From the NY Times:
Each day about 1,700 juniors at an East Coast college log on to Facebook.com to accumulate”friends,”compare movie preferences, share videos and exchange cybercocktails and kisses. Unwittingly, these students have become the subjects of academic research.
To study how personal tastes, habits and values affect the formation of social relationships (and how social relationships affect tastes, habits and values), a team of researchers from Harvard and the University of California, Los Angeles, are monitoring the Facebook profiles of an entire class of students at one college, which they declined to name because it could compromise the integrity of their research. ***
[I]t is Facebook’s role as a petri dish for the social sciences : sociology, psychology and political science : that particularly excites some scholars, because the site lets them examine how people, especially young people, are connected to one another, something few data sets offer, the scholars say.
The full NYT article is here.
FeministLawProfs previously has noted points of intersection between and among Facebook, law and the legal profession (e.g., here, here and here). Just as these social scientists are using Facebook to study human connections, legal scholars could use Facebook to explore a variety of questions:
- In what types of cases and how has Facebook been used to identify victims/perpetrators of crimes? What constitutional issues would be implicated if the police were to use Facebook for crime prevention and/or making arrests?
- How is internet-based (Facebook-based?) harassment different from or the same as in-person harassment?
- What sorts of legal privacy issues are implicated by Facebook and similar sites?
- How are social networking sites being used by legal employers? How are social networking sites being used by law students for employment-related activities?
- How are law students using social networking sites for law school-related groups and activities?
- How are law students’ Facebook networks different from those of other graduate students? What does this add to our knowledge about resiliance or vulnerability of our students?
- How are law schools using (or not using) social networking platforms to transmit information to students and/or alumni?
- How are members of the legal academy using (or not using) social or professional networking platforms to connect with each other, organize around common interests or otherwise share information?