Emerging Media: The Grounded Theory Method

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Grounded theory is “an approach to research that aims to produce a theory, grounded in the data, through the application of essential methods” (Birks & Mills, 179). In reading Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide, Melanie Birks and Jane Mills explained the importance of these “essential methods” to this theory and how the “methodology of this theory influences our analysis of data and focuses our attention on different dynamics of the research process” (4).

To understand the grounded theory method, we must position ourselves philosophically. According to Birks, we have “a unique conceptualization of existence and reality, the way we understand the world is influenced by our history and the context we find ourselves and our personal philosophy helps us define what we consider to be real and how we acquire knowledge about the world” (1-2). Birks and Mills give us the opportunity to identify our thoughts and assumptions about the world. They ask us four questions: how do we define our self, what is the nature of reality, what can be the relationship between researcher and participant and how do we know the world or gain knowledge from it?

My life experiences shape the way I define myself. I define myself as a highly-motivated individual who works hard to obtain success in any endeavor that I pursue. Beyond achieving success, I define myself by serving as a role model for others and empowering others to be successful in whatever occupation they pursue. My beliefs and my outlook on life stem from the way that I was raised as a child. I do not, however, discredit the beliefs of others. All in all, we have different approaches and perspectives as to how we define ourselves and the manner in which we define ourselves.

When thinking about the nature of reality, I think of it in different aspects. Overall, I think of “reality” as facts and experiences that I learned to be true and meaningful based on the shared relationships and interactions I made with those who share identical beliefs with me. In reference to grounded theory, how you define “reality” determines how you “articulate your beliefs and feelings about the world” and how we as researchers make decisions that affect our research (9). As researchers, it is critical for us to establish a strong researcher-participant relationship. The relationship between the researcher and the participant must be a professional one. When establishing a professional relationship, however, it is also important that the researcher gains a sense of trust, confidence and the willingness to understand the beliefs of the participants. In reference to the reading, theoretical sensitivity “is an important concept and one that is often difficult to grasp by experienced researchers” (49). It is important that we establish a solid foundation on how we define ourselves in preparation for understanding the sensitivity of thoughts and beliefs of others when conducting research from a grounded theory approach.

Through our interactions and experiences with others, we learn about the world around us and all of its intertwining parts. When thinking about the world and how we gain knowledge, I think about the concept “the circle of life” and how life consists of multiple parts and disciplines that interrelate to form the basis of the knowledge that we acquire. As children, we learn from our parents an associations that we establish with others (professors, friends, associates) who are critical to our growth and maturation. As we get older, we began to establish deeper connections with the knowledge we have learned in conjunction with the experiences (culture biases, expectations) that we constantly observe on a daily basis. With stronger connections to knowledge come different methods of acquiring information such as reading and learning about other cultures and seeing the world as a huge global community.

Thus, it is important that we consider these questions when carrying out the methods of the grounded theory. As researchers, we must factor our underlying assumptions about the world when determining how we categorize data, how we conduct data analysis, how we document the (writing memos) experiences of others, how we decide who best fits our research and how we code and integrate these methods into forming our view of the world as a whole.

Defining social media, cultural approach to communication

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Social media continue to change the way people interact with each other on a daily basis. While people use the word “social media” widely, the term is easily misunderstood. There are different ways social media are defined and used. Media scholars still have trouble in defining a solid definition of “social media” or in what they refer to as social networking sites.

Social networking sites are “web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (boyd, Ellison).

In Social Network Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship, boyd and Ellison constructed a definition for social networking sites based on their research on social media. It is important to point out this definition and their understanding of the concept because they take a step further in defining what everyday people use as a main source of communication to stay informed about news and issues in the world. While everyday people use social media and have a fixed definition of what they believe social media is, the term encompasses so many things.

As boyd and Ellison mentioned, the term “social networking site” appears in “public discourse and people use it interchangeably”. boyd and Ellison’s idea that networking “emphasizes and relationship initiation” and “relationship initiation is not the main source of interaction for SNS” are very important ideas to consider when using SNS. Networking is a very important tool on SNS. I agree, however, people use SNS to stay connected with people they have established relationships with. The research with impression management, friendship performance and the structure of the networks all play an important role to understanding the true meaning of how and why we should engage in social media.

Before the printing press, the rise of the Internet, Web 2.0 and social media, people communicated with each other from based on what used in their small communities (cultural). In A Cultural Approach to Communication, James Carey explained the term of communication and how people define it based on today’s society. Using Dewey’s early beliefs on communication, Carey raised a valid point in explaining that communication is not just “sending, transmitting or giving people information” (transmission view of communication). People should consider that communication derived from religious viewpoints because during earlier times, religion dominated society. People “shared, participated, associated and fellowshipped” with one another about ideas (ritual view of communication). Thus, it is important that we recognize the interactions within our culture to understand the symbolic process of whereby “reality is produced, maintained, repaired and transformed” (communication).

In Social Media: A Phenomenon to be Analyzed, boyd did an excellent job in telling how social media essentially changed the landscape of digital media. When I look at professional websites and social media platforms in society today, I notice how the structure, programming and setup of the websites determine just how far they reach audiences and how frequently people use them.

In Sociality through Social Network Sites, boyd and Ellison provide a solid approach on the evolution of social media and how profiles, friends list and traverse connections changed the way people communicated with one another. With technological advances came changes in the way people interacted with one another. After reading this research article, it is important to examine the way we use social networking sites. Instead of simply having a physical conversation with someone, social networking sites have changed to allow people to have these conversations virtually and allow for engaging conversation on the web.

In Making Sense of Teen Life: Strategies for Capturing Ethnographic Data in a Networked Era1 boyd provides us with a strong understanding for the power of social media. Social media allows one to build an image of themselves against what people may see from a person on a day-to-day basis. It is powerful. Social networking is important and it must be used in the correct way. If it is not, it can come back to hurt you professionally in the future.