Well, having talked to a few people face2face an on-line, the general reaction is that using facebook data as source data for a student-directed research and writing project (where they would use their own egocentric network as the data) is a good idea.
Two sites recommended by Spencer Schaffner (of http://metaspencer.com) that look like promising starts are: Fred Stutzman’s work on Facebook (http://chimprawk.blogspot.com/) and dana boyd’s papers on Friendster (http://www.danah.org/papers/).
Other folks on SOCNET have made suggestions, and I am wading through those and will put here the most useful and provocative.
I registered with facebook with the intention of poking around and checking out its functionality. I did not see any obvious way to generate maps or export link data.
I was immediately faced with the conundrum of how to present. I initially said I was faculty, but gave myself a pseudonym. I was thinking that to assemble my own network it might be easier if I could “pass” as a student. Then I looked at my own profile and realized that anyone who could see my email would figure out I was posing. So, either I hide my email, revert to my real name (and give up the chance to pass as a student), or get a new .bucknell.edu email. The last seems very problematic.
I will be interested to see if students think I am being intrusive into “their” space. I had heard about vaguely horrified reactions from faculty or administrators about the level of debauchery or some other supposed social sin visible on facebook. I have not seen much at all. Lots of pictures of students drinking and socializing with friends or potential lovers (or sex partners). Nothing that shocks me. Maybe they have been cleaning up what’s there or it is more hidden content.
One faculty member was concerned that I would stumble upon or expose myself or students to issues of sexual violence (rape, date rape). She was not specific, but I gathered she meant that perpetrators might be tagged in their profile or that there may be fantasies or purported accounts of sexual acts or aggression. This may be the kind of content that was cleaned out by students once they realized that the veil between “us” and “them” could be so easily pierced.