Media, Audience, Place · Uncategorized

A reflection: The Reddit Research Project.

Introduction

Reddit has been of ongoing interest to me for the past several years, while I may not use it regularly, it has remained a hobby to maintain my presence and profile on reddit, and to check on it, for the past 4-5 years. My interest in Reddit had humble beginnings, a friend showed me a funny GIF on Reddit one day in class, I asked if he actually used Reddit, and he introduced me to the platforms fundamental concepts. I instantly took an interest to how it neatly categorized everything, while I don’t consider myself OCD, having a category, or Subreddit, for almost every topic under the sun makes searching for what people have to say about the latest episode of your favourite anime show really simple. Over the next year I found myself slowly developing a lengthy list of the Subreddits I found most interesting, everything from the default Subreddits to some made entirely of encoded messages. My relationship with Reddit now is more of more of a browsing nature now, but the having to research a platform made me think, “I know there are a lot of unsaid things about Reddit, I wonder how the rest of its users feel?” This is what made me decide to choose Reddit as my platform to study.

Who to ask?

I started off collecting my own personal thoughts about Reddit, the assumptions I had made, and how I thought people felt about Reddit as a platform. I knew I needed to compare this to other Reddit users to accurately gauge how they felt, but with over two hundred million unique users from over 200 countries, how could I ever hope to accurately portray the average user? I decided the best option was to interview one user in depth, in the hope that this data would be more useful than questions asked to a large amount of people who reply with shorter/more generic answers. And who better to interview about their thoughts on Reddit than the person who introduced it to me in the first place? I realise now that this may bring some questions about his answers being biased, but I like to think that just because he’s my friend doesn’t mean he wouldn’t give me a false opinion.

Format

I decided to go with a video format for a few reasons. Firstly, I believe it makes a much more engaging format for viewers than straight text, as you can guide the viewer along with pictures, animations and annotations. Secondly, I am very used to video creation, while I might not be too comfortable with recording myself, I am very familiar with the process of creating and editing video in a professional environment, so why not use this skill to my advantage if it only adds to the content? I also decided, like any good YouTuber, or blogger I suppose, to post my video not only on YouTube but my personal blog. I also decided to post it to the relevant Subreddit on Reddit through my personal (main) account, this will not only widen the scope of my viewers, but also raise my chances of getting a variety of feedback.

Practical Issues

Organising the interview with my friend was a nightmare. I was unsure whether to treat the interview as though it were a formal occasion, where I write notes and ask un-intrusive questions, or conversely to be fairly casual about the interview and just record the questions I ask which I would then document later. In the end I went with the latter as I hoped the more casual setting would relax the interviewee and allow him/her to share his ideas/opinions freely. Another practical issue I faced while researching is the complete lack of substantial scholarly research. While there are articles about privacy concerns and more general statistical analysis on Reddit, there is very little in the way of research on the platform or user sentiment. I am unsure why this is.

The Results

The results of my research into whether Reddit is a place for sharing ideas and information freely were conclusive. While there is plenty of research that looks into the importance of privacy and anonymity on Reddit, there is none that say this is of any detriment to the platform, or that it in any way hinders the flow of information/content there. That isn’t to say it’s perfect, there are definitely documented concerns about the freedom to fake your identity, or to steal another’s identity or content, but to say that this freedom hinders the sharing of new content or ideas is unjustifiable.

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