Here’s an interview I did with communication researchers, Dr. Michael Stefanone and Derek Lackaff, at the University at Buffalo (SUNY) about their discovery of a strong link between reality TV viewership, social networking site usage, and celebrity identity formation.
Via Michael: As an article forthcoming in ACM’s Hypertext (June, 2008), the study found a link between reality television (RTV) consumption and behavior on SNSs like Facebook. Stefanone, Lackaff and Rosen found that RTV consumption predicted the size of user’s online social networks, the number of photos shared, and the level of ‘promiscuous friending’ (the frequency users friend others they haven’t actually met).
I have a particular interest in this study because it’s quite straightforward and timely. The study brings together concepts of Benkler’s peer production in Web 2.0 environments, promiscuous friending (which leads to Boyd’s Law), game metaphor of social networks, modeling of celebrity identity (microcelebrityship), media displacement theory, and historical shifts in online identity formation (from anarchic textual self-representation to present day actual self-representation).
“We’re All Stars Now: Reality Television, Web 2.0, and Mediated Identities” (downloadable PDF) will be presented in June at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Hypertext 2008 conference. Congrats to Michael and Derek, whom both I know personally.
If you want a better understanding of this research, Alan Boyle, winner of the AAAS Science Journalism Award, has written an excellent feature for it on MSNBC.com’s Cosmic Log entitled: Are you an Online ‘Idol’?. There’s also a humorous piece by io9 bloggers entitled “Your Future Will Be Filled with Promiscuous Friends“.