M.Sc. Thesis on 140 characters or less?

The Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science is perhaps one of the first, if not only, post-secondary institutions to grant a Masters of Science Degree on Twitter as a thesis topic. I came across this dissertation in December 2007 (it was submitted in September 2007) and greedily held on to it … not wanting to share this interesting morsel on Twitter. It takes Erving Goffman’s “presentation of self in everyday life” and looks at it through the theoretical framework of Social Shaping of Technology (SSOT) and Social Construction of Technology (SCOT).

Given my propensity to want to do too much and, realistically speaking, limitations imposed simply because it is not within my realm of expertise, I will share this with my handful of readers with the hope that you might share this information with like-minded individuals in academia, business, technology, etc.

Given all the media coverage on Twitter of late, the idea of a Master of Science Degree from such a prestigious university (see Wikipedia for different rankings nationally and internationally) may make believers out of more than just us converts.

Twitter: Expressions of the Whole Self
An investigation into user appropriation of a web-based communications platform 

Edward Mischaud 

Twitter.com is a web-based communications platform combining Instant Messaging and SMS  that enables subscribers to its service to send short ‘status updates’ to other people. Beyond  its hybrid platform, Twitter’s unique feature is its overarching question “What are you doing?”, which acts as a ‘guidance note’ on how users should phrase their postings. Although it is a ‘soft restriction’, meaning that other formats and styles are possible, this study investigates the extent to which users of Twitter are responding to the question. In the case that people are going beyond “What are you doing?”, are there commonalities in the ‘other’ uses thereof? To develop this premise, a content analysis of 60 users’ postings was conducted to seek for deviations and to categorise them accordingly. To acquire a better understanding of why people use Twitter to disseminate messages, several users participated in a questionnaire to provide insight into the platform. Based on the content analysis’ results, it is possible to conclude that the majority of Twitter users observed are appropriating the platform beyond “What are you doing?”. The findings are discussed within a theoretical framework exploring the role of society in shaping technology and the influence a technology’s design may have on how it is used. 


7 pensieri riguardo “M.Sc. Thesis on 140 characters or less?

  1. It definitely sounds like a masters thesis. And because Twitter is still ‘below the radar’ it allows for this kind of study without too much skewing of the results. Just as there were Masters theses done on the usage of mail and on usage of telephone usage when the mediums first came about.

  2. Thanks for your comments.

    charlieoliver said:

    Just as there were Masters theses done on the usage of mail and on usage of telephone usage when the mediums first came about.

    My overall surprise when I came across the thesis is the speed with which it was written and defended given that Twitter was launched in Oct. 2006 (officially). I think that data collection and the impact of such a tool on academia too is simply extraordinary.

    Brian, I was wondering when someone would say that. 😉


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