Grounded Theory and the phenomenon of Black Twitter
The purpose of this study was to explain how the culture of Black Twitter is shaped, made and performed. Grounded theory was necessary because of the lack of data that adequately explained the phenomena of Black Twitter. Mainstream media described Black Twitter as “the perspective of a deficiency model of technology adopted among African Americans users.” Many Black Twitter users would disagree. They argue that Black Twitter reinforces the “key themes of community, social movement and private and public conversation” of the Black community.
Clark noted that a qualitative research approach was appropriate for this study because of the limitations of previous research. Farhad Manjoo, a technology columnist for The New York Times, is considered the first to write about the connection between Blacks and Twitter. Yet, Manjoo did not talk to anyone directly involved with “Black Twitter.” Clark wrote he “failed to include a first persona account of the event.”
One major compliment of diversity in research, it allows people of similar backgrounds and experiences to conduct research and bring critical insight. Clark is an African American researcher and more importantly an African American Twitter user. She is equipped with the ability to ask particular questions about “the black experience online and obtain certain answers that a non-minority might not to ask or have offered.” While that is a highlight, it is also a limitation of this study.
Other limitations of this study and grounded theory as a whole, participants of the study were chosen using a snowball effect. Clark selected 36 participants via Twitter, and asked them to take part of the study on the medium. “This study relied upon my Twitter accounts as points of origin for identifying potential participants in the interview based research.” In contrast, Clark was a better chance of finding people who used the platform and understand what the community of Black Twitter.
Clark only interviewed people who self-selected as African American, which is another limitation. She noted that “blackness” was not a requirement, but only one non-Black person agreed to be interviewed. The flexibility of grounded theory allowed her to tighten the paradigms of her participants’ characteristics to be exclusive to Blacks only.
Unlike traditional grounded theory, Clark chose to outline four research questions that she said she used as a “point of entry” for her study. In addition, she used three methods: content analysis, discourse analysis and interviews. I would suggest conducting interviews first, rather than last, to prevent cross contamination of knowledge gained through the analysis steps. She did, however, explain that she used the discourse analysis and interviews to development of Black Twitter.
Another limitation of this study is that she only conducted one in-person interview. She used telephone, Google hangout and Skype-based conversations for the others. She noted that she could pick up “intangible indicators of sentiment,” however the most indicators could have been noticed only in-person.
Twitter users send 400 million tweets per day. It would have been impossible to capture and analyze data of that size. Clark used a time frame and keywords to shrink the sample size. That can be considered a limitation as well. The social community of Black Twitter is enormous; it is different to make generations through the experiences and narratives of a small group. By 2012, 20 percent of Blacks who used the Internet used Twitter, whereas 11 percent of White Internet users were also used Twitter. My suggestion is that an identical study is conducted focusing exclusively on interviewing participants of Black Twitter.
Activity 1.1: Identifying Your Underlying Assumptions About the World
1. How do we define our self?
I am an African American woman pursing a Master’s in Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. I am aware of my self-image and how others perceive me.
2. What is the nature of reality?
That is a confusing question, which probably describes my nature of reality. I exist. Even more, I am doing everything in my power to be successful by society’s standards by attending college, staying out of trouble and saving money. I am also believer in God as the provider of everything.
3. What can be the relationship between researcher and participants?
It is a critical relationship. Participants must feel comfortable enough to open up and elaborate on the questions. Researchers, like most interviewers, must listen to the answers. Then, they must engage in conversation by asking thoughtful follow-up questions.
4. How do we know the world, or gain knowledge of it?
Someone else taught everything we know, or think we know, about the world around us. Family, friends and teachers are the conductors of what we believe and understand. Our curiosity of the unknown is what pushes us to learn more.