Social Networking Sites als Gebrauchsmuster. Prototypische Merkmale aus Experten- und Nutzersicht

  • Social Networking Sites as Usage Patterns. Prototypical Attributes from the Perspective of Experts and Users

Wirtz-Brückner, Simone Maria; Jakobs, Eva-Maria (Thesis advisor); Ziefle, Martina (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : Publikationsserver der RWTH Aachen University (2015)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Aachen, Techn. Hochsch., Diss., 2015


Social networking sites (SNS) are an integral part of the communicative everyday life for a lot of people. However, until now they have hardly been examined as communicative artifacts. Whereas a lot of socio-scientific research on SNS is published, linguistic studies are comparatively rare. Particularly, there is no general consensus in linguistics about the status of SNS. One notion (see e.g. Dürscheid et al. 2010), is to regard SNS as a (hybrid) communicative form. However, communicative forms are communicative constellations that are only determined by situative and medial factors. They are indefinite with regard to communicative purposes or functions. Thus, categorizing SNS as a communicative form is contradictory to results of studies regarding the usage of SNS, which clearly show that SNS users primarily pursue a specific communicative purpose: the maintenance of social relationships. Therefore, this dissertation takes another approach: SNS are examined from a linguistic action theory based perspective. They are regarded as usage patterns and accordingly produced hypertextual communicative artifacts. Usage patterns are standardized means of problem-solving for repeatedly occurring communicative tasks or problems in a society. Their attributes can be described with the help of linguistic models and they have a prototypical character, which means that there are more or less typical attributes and more or less typical examples (representatives) of a usage pattern. Against this background, the thesis pursues the following aims: The first aim is to show that SNS are not a communicative format, but communicative artifacts with a specific communicative purpose that are produced according to a usage pattern. Secondly, it aims at the reconstruction of prototypical, typical and less typical attributes of SNS. To identify these attributes, two perspectives are taken: On the one hand, attributes are derived from scientific literature about SNS. On the other hand, the user perspective (Which attributes do users consider as prototypical?) is examined in an empirical study. Third, it is empirically investigated which representatives of the usage pattern SNS are considered to be prototypical, typical or less typical and which attributes distinguish prototypical representatives against less typical representatives. Finally, the thesis investigates how surveys (as an empirical method) and specific collection methods from the field of prototype theory can contribute to the investigation of usage patterns.In the first part oft the thesis SNS are viewed from a scientific perspective: Typical attributes of SNS are derived from socio-scientific and linguistic studies (expert perspective). The linguistic concepts of communicative forms (e.g. Dürscheid 2005, Holly 2011) and usage patterns (e.g. text patterns, Sandig 1997; hypertext patterns, Jakobs 2011) are introduced and delineated. Afterwards, SNS are described on the level of communicative forms and aspects of the usage pattern SNS are outlined. In the second part, SNS are examined from the user perspective with an empirical study. The study consists of two consecutive surveys that build on one another. In both studies the knowledge, assumptions and mental models of users concerning SNS are investigated. Therefore, different collection methods from prototype theory (e.g. free listing of attributes, goodness-of-example rating) are adapted and combined. Data are partly analyzed with content analysis and partly statistically.Results confirm that SNS can be conceptualized as communicative artifacts with a specific communicative purpose. These artifacts are produced according to a usage pattern and realized in a new hybrid communicative form that can be defined as online network (a communicative form that covers the whole spectrum of computer-mediated communicative constellations). Furthermore, standardized ways of usage have developed and users have knowledge about these ways of usage and prototypical attributes of SNS. Prototypical attributes concern the social purpose, the situational context and participants, action, topic and visualization patterns, interactive elements and operating patterns. Further attributes refer to the reception of SNS and qualities that users assign to SNS (‘general’ attributes such as ‘speed of communication’). Facebook is regarded as the prototypical representative of the category SNS. A comparison of the expert and the user perspective shows that the empirically determined attributes essentially match the attributes derived from the scientific literature. However, expert and user perspective partly diverge concerning representatives of the category.