|M.Sc Student||Schnitzer Ido|
|Subject||Examining the Spatial Aspects of Social Networking|
Sites: Study case of Facebook Events and Travel
|Department||Department of Architecture and Town Planning||Supervisor||Professor Pnina Plaut|
|Full Thesis text - in Hebrew|
Social travel behavior (STB) is an evolving research subject, which addresses the creation of travels and spatial mobility as a result of social structures and contexts (Social Networks). Large social capital exists in dozens of social network sites (SNS), headed by Facebook. Facebook reflects a social wealth of some strong but mostly weak social ties, which translates into a tremendously diverse and elaborate social data, part of which has a distinct spatial aspect (Facebook Events). The goal of this research is tracing the spatial behavior of Facebook users, as a pattern which may represent socially driven physical movement. The literature review on STB shows that the ICT dimension has not yet been introduced to STB research and its effect has not been examined in empirical studies. Following an Initial sorting online questionnaires, 21 in-depth interviews with various Facebook users were conducted. The in-depth interviews were composed of 3 main question clusters, the primary of which was creating an 'event story' of 2-4 actual events (61 events in total). The spatial aspects of each event were studied, compiled with an analysis of the SNS' role in flexing certain components of the trips to and from the events. Following that a second event study methodology was presented and applied; an event/activity oriented method which comprehensively examines the specific event as a whole, from its inception up until its conclusion
Two main event types were detected and defined: personal and mass events. They were analyzed in accordance with event size, occurring space, event creator considerations, methods of Facebook publishing and the linkage between offline social networks and the composition of studied events; the latter was developed into a 'Facebook essentiality' index which elaborates on the importance of Facebook to each of the event types. Higher Facebook essentiality was given to mass events, in light of them not having an accompanying existing offline social structure to the online network. The analysis focused on the interplay between the traditional social network and the online one created ad-hoc for the event. The traditional social structure played a big role in travel flexibility and propensity to change the travel characteristics. Although limited, Facebook showed potential to be a bridging agent between 'unaffiliated participants' in the event's social margins (not in a prior clique) and the event's core participants. This potential manifests itself with event invitation, information sharing and ride-matching.
The findings suggest that Facebook is an exclusive generator to non-routine mass events with no common social thread that brings the participants together. A following conclusion is that most of the personal events would have been conducted without appearing on Facebook, however with a different nature all together.