Online Together: Sociological Study of the Concept of Togetherness & the Contermporary Conditions for Social Interaction
Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis Studia Sociologica Upsaliensia No. 64
By: Lovisa Eriksson
Distributed by Coronet Books
$62.50 Paper original
The recent advances in digital communication technologies have altered the way in which people socialize on a day-to-day basis. A question that has arisen in relation to this is what being somewhere together actually means at a time when our interactions are no longer confined to shared physical places.
The phenomenon of being somewhere together (also: togetherness) has previously been studied within the fields of social presence theory (which focuses on digitally mediated ‘togetherness’ and primarily departs from a psychological perspective) and microsociology (which takes an arguably more interactional approach to the idea of being together but primarily focuses on face-to-face interaction). Therefore, what is missing is a conceptualization of togetherness that can account both for togetherness in contexts other than those mediated face- to-face and for the ways in which togetherness is potentially ‘created’ in social interaction. The purpose of this thesis is to address this shortcoming by examining the underlying problem of being together and the conceptualizations of being together in the two aforementioned discourses. For the theoretical analyses, the example of online chat conversation is used as the primary focus of study.
The thesis comprises three main parts. In the first part, the question of why being together has become difficult to conceptualize since the introduction of electronic and digital communication technologies is explored. The second part of the thesis is a review of what being together stands for in social presence theory and microsociology, respectively. In the third part, the two reviewed understandings of being together are examined. Here, it is observed that social presence theory portrays being together as something that occurs in informational environments, while microsociology portrays it instead as something pertaining to framed (or specified) social situations. Thereafter follows a critical examination of being together in informational situations and being together in framed social situations in which the notions are analysed in relation to online chat. It is concluded that the second view of being together (as a framed activity) is more promising for the future study of togetherness in online chat environments, and potentially also for togetherness in digitally mediated environments more generally.
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