The Past on Social Network Sites: The (Dis)Embodiment in the Digital Era

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 5:45 PM
Room: Booth 66
Oral Presentation
Olga SERGEYEVA , Sociology Department, Volgograd State University, Volgograd, Russia
Liubov MAKAROVA , Department of Sociology, Volgograd State University, Volgograd, Russia
Private archives (the letters and photos of ordinary people) have been an invaluable resource for historians, biographers and researches of society. Since few messages of online social networking sites will be printed out or saved by correspondents, future researchers will have far fewer writing documents as source materials than in the past. Digital writing and images have no physical substance. To some degree, then, we may be returning to the pattern of oral cultures: much digitally expressed cultural activity will leave no record.

As the popularity of online social networking like Facebook sites grows, so do concerns about the impact of such sites on the process of cultural memory construction. Our research has concentrated on the presentation of the past of Russian elderly (60+) through social networking profiles (our subjects are two modern Russian social networks “Vkontakte” and “My Former Classmates”). This study has looked at social networking profile pages as a single text including iconic, audio and textual elements.

We analyze two strategies of networking which are characterized of senior users. The first important characteristic of old people sites is the way personal identity is subsumed within the sense of being historical generation. The second strategy shows contradictory intentions of elderly who “play” with time changing the personal contemporary image. Deep interviews with senior users help to reconstruct some practices in situation if the profile owner died.

We discuss inequality problem in terms of “digital divide” and “power over time” between elderly who use new technologies and non-users.