Polymedia and Ethnography: Understanding the Social in Social Media

Madianou, Mirca. 2015. Polymedia and Ethnography: Understanding the Social in Social Media. Social Media + Society, 1(1), pp. 1-3. ISSN 2056-3051 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In this essay I argue that social media need to be understood as part of complex environments of communicative opportunities which I conceptualize as polymedia. This approach shifts our attention from social media as discrete platforms to the ways users navigate environments of affordances in order to manage their social relationships. Ethnography emerges as the most appropriate method to capture the relational dynamics that underpin social media practices within polymedia.

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The empirical examples quoted in this essay are derived from two Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-funded studies: the “Humanitarian technologies project,” 2014-2015 (ES/M001288/1), and “Migration, ICTs and transnational families,” 2007-2011 (RES-000-22-2266), with additional followup work conducted by the author.


affordances, social media, media environments, ethnography, personal relationships, social media and disasters

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Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


11 May 2015Published

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05 Oct 2015 07:22

Last Modified:

16 Apr 2021 14:49

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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