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Sunday, September 15 • 10:51am - 11:10am
“Strengthening offline ties online: Social media, games & family bonding”,

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Strengthening Offline Ties Online: Social Media, Games & Family BondingDr. Kelly BoudreauTechnoculture, Arts & Games Research CenterConcordia University, Montreal, CanadaDr. Mia Consalvo,Communication StudiesConcordia University, Montreal, CanadaAs families extend across the globe, social media sites have become a staple in maintainingfamilial bonds (Urista, Dong and Day, 2009; Vitak, Ellison and Steinfeld, 2011). Sites such asFacebook allow users to post status updates, upload pictures,and share online content. Forgeographically dispersed family members, this enables them to actively maintain social andfamilial ties from a distance. But family ties are developed through more than just the exchangeof personal information. Families bond through mundane activities on a daily basis; doing thedishes together, watching television or reading in the same room can strengthen a familial bond itenables them to ‘be’ together without having to exchange meaningful information. The meaningof the interaction does not necessarily stem from the action itself, but from the act of engagingwith each other (Orthner and Mancini, 1990). When families are geographically dispersed, theopportunity for this type of interaction is practically non-existent.

Traditionally, interactions across geographical distance occurred through phone calls usuallywith the intent to "catch up" or share news from each other’s lives. Skype and other visual onlinechat systems may have added the visual dynamic that contribute to family members feelingcloser to each other, but families do not typically "hang out" on the phone or on Skype withoutthe purpose to engage in conversation. With the increase popularity of online social networkgames, families that are separated by distance now have a space to engage in ‘low-impact’leisure interactions that have the ability to bring family members together yet does not rely on a‘meaningful’ exchange of information. Social network sites, and social network games morespecifically, provide families with a space of leisure where they can engage with each other in away that allows them to feel connected without the same level of purpose nor require the sametype of instantaneous interaction (Wen, Kow and Chen, 2011). Due to the asynchronous natureof social network sites (and games), when playing a social network game, players do not interactwith each other directly, in ‘real-time’. There is no need for conversation or direct interaction,yet, logging in to play with a family member has the potential to strengthen ties in much of thesame was as going over to an aunt’s house to tend to her garden, or taking care of a pet while ashe is away.

Our research on families and Facebook games has found that fundamentally, social networkgameplay for many family members is not so much about the game itself as it is aboutinteracting with each other in a less purposive way, allowing them to feel connected withoutnecessarily being actively engaged with each other. Social network games can also bridge thegap between generations, as grandparents and grandchildren play the same games, creating acommon interest for more direct interactions such as family visits and phone conversations.

This paper will present our findings from a qualitative study performed in 2012, which furthersupports and expands on these claims that online social network games offer family members anew space to bridge generation gaps, engage with each other across geography, and strengthenfamilial bonds.

Orthner, D. K., & Mancini, J. A. (1990). Leisure impacts on family interaction andcohesion. Journal of Leisure Research, 22(2), 125-137.

Ulicsak, M., Wright, M., & Cranmer, S. (2011). Gaming in families: A literature review. Journalof Distance Education, 3, 026.

Urista, M. A., Dong, Q., & Day, K. D. (2009). Explaining why young adults use MySpace andFacebook through uses and gratifications theory. Human Communication, 12(2), 215-229.

Vitak, J., Ellison, N. B., & Steinfield, C. (2011, January). The ties that bond: Re-examining therelationship between Facebook use and bonding social capital. In System Sciences (HICSS), 201144th Hawaii International Conference on (pp. 1-10). IEEE.

Wen, J., Kow, Y. M., & Chen, Y. (2011). Online games and family ties: Influences of socialnetworking game on family relationship. In P. Campos et al. (Eds.) INTERACT 2011, Part III,LCNS 6948. 250-264.

Wohn, D. Y., Lampe, C., Wash, R., Ellison, N., &. Vitak, J. (2011). The “S” in social networkgames: Initiating, maintaining, and enhancing relationships. Proceedings of the 44th HawaiiInternational Conference on Systems Science.

avatar for Kelly Boudreau

Kelly Boudreau

Associate Professor, Harrisburg University
Associate Professor Interactive Media Theory & Practice

Mia Consalvo

Concordia U, Canada
Concordia University, Canada

Sunday September 15, 2013 10:51am - 11:10am EDT
ROWE 1020

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