The most recent volume (43) of Studies in Symbolic Interaction includes a chapter by me and Annette Markham.
From Object to Flow: Network Sensibility, Symbolic Interactionism, and Social Media
This article discusses how certain sensibilities and techniques from a network perspective can facilitate different levels of thinking about symbolic interaction in mediated contexts. The concept of network implies emergent structures that shift along with the people whose connections construct these webs of significance. A network sensibility resonates with contemporary social media contexts in that it focuses less on discrete objects and more on the entanglements among elements that may create meaning. From a methodological stance, this involves greater sensitivity to movement and connection, both in the phenomenon and in the researcher’s relationship to this flow. The goal is to embody the perspective of moving with and through the data, rather than standing outside it as if it can be observed, captured, isolated, and scrutinized outside the flow. Rather than reducing the scope, the practice of moving through and analyzing various elements of networks generates more data, more directions, and more layers of meaning. We describe various ways a network sensibility might engender more creative and ethically grounded approaches to studying contemporary cultures of information flow.