Northern Chile: “Me Gusta” – Researching Social Media

I like it Alto Hospicio, in the north of Chile is the field site in which I have been studying the use and meaning of social media While some critics suggest that a project on social media might be successfully carried out entirely online I have spent 15 months in Alto Hospicio looking not only at social media use but the ways it relates to daily life in the city During my 15 months in Alto Hospicio I have kept up with local people’s use of Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Whatsapp but more importantly, I have used traditional ethnographic methods which in reality is a lot like just hanging out I have lived with Hospiceños, eaten with them, ridden in public busses and private cars attended neighbourhood committee meetings, birthday parties and funerals shared beers, and even survived major earthquakes alongside them While many anthropologists might call the people with whom they work informants or interlocutors the people of Alto Hospicio have most importantly become my friends By getting close and sharing in their daily lives I can learn more about, not only what they do but also what they think, what they hope for, and how they feel But this ethnography has not just been all hanging out Rather than taking the user’s actions at face value I also ask them to reflect on these practices In in-depth interviews, three different surveys, and in casual conversations This contributes to my knowledge of what people do on social media and what they think about it as well as expanding my understanding of their lives in general While anthropology is traditionally a solitary kind of research I have been helped immensely by the collaborative nature of the Global Social Media Impact Study As part of this global project, I have colleagues researching the same things in Brazil, China, England, India, Italy, Trinidad, and Turkey As we do simultaneous research, based on the same research questions and methodology email, Skype, and even social media have kept us connected While in Alto Hospicio, I have the benefit of a community of colleagues at my fingertips as well as friends and acquaintances in Alto Hospicio, just outside of my door My research is about what people do online but that is intimately connected to what they do and who they are in their lives outside of social media And having seen, heard, and lived the life of Alto Hospicio myself I am in a position to try to understand and explain just how social media postings fit together with daily life in this city

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