Auditooriumi tähtsus ja roll uue meedia keskkonnas sotsiaalvõrgustikes saadetavate sõnumite näitel



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The purpose of the present Master’s thesis „The Importance and Role of Audience in New Media: Messages on Social Networking Sites“ was to explore the characteristics of the messages that teens post in virtual communities, more precisely on Facebook. Another goal of the thesis was to analyze who is the (perceived) audience of these messages and what is the role of the audience in decoding the messages. The topic is important, because social networking sites attract more and more people and information disclosed on these sites may have negative effects on one’s offline life. For example, it is important to bare in mind that these digitally archived lives are easily accessible to (future) educators and employers, to romantic- and business partners, and to children and parents. The empirical analysis of the thesis is based on two focus-group interviews which were conducted among 16-20 year old high school students. This age-group deserves special academic attention not only for being very eager internet users, but also for the fact that present day young people belong to the generation which has been growing up with the new media right from their birth. The main concepts and theories used in this thesis are the following: from classic approaches Fiske’s (1987) text as the final meeting of the message and the reader; coding and decoding by Stuart Hall (1980/2008) and symbolic capital by Bourdieu (1994/2003). From more recent theories about new media the thesis has been profited from the approaches to egalitarian communication (Napoli 2009), audience’s trasformation into users (Livingstone 2003a), omnopticon (Rosen 2004, Linaa Jensen 2010), the removal of context (boyd 2008) and social steganography (boyd 2010b), as well as the erosion of privacy (Solove 2007b) in social media. The findings of the study suggest that present day young people give their own share to the information society by exchanging information on social networking sites. The results of this study showed that this information is usually of little importance and mainly aimed to entertain and attract comments or „likes“ from other users. The messages sent through Facebook are predominantly positive, however virtual networks are also used as places where to re-live the low-points of one’s life or as battlefields for conflicts. In the latter cases, the audience can access information that is rather private by traditional way of thinking. The findings of the study show that there are three main reasons for sharing private information through social media. Some users lack the knowledge and skills needed to protect privacy on-line. Others seek gratification and popularity from the public at large by sharing intimate details of their lives. Some useres just do not care who can access their private information because they feel protected by the illusion of internet anonymity. The majority of the young people involved in the study, however, imagine their audience to be immensely smaller than it actually is. According to the perception of the young, the imagined audiences are not those that belong to one’s friend list (boyd 2010a), but only a small part of this public – the precice couple of people that are kept in mind while posting the message. The respondents in this study stated that their Facebook-contacts are mostly made up of friends and acquaintances, but also parents and relatives, teachers, musicians, companies and complete strangers. The messages the young post, are meant just for friends but it does not mean that other members of the audience can not see that info. Youngsters involved in the study confessed having had problems in the past because of miscalculating the actual size and heterogeneity of their audience, from these experiences they have developed a sense of jeopardy. The main groups that are perceived as a danger to teenager’s privacy are mostly those who have some power over them – the police, teachers and parents. Some youngsters have developed strategies to handle this new situation of virtually no privacy. Despite living their lives in public, they still manage to preserve some privacy. One of the most important and intricate of those strategies is social steganography, sending a hidden message in plain sight. In order to decode this message correctly (using the preferred reference code), audience must have extra knowledge about the context and an interpretive lens. The findings of the study at hand clearly illustrate that the boundaries between the sender and the receiver are blurred in the new media field where the members of audience are no longer just passive recievers of information but also participate actively as producers. Hence, the young expect their audience to be clever and understanding enough as well as liable to decode the message.