In 1967 sociologist Harold Garfinkel asked his students to conduct a spring break experiment: spend fifteen minutes to an hour imagining they were a boarder in their home, rather than a family member, and then act if that assumption was true. Garfinkel's intention was for the students to violate some of the social norms we take for granted ("social breaching") and consequently make such "background expectancies" more apparent. In this case, when the students were polite and respectful, as if they were staying in a stranger's home, some parents thought the students were mocking them or ill!
- Conduct one (or more) of the experiments listed below.
- You can explain it as a class assignment only when the experiment is over.
- Write up the results in a paper that describes:
- Experiment: Which experiment you tried (e.g. “GChat stranger”).
- Method: What you did. Describe the specific steps. For example, “I contacted 17 different people. I messaged 10 of them ‘What's up' and 7 ‘How are you?' I found their names by looking through group emails and seeing who was online.”
- Results: What happened? What types of reactions did you get? How did you feel? Use Garfinkel's students' descriptions as models (for example, pp. 45-49).
- Discussion: Given what we have learned in class about social norms, what did this reveal about communication norms, or the specific norms of the technology you used? Refer back to the class concepts and readings. Make an argument.
Do not spend too many words on steps (a) and (b); focus on concepts and analysis.
- Chatty Instagram/Flickr: Sign up for an account on a social photography site and find users you do not know. Try to start a conversation with them by commenting on their images. Try varying the kind of image you comment on from those that are very personal (wedding, kids birthdays, etc.) to those that are very impersonal (buildings, landscapes) and see how the reactions vary. Note that you may have to post a lot of notes and comments to get any reaction. You may have to try different and creative strategies to get people to respond to you.
- Instagram Annoyer: make more than one post a day about mundane things; use lots of hashtags.
- Sneaky Snappchatter. Take a screenshot of every snapchat you receive. Others will receive a notice that you are doing so and likely wonder why.
- Message a Stranger. Use a chat service (e.g., Google, MSN, and AIM) to begin conversations with people that you don't know (or don't know very well). Vary the kinds of things you say to see if you can get them to start a chat conversation with you. Describe what kind of chat message will successfully get a stranger to chat. Remember to be polite and respectful at all times. Note: You may have to try to this a lot before you get someone to respond to you; do not keep trying the same people if they do not respond.
- Way Off Topic. On Google+ or Facebook leave a large number of comments that are all completely and obviously off-topic and not relevant to the thread over a period of three days. For this to work, there can be no relation between the reply and the topic at all; just start talking about something else. If you like, address some of them to the wrong person as well.
- Facebook Wall Inquisitor. On Facebook, friend five strangers -- people you don't know (maybe friends of friends). Once they accept your friend request, post a public comment to their wall introducing yourself and asking them about themselves. In your posts, do not refer to any friends that you have in common; just talk about yourself and ask them about themselves. Try to get information from them about themselves.
- Facebook Picture Creeper. On Facebook, go through an acquaintance's photo albums and comment on at least 15-20 photos older than six months over a period of 3 days. Write only positive comments (e.g. “cute photo!”). Check back and see if anyone else has commented on the photos after you have.
- Media Monad. Choose one popular communication technology. Only use that technology for 3 days. (E.g. Use Facebook direct messages for ALL communication even when it is obviously inappropriate or impractical.)
- Media Mixer: For 3 days, always “mix” media -- always respond to a communication using a different medium of communication than the one that was used to contact you. (Example: if you get a phone call, let it go to voicemail then SMS them. If you get an email, send a picture to their phone, etc. Respond to your twitter @'s in person.)
- The Oversharer. Pick either an acquaintance you don't know that well or a parent. In a 24 hour period dramatically increase the amount of information you send this person using a text-based mobile communication technology that you know they can receive (like IM on your phone, text/SMS, or e-mail on your phone/PDA). For example, you could communicate with them every time you do anything (“hi I am getting on the bus”, “arrived in class,” “class is boring,” “having lunch,” “talking with friend.”)
- Laptop abuser. In a public place, ask to borrow a stranger's laptop “for a second” to check something and then spend an excessive amount of time using it to do things on YouTube or some other site. If you get no reaction or the overall experiment is very short, repeat the experiment with another person. Note: be careful about entering your password into anyone else's computer.
- Alice Marwick, "On Teaching Social Media to Undergraduates ."
- Christian Sandvig, "The Oversharer (and Other Social Media Experiments)" with contributions from Siddhartha Raja, Matthew Yapchaian, Dawn Nafus, and Ken Anderson.