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Facebook and Political Impressionability

Facebook and Political Impressionability

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Published by anon-414130
A paper by Jeff Graves on Facebook and political impressionability.
A paper by Jeff Graves on Facebook and political impressionability.

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Published by: anon-414130 on Nov 13, 2007
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Jeffrey Graves6/7/2007
Facebook Research and Political Impressionability
Jeffrey K. Graves6/7/2007PLSC 2701- Political InquiryProfessor Earnest Wellhofer
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Jeffrey Graves6/7/2007
Facebook Research and Political Impressionability
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”- Arthur C. Clarke
Remarkable innovations in information technology have ushered in a new era of societal perceptions. Modern day students (and most everyone else) cannot imagine life without a cell- phone and laptop. Electronic interface has become an integral part of the way individuals viewthe world and process information. Pop culture is defined by the clips on YouTube, news isingested in the form of podcasts, and social networking sites like facebook. These newtechnologies open up new channels of research into the activities and habits of its users. Socialnetworking sites, such as facebook, take in a significant amount of personal data which could beused to identify trends within a specific constituency. The advanced search feature on facebook makes it possible to identify trends within broad groups (i.e. male v. female; class of 2007 v.class of 2010). By using advanced search, it will be possible to develop a composite politicalscore for each class which will demonstrate the differences in political composition. Thesedifferences may be explained by the liberalizing effect of education (especially college).However, since the data does shows a linear increase, the popularity of the ruling party at the ageof political impressionability (either in college or high school) may also play a role.
Initial Criticism and Literature Review ____________________________________________ 
An initial criticism of using facebook as a research tool is that the sample obviously self-selects. Not only is the research limited to those who choose to use facebook, but also thestudents within your network and those who list their political affiliation. However, facebook may conquer that flaw due to the large majority of students who log on regularly. MichaelBugeja’s article, "Facing the Facebook," recounts the story of a journalism professor who wasshocked to note that while only a few students had views PBS’s NewsHour last night, almost all2
 
Jeffrey Graves6/7/2007of them had logged onto facebook.
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Moreover, students are not afraid to put a large amount of  personal data online including birth dates, addresses, telephone numbers and consumer  preferences.
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The false sense of anonymity lulls users into a sense of security. Students have beenexpelled or disciplined over information and photographic evidence they post online.
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Overall,an estimated 85% of students nationally have accounts on facebook.
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The author of this paper can only think of one student at the University of Denver that does not use facebook.While the University of Denver boasts a total student body (graduate and undergraduate)of 10,400
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, facebook includes a whopping 8,818 users.
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While some of those users may havegraduated, that still means between 70-85% of students use facebook. Of those 8,818 users 51%list their political association.
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Therefore, between 35% and 42% of the students at the Universityof Denver advertise their political association, a large enough sample size to get accurate data.Furthermore, since gathering data on facebook does not require interaction with individuals, the potential for researcher bias or unconscious selection is greatly reduced.
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This methodologyadmittedly selects individuals who are politically aware. However, it also weeds out those whodo not have strong, formed opinions, emphasizing the differences between groups. A major andirresolvable flaw with this method is that students are under no obligation to tell the truth in their  profiles. In other words, they may provide a political view antithetical to their own as an inside joke or list incorrectly their class year. This flaw may skew the data, however, it should be noted
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Bugeja, Michael. "Facing the Facebook." Chronicle of Higher Education. EBSCO. 4 June 2007
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Brock, Reed. "INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY." Chronicle of Higher Education. EBSCO.
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Maloney, Patrick. "The Facebook Effect." The London Free Press 7 July 2007. 7 June 2007<http://lfpress.ca/newsstand/CityandRegion/2007/06/07/4241201-sun.html>.
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Thiel, Peter. "85% of Students Use Facebook." Tech Crunch. 7 Sept. 2005. 2 June 2007 <http://www.techcrunch.com/2005/09/07/85-of-college-students-use-facebook/>.
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"Statistics." The University of Denver. 1 June 2007 <http://www.du.edu/city/static/pdfs/2007CITYSPCatalog.pdf>.
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"Denver Network Pace." Facebook. 1 June 2007 <http://du.facebook.com/networks/?nk=16777419>.
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Ibid.
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Babbie, Earl. The Basics of Social Research. 3rd ed. Belemont, CA: Thomson-Wadswoth, 2005. 193-194.
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