Analysing Differences in the Cultural Field Using Facebook Data

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Maximilian WEBER, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
The rise of Web 2.0 platforms has enabled easier participation through one’s own content on the Internet. Previous research has shown that Internet usage and online skills are stratified by socio-economic characteristics. For example, it is demonstrated that people from resource-rich households tend to use the Internet more often for obtaining information, whereas those with less resources tend to be more interested in the entertainment functions of new technologies. Can such a pattern be found in online content from young people, too? Does self-produced content posted on social networking sites differ according to social background characteristics?

Research in the field of cultural practices has revealed that differences based on social positions can be found in almost every sphere of life. Referring to Bourdieu’s mention of capital, a relationship between social origin and different forms of participation in online social networking can be built.

Data gathered from a social media platform is used in order to answer the research questions. For this purpose, information on social background is collected through an online survey. After the poll, respondents are asked to log in with their Facebook account, and if they agree, their posts and likes are stored in a database. This data can then be analysed for patterns according to social background characteristics. Not only can the frequency of participation be analysed, but also the posted content, using text-mining algorithms (e.g. structural topic model). Analysing Facebook posts in connection with social background characteristics is an understudied field of research.

Preliminary results from the ongoing data collection phase show that there might be a relationship between cultural capital background and the usage of the Facebook “Like” button. A similar pattern can be expected for posted content.