Today, it’s all about social media, on social media, through social media.

How is this changing offline lives? What are the impacts?

In answer we have 15 months research @ 9 towns around the world = 1000 insights.

Ignore glib claims that we are all becoming more superficial or more virtual. What is really going on is far more incredible. The way people use social media differs hugely from place to place. These are ‘social’ media, intensely woven into the texture of our relationships. They lead us straight to intimate worlds of Chinese families split by internal migration, the new Brazilian middle class, cancer victims in London sharing the experience of terminal illness, Trinidadians stalking the latest scandal and much more.

We aim to make valuable insights from deep research accessible to open education audiences innovatively through interactive multimedia content. This multiplatform experience will be a mirror where screens reflect back the complex mix of on and offline experiences that is our contemporary world.


1) People assume that platforms such as Facebook homogenize the world, we show that actually regional usage turns the same platform into totally different genres for each site.

2) People think that social network sites such as Facebook are just the latest extension of the Internet. We show that in most important respects, Facebook is better understood as the very opposite of the Internet. The internet fostered specialist groups, Facebook brings groups into the same space. The internet fostered anonymity, Facebook the lack of privacy etc etc.

3) Sites such as Facebook seem to reverse what has assumed to be the most fundamental trend of modern life, the rise of fragmented individualism. Such sites leads to re-connections between people but this happens in different ways within each region.

4) In most studies we use the wider context and lives of people to shed light on the thing we study. In this case it is the topic we study, social networking, that sheds unprecedented light on the private and intimate lives of people and the wider contexts. In effect our nine studies provide the deepest portraits available of ordinary people’s lives in our contemporary world.

5) There are huge, largely speculative or anecdotal debates about the impact of social media on developments such as politics (Arab Spring) and crime. For the first time we can give a more authoritative account of what such sites do and do not contribute.

6) Almost all writing about new social media coming from the UK and US etc assumes we live in a network society and social media is all about bonding between individuals. But our work shows that in many parts of the world this is wrong. Other units such as family or ethnicity remain hugely important, and in practice people can only become friends with a whole family not with just an individual.