Faceworking: exploring students' education-related use of <i>Facebook</i>
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Learning, Media and Technology (2009)

Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace have been subject to much recent debate within the educational community. Whilst growing numbers of educators celebrate the potential of social networking to (re)engage learners with their studies, others fear that such applications compromise and disrupt young people's engagement with 'traditional' education provision. With these ongoing debates in mind, the current paper presents an in-depth qualitative analysis of the Facebook 'wall' activity of 909 undergraduate students in a UK university. Analysis of these data shows how much of students' education-related use of this social networking application was based around either the post-hoc critiquing of learning experiences and events, the exchange of logistical or factual information about teaching and assessment requirements, instances of supplication and moral support with regards to assessment or learning, or the promotion of oneself as academically incompetent and/or disengaged. With these themes in mind, the paper concludes that rather than necessarily enhancing or eroding students' 'front-stage' engagement with their formal studies, Facebook use must be seen as being situated within the 'identity politics' of being a student. In particular, Facebook appears to provide a ready space where the 'role conflict' that students often experience in their relationships with university work, teaching staff, academic conventions and expectations can be worked through in a relatively closed 'backstage' area.
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