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What the Foucault? Uses and misuses of social media research – October 28, 2011 – by Tom Ewing The first of two social media sessions at the Esomar 3D conference in Miami focused, in the words of chair Niels Schillewaert, on the “wild gardens” of social networks and internet forums rather than the “walled gardens” of research communities. The most focused 3D session yet, its three speakers took us on a tour of the uses, misuses and frontiers of social media analysis. What better way to shake off yesterday’s post-lunch sleepies than with a great big dose of Michael Foucault? The French post-structuralist doesn’t often feature in research conferences but Vision Critical’s Ray Poynter set out to change that with a high-speed rocket ride through discourse analysis. His talk offered very brief introductions not just to Foucault’s work in this sphere but to conversation analysis, discursive analysis, and recent advances in our understanding of attitudes and memory via social psychology. Summarising this presentation isn’t easy – the conference Tweetstream was more baffled than usual – but it was enormously stimulating. What I took out of it was an emphasis on the way almost everything said and done online (and offline) is responsive and constructed in the moment: attitudes, common sense and memory are constantly created and re-created, not solid and researchable things. As Mikhail Bakhtin put it: “Everything that has ever been said has been in response to something.” To read the article in its entirety, click here.