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This article explores the post–secondary sector’s adoption of social media. Social media plays an increasing role in the visibility of personal information. The term refers to a set of web–based services that facilitate the authorship and distribution of media between users. The most popular social media site is Facebook with over 750 million users worldwide. Facebook was originally launched as a service for university students to author and distribute information about their personal identity, interpersonal connections, and social activities. While Facebook has since expanded its scope beyond universities, student life remains a heavily ‘Facebooked’ phenomenon. University administrators are keenly aware of their students’ presence on this site, and are adopting new practices to harness Facebook as an extension of their professional duties.
This paper draws upon findings from a series of fourteen semi–structured face–to–face interviews with various administrators and employees at a medium–sized university in Eastern Ontario. As Facebook first emerged in an academic context, these findings provide a rich example of how institutions can scrutinize populations using social media. These findings suggest that institutional surveillance on Facebook stems from ground–up practices prior to implementing top–down mandates, suggesting that these practices have developed from institutional users’ personal experiences with the site. As well, the visibility of the university and its reputation is offered by respondents as motive for scrutiny, suggesting a discourse of mutual transparency of both the university as an institution as well as its student population.
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