Interpersonal Boundary Regulation in the Context of Social Network Services

Lecturer : 
Event type: 
Doctoral dissertation
Doctoral dissertation
Airi Lampinen
Lorraine Kisselburgh
Anna-Maija Pirttilä-Backman
Event time: 
2014-01-03 12:00 to 16:00
University of Helsinki main building, lecture hall XII (Fabianinkatu 33)

Interpersonal boundary regulation constitutes of the efforts needed to make the world work that is, for people to achieve contextually desirable degrees of social interaction and to build and sustain their relations with others and with the self. I argue that while widespread adoption of social network services (SNSs) disrupts central premises of interpersonal boundary regulation on which people are used to relying, interpersonal boundary regulation is best understood as a co-operative process also in our networked age. In fact, SNSs may even amplify the importance of co-operative boundary regulation and increase awareness of the necessary efforts.

This work illustrates everyday practices young adults in Finland apply to regulate interpersonal boundaries in the context of SNSs. It leverages the frameworks of interpersonal boundary regulation, self-presentation, and identity work. The dissertation contributes an examination of challenges of interpersonal boundary regulation through four central aspects of sharing related to SNSs: 1) people may share content with multiple groups at once, 2) people may share content on behalf of others, 3) sharing can be achieved via automated mechanisms, and 4) sharing online and offline are connected in multiple ways. The dissertation incorporates five explorative studies that feature qualitative interviews as their primary research material.

The findings highlight the importance that users of SNSs place on mutual consideration when boundary regulation is involved. The SNS context makes it challenging to predict the potential consequences of one s actions, even when one is willing to make efforts to avoid causing harm to anyone. The findings show how boundary regulation efforts are a holistic endeavour that spans interaction in online and offline settings. Furthermore, they reveal that boundary regulation takes place both through expression of technology preferences and via diverse practices applied when people engage in social interaction in the context of SNSs. The work proposes a typology of interpersonal boundary regulation practices in the context of SNSs: Firstly, practices can be either individual or collaborative. Also, there are preventive and corrective practices. Thirdly, there are both mental and behavioural practices. While specific practices are context-dependent, the typology helps mapping the range of practices that may be at play in networked settings.

The work calls for reconsidering privacy in the networked age beyond the individual level and across the many online and offline settings in which people come together. It invites designers to consider how to support subtly co-operative interpersonal boundary regulation efforts that are not confined to the immediate technological setting that a particular service provides. Similarly, it challenges policymakers to envision how legislation could take into account the co-operative nature of boundary regulation, instead of framing privacy solely as an issue of individuals' control over information.

Last updated on 20 Dec 2013 by Airi Lampinen - Page created on 20 Dec 2013 by Airi Lampinen