularly participate in (you can also think of an actual in-person social setting or group). Take detailed notes on what you see, and write a 1,200 word minimum (excluding cover page, references, and appendices) description and analysis. The title page and references in accordance with APA 7th are required but are not included in the page minimum.

Important Details: Choosing a Setting

Choose a setting or type of channel or feed that is different from what you are familiar with. You cannot have used that setting/channel/feed before (not even once). Are you mostly active on TikTok? Choose a different social medium. Do you regularly read and maybe even post on a
few Reddit communities? You can stay on Reddit, but choose topics/sub-Reddits with a very different type of focus than yours — social vs. professional, academic vs. fun, etc. You might need to make an account to see site posts. Feel free to use a throwaway email for it! Here’s a non-exhaustive list of potential social media sites: Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tiktok, Twitter, or Tumblr; a group or company’s Facebook page; a Twitch channel or a subreddit on Reddit. It should a space that you are not familiar with, and that you can compare with somewhere you are familiar with.

How much to observe? This depends on the medium you choose. If the site is organized by people or groups (e.g., TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) choose one or two people’s or groups’ pages or feeds. If it’s organized by topic (e.g., Reddit, Discord, Twitch), choose one or two topics. Start with two weeks’ worth of posts and interactions. In some cases this could be a huge amount; in others, not enough. You don’t need to read all 1,300 responses to the twenty posts put up over two weeks! As a ballpark, you should go through about twenty computer monitor screens’ worth of text. (This means, for instance, that if a lot of the content is pictures, you should be looking at more than twenty screens!) You might do this in one session, or in a few batches.

As you read, record your initial impressions. You will turn your notes. keep records of what you see (turn these in, too): either copy & paste text you think you will talk about into a document, along with the poster’s name and the date, or take screen shots. (On Macs, save a picture to your desktop by using Cmd-Shift-3 to take a picture of your entire screen; use Cmd-Shift-4, and then go to a corner and drag to choose a rectangle that you want to take a picture of.

What to Write

For your write-up: Tell me about this place as if I don’t know anything about the setting or what goes on in it (I might not!). In your essay, in order:1. In 5-8 sentences, identify and briefly describe your setting. What is it? What is its manifest social function? What is its basic structure (i.e., organized by people or topic), and how does it work?

2. Spend 3-4 pages telling me about what you observed, and your analysis of it. When describing things remember to use relevant sociological terms, such as the “cultural capital” of someone you saw, or the “signified” associated with something you read. For each aspect of the setting you describe: tell me how what you observed illustrates or reflects a sociological phenomenon from class, what concept it is an example of, how
something you have learned can help me understand what you saw, etc. Make sure to define sociological concepts, phenomena and the like. Include citations to definitions or other relevant course content.

3. Think of a comparable setting you are used to. You don’t have to do formal observations of this second setting, though you are welcome to revisit it if it would help. Spend about 1 page discussing how what you observed is similar to or different from it. What is a comparable setting that you are used to? Are there surprising similarities or differences? Do you have ideas about why some things might be the same or different?

4. In 5-8 sentences, summarize the paper by telling me what the most important things were that you learned about the setting you observed.

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