Assignment #3: Exploring Niche Social Networks

Format: Individual
Goal: To explore the profile capabilities of several social networking sites.
Contents: Each student researches four social networking sites to understand how the fields and features of the profiles impact the "culture" of the site.
Deliverables: Paper

"There are currently hundreds of social network sites, spanning a wide range of individuals, interests, and technological affordances. While the key technological features are fairly consistent, the "cultures" that emerge in these sites are varied. For example, music is the cultural glue of some sites, while others gather people around particular interests, such as political beliefs or pet ownership. Some sites cater to a wide variety of people, while others target people based on race, age, sexuality, religion, language, or nationality. Sites vary in the extent to which they incorporate new tools, such as mobile technologies, blogging, and photo/video-sharing."1

"Such sites typically enable individuals to create a profile that defines their online personae through the use of photographs, text, and multimedia elements. More importantly, social network sites enable individuals to articulate their social connections visibly on the site, a practice that may help individuals meet self-presentational and social goals. "Friends" links offer users a window into an emerging and fluid social landscape, allowing them to explore and interact with a larger network via profiles and the communication tools they offer. Together, profiles, traversable "friends" links, and communication tools comprise the backbone of social network sites."2

Assignment Description

IMPORTANT: Create a new email account prior to starting this assignment. You will be signing up for accounts on many of these social networking sites. To avoid spam, use an email account created specifically for this assignment. I recommend a Google gmail but feel free to use whatever service you prefer.

Google gmail Sign Up

Analyze a minimum of four social networking sites. Focus on how the design of the site shapes (or limits) the way participants "define" themselves. Analyze the service with particular attention to the analysis of “profiles” and the presentation of self. Choose “open registration” sites listed on wikipedia (link below) or find & analyze social networking sites that aren't on the list.

Note: You may NOT analyze Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Flickr, Twitter, or Yelp since you are already familiar with those sites and/or we've already studied them in class
Additional Note: Please do not select any dating sites for your analysis.

Write a short paper (3 pages or less) describing your findings. Be sure to include an introductory paragraph and a concluding paragraph. Think about how a sense of identity and “place” is constructed within the sites you selected. Explore social networker profiles and think about the following:

  • How do members represent themselves?
  • Is the information about each member complete?
  • Do members appear to be truthful?
  • How does their profile impact their role within the social networking community?


Fast Company Magazine Article "Our Profiles, Ourselves" by Rob Walker Mar 2008

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