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Faceworking: Exploring Students’ Educational Use of Facebook

Neil Selwyn, Senior Lecturer at the London Knowledge Lab, will speak on students’ educational use of the social networking website Facebook.


Facebook has been the social networking success story of recent years - especially amongst populations of university students for whom the application was initially developed. With the majority of university students actively maintaining profiles, educationalists are currently exploring the potential of Facebook as an educational application. Growing numbers of educators are celebrating the potential of Facebook to (re)engage students with their studies, whilst other commentators fear that Facebook compromises students’ engagement with traditional university education.

Against this background, there are a number of questions which need to be asked of the prominence of Facebook within the contemporary higher education environment. Based on an in-depth qualitative analysis of the Facebook activity of 909 undergraduate students in a UK university this presentation investigates the realities of students’ Facebook use – not least how any instances of education- related engagement are being played out. Analysis of these data show how much of students’ ‘educational’ use of Facebook was based around either the post-hoc critiquing of learning experiences and events; the exchange of logistical or factual information about teaching and assessment requirements; instances of supplication and moral support with regards to assessment or learning; and the promotion of oneself as academically incompetent and/or disengaged.

With these themes in mind, the presentation contends that Facebook has been fast established as a prominent arena where students can become versed in the ‘identity politics’ (and in Erving Goffman’s term ‘facework’) of being a student. Thus rather than necessarily enhancing or eroding students’ ‘front-stage’ engagement with their formal studies, Facebook provides a ready space where the ‘role conflict’ that students often experience in their relationships with university work, teaching staff, academic conventions and expectations can be worked through in a relatively closed ‘backstage’ area.

Neil Selwyn is a senior lecturer at the London Knowledge Lab where his research focuses on information technology and society. The two over-riding themes throughout his work are the place of technology in everyday life and the sociology of educational technology. He is (co) author of four recent books on technology, society and education as well as over 150 articles in major international journals and in key edited volumes.


Dr Neil Selwyn | talks | www


Date and Time:

13 March 2008 at 12:00 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



Information Systems Research Forum, LSE
Information Systems and Innovation Group
London School of Economics and Political Science
(0)20 7955 7655

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Additional Information:

The Information Systems Research Forum (ISRF) is a seminar series focusing on recent advances in research broadly relating to information and communication systems.

Please note places will be available on a first-come-first-serve basis; registration is not required. The event will take place in Studio Ciborra, 5th floor, Tower One, Clements Inn, at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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