Our amazing summer intern Hannah Haddad left FACE this week to head back to her studies at the University of Bristol. Hannah is studying Human Geography – so we asked her to write a closing piece on how this and social media research are related.
Over to you Hannah:
You know when you discover something you never once needed, and then suddenly you can’t let go? I never needed my calendar on tap. I never needed an electric toothbrush. I never needed that empty shelf until I filled it. These needs are now so real, that I truly believe they were always there; I just never knew.
Come September, I see this pattern repeating itself on my return to university: human geography needs social data.
Human Geography studies the human being in its interaction with the surrounding environment. Human behaviour; movement; connections; condition. Social structure; social change; cultural output; creation. Our impact on each other and our environment. Social media is altering all of these things, and will increasingly do so as the Internet becomes thoroughly webbed into our lives and environment. As this happens, Human Geographers must adapt their methodology, in order to capture the new interactions and reactions of the inter-webbed human being. Failure to do so will deprive the discipline – which has always strived for universal coverage – of a data source verging toward exactly that scale.
Human geography is dealing with a changing species. A species that talks to – and cares about – a stranger across the globe. A species that can exist in endless different places, events, and conversations at once. A species that juggles a greater social sphere than ever before. A species with endless identities – physical and virtual – and all just as real as each other. A species where power lies in voice, rather than land. Likes, favourites, followers, rather than gold. A species that talks to no one, and gets a reply from everyone – because in fact that “no one” is anyone at all. We made social media. Now watch social media make us in turn.
Social media creates new spaces. No longer is an event or monument constricted to a local scale. The world is invited. Social media flattens the hierarchy; bringing institutions down to the layman’s level, and empowering the wo(man) on the street. The public is implicitly allowed to talk more freely, openly, spontaneously, subconsciously. In this way, social change is catalysed as people of similar drives and passions are brought together to accumulate as one voice.
Imagine the miners’ strikes with social media. More power to the protesters; a wider sphere of international support; a story that is impossible to ignore, whether at the scene or removed. Social movements do not singularly spread through social networks, but spawn subsequent debates in their path, engaging wider demographics, and unfolding the cracks in society. Besides gathering worldwide solidarity online, the #Ferguson campaign opened the floor for talks on race, police militarisation, and law enforcement in the USA. Social media are the arteries through which these social ripple effects can flow.
Social media brings the research subjects closer, too, ensuring that research stays in touch with the people. The recycling of data – namely journal articles and reports – risks taking forward a view that has been plucked from reality, and twisted by over-thinking. Academics who have turned the postcolonial knicker trade and its impact on 21st century cuisine dissipation across Eurasia into their undying passion (no really), are likely to give you a somewhat different view on knickers and cuisine than the real people, wearing the knickers and cooking the food.
New spaces and social structures give birth to new behaviours. Social media will keep this change on record, creating the vastest, most usable, most life-like document of humankind than ever before.
And that’s why human geography needs social media.
- Keep up with Hannah on Twitter (@hannahhaddad1) and LinkedIn: we think she’s one to watch.
- Or read Hannah’s previous post: “I was attracted to FACE, because the methodology here makes sense“
- Interested in joining us at FACE? Send your CV to our production manager Adrianne Sexton – we’re always keen to hear from smart human thinkers: Adrianne.Sexton@Facegroup.com