This study only really begins to answer the aforementioned inquiries, as one half semester worth of time would not permit enough opportunity to thoroughly investigate Facebook via qualitative-based content analysis. Nevertheless, it provides some solid evidence with which we can begin to formulate answers.
So what do students think about race in the campus climate and Facebook climate? In general they feel it’s a friendly place for people of all colors. According to the data gathered about the only time a group that felt anything was hostile was when people who identified as anti-chief were asked about the hostility of the face to face world campus atmosphere for Native Americans. How about their actions? On the whole there’s a lot of showcasing of support of the Chief but on some digital action. Though thousands of students signed petitions to save the Chief online and hundreds changed their pictures to protest it’s unclear just how much these actions translated to effect and deeds or achievements in the offline world. Further studies ought to individually trace impacts through interviews and more in-depth analysis.
As for the character of pro-chief related groups research suggests that they are far reaching in their membership, but only among certain populations. College students have historically been predisposed to racial separation, and in the case of the Chief issue it’s unclear (but suspect) if these affiliations and separations were founded before college and if they are diminished in any way over its course. Looking to the [only] research on the subject, Mayer and Puller (2007) suggest that social networks are highly segmented by race and they found by running counterfactual simulations that this is largely driven by preferences rather than institutional features that affect meeting (more minorities doesn’t mean integration or friendship). Programs like affirmative action only have limited ability to reduce the segregation and as such policies should be aimed at impacting preferences. Anti-chief groups seem to have little support and even less community mobility. Both have become battle grounds for argument and house members with strong feelings, however. While they might be built for a number of functional purposes their activity seems to center more around what the members themselves really truly care about. Given the necessity to alter preferences in order to cause lasting effects on perceptions of race and the high caliber emotional content encountered in Chief-related groups it would seem these digital spaces are an crucial tool and context for actors leading social movements to understand and engage. This paper concludes with a few approaches to utilizing social capital and social change on Facebook, but first a few notes.
As was previously mentioned this study took place over the course of about half a semester. Most of the data analysis is limited to first runs and summaries and severely needs to be double-checked. Many theories ought to be followed up on and the rather rich analysis can easily present more answers and in-depth analysis in the future. The impartial social work theory is a result of the loss of the co-author Elena Chiappinelli who had to step down half way through the process due to personal reasons and family concerns. Nevertheless the work here stands as an exciting start and exploration into just what can be done by researching on Facebook.
Originally this project was to include a full composition break down of all surveyed Chief groups. This would include racial statistics on all members. Furthermore the research plan originally included the possibility of giving surveys to Chief Facebook administrators be distributed to their member populace. The hope was to acquire the variance in perspectives on the Chief within given pro and anti Chief groups. Potential interviews with key players and leaders in the Pro-Chief movement were also on the drawing board, but were the first thing scratched off when efforts became busy.
Furthermore the coding method employed on only two groups in this study could easily be expanded to code all seventeen groups selected, or even more. In fact such a comprehensive analysis would truly adequately answer the research questions and present enough material to motivate large scale policy changes at the University. A collaborative social research approach might also be taken with content analysis. Researchers could easily work with their subjects, presumably anti-chief, in a given setting to accomplish social change or action. Data would be gathered by stakeholders, which would allow for an efficient division of labor, and the same assistants could be reflexively give feedback to inform action, resolve problems or suggest solutions, or answer research questions.
And lastly, an ideal collection of race demographic data could involve two main aspects. A pair (or more) of researchers who could cross-compare race assignment results (and throw out mismatching classifications) or a formalized list of students from the Division of Management Information (DMI) that would include official school racial records that could be used to verify identities. This kind of study would of course provoke a full IRB review and likely take years to complete and as such may not be feasible. This data, however, once acquired, could be tested in the same ways Mayer and Puller (2007) did to project the effect of new policy changes and alterations in the student population.