Running Head: Concept Analysis of “Development of Online Friendship In Different Social Spaces”

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Concept Analysis of “Development of Online Friendship in Different Social Spaces” Chris Watson Queens University of Charlotte

Running Head: Concept Analysis of “Development of Online Friendship In Different Social Spaces” Mass Media Research discusses concepts and constructs in its second chapter.

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Author, Roger D. Wimmer, thoroughly explains other aspects of a research study, such as types of measurements, variables, research, and scales. According to Wimmer, a concept is “a term that expresses an abstract idea formed by generalizing from particulars and summarizing related observations” (Wimmer, 2011). He states that concepts are important because “they simplify the research process by combining particular characteristics, objects, or people into general categories and they simplify communication among those who have a shared understanding of them” (Wimmer, 2011). The idea behind measurement, according to Wimmer, is that “a researcher assigns numerals to objects, events, or properties according to certain rules” (Wimmer, 2011). A measurement contains numerals, assignments, and rules, where a numeral serves as a label, assignments are the designation of numerals to certain objects or events, and rules dictate the way numerals are assigned (Wimmer, 2011). There are four levels of measurement: nominal level, ordinal level, interval level, and ratio level. The nominal level, which is the weakest form of measurement, is when “numerals or other symbols are used to classify people, objects, or characteristics”, for example, numbers on football jerseys. The ordinal level is when objects are ranked along some dimensions, for example, smallest to largest (Wimmer, 2011). For the purpose of this paper, the definitions of the interval and ratio level of measurement will not be explained. As we discussed in class, a variable is any concept that varies. Wimmer says “variables are important because they link the empirical world with the theoretical” (Wimmer, 2011). In any research study, there is an independent variable and a dependent

Running Head: Concept Analysis of “Development of Online Friendship In Different Social Spaces” variable. The researcher controls the independent variable in order to explain the dependent variable. Variables are also classified as discrete or continuous. A discrete variable is categorical and it varies in kind. A continuous variable is numerical and it varies in amount. Variables must also have a conceptual and an operational definition in conducting a research study. The conceptual definition explains what the variable means for the purpose of the research while the operational definition defines how the variable can be observed or measured. In explaining the concept of scales, Wimmer defines it as a composite measured representation of a variable that is based on more than one item (Wimmer, 2011). Depending upon the study being conducted, a variety of scales are available for a researcher to choose for his or her case study, such as rating scales and transforming scales. There are specialized rating scales, for example, the Likert scales, which is the most common scale used in mass media research. The Likert scale develops a number of

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statements on a topic and respondents are to say if they strongly agree, agree, are neutral, disagree, or strongly disagree with the statements (Wimmer, 2011). Other specialized rating scales are Thurstone scales, Guttman scaling, and Semantic Differential scales. Development of Online Friendship in Different Social Spaces is a case study conducted by Lijun Tang. This research article is based on Tang’s hypotheses that the more spaces the online friendship expands into, the more intimate and rewarding the friendship becomes. The independent variable in this study is spaces of online friendships, and the dependent variable is the level of intimacy and rewards gained through the friendship.

Running Head: Concept Analysis of “Development of Online Friendship In Different Social Spaces” A major concept in this article is “friendship”. There is a section devoted to friendships and the types of friendships people can have with one another, such as

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companionship, informational, material help, and emotional aid. In this study, friendship is a discrete variable, where the focus is put on a specific kind of friendship, “online friendship”. The concept of “online friendship” is based on establishing a relationship with others in cyberspace. These friendships vary depending upon the “online community”, or website, in which people are socializing on. An online community is a space, in cyberspace, consisting of like-minded people discussing their common interest (Lijun, 2010). Tang analyzes and interprets online friendships that move to offline friendships. Using the numeral and assignment concepts of measurement, there are three phases in which the friendship goes through in this study: Friendship on the HCS, QQ friendship, and Offline friendship. The rules that guide the assignments is that the friendship must move, in order, from one phase to the next, which shows that the relationship between the two individuals is growing. Tang uses the nominal level of measurement when labeling the three phases of friendship. “From the first to the third type of friendship, the modes of relating are growing and the types of support friendship provides are increasing” (Lijun, 2010). In this statement, Tang is using the ordinal level of measurement by ranking the three types of friendship from least amount of intimacy and rewards to the greatest amount. He later refers to the three types of friendship as the “stages of advancement,” which also demonstrates his usage of ordinal level measurement.

Running Head: Concept Analysis of “Development of Online Friendship In Different Social Spaces” The HCS, Home of Chinese Seafarers, is a social site that “aims to provide a communication platform for people in the sea-faring community” (Lijun, 2011). This is the conceptual definition of the HCS website. “In this context, the HCS provides a platform for them to communicate and make friends” (Lijun, 2010). This serves as the operational definition of the HCS site. The way the site is measured is based on the creation and progression of friendships from the site.

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This case study gives a clear overview of the concepts discussed in chapter two of Mass Media Research. Although, Tang does not use scales in this study, the majority of the material is still covered. I am learning and understanding that there are small but necessary objectives that must be achieved first before getting to the methodology and collection of data steps of the research process. Not only are the concepts from chapter two presented in this case study, but also the concepts explained in chapter one. Wimmer summarizes my thoughts into one sentence when he states that “people must share an understanding of a concept for the concept to be useful” (Wimmer, 2011).

Running Head: Concept Analysis of “Development of Online Friendship In Different Social Spaces” References Lijun, T. (2010). DEVELOPMENT OF ONLINE FRIENDSHIP IN DIFFERENT SOCIAL SPACES. Information, Communication & Society, 13(4), 615-633. doi:10.1080/13691180902998639 Wimmer, R., Dominick, J. (2011) Mass Media Research: An Introduction.

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