Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship

You are here

This article deals with how social network sites (SNSs) are increasingly attracting the attention of academic and industry researchers intrigued by their affordances and reach. As the special theme section of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication brings together scholarship on these emergent phenomena, this paper has unique prevalence. It describes features of SNSs and proposes a comprehensive definition, offering a nuanced breakdown of how to interpret SNS databases. They then present one perspective on the history of such sites, discussing key changes and developments, and after briefly summarizing existing scholarship concerning SNSs, discuss the articles and conclude with considerations for future research.

This paper contributes to an on-going dialogue about the importance of social networking sites, both for practitioners and researchers. Vast, uncharted waters still remain to be explored, as the article contends. Methodologically, SNS researchers’ ability to make causal claims is limited by a lack of experimental or longitudinal studies. Although the situation is rapidly changing, scholars still have a limited understanding of who is and who is not using these sites, why, and for what purposes, especially outside the U.S.

Danah M. Boyd, Nicole B. Ellison