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Participation, geography and social media. Discussing method


The chapter, from a cultural geographical perspective, offers a reflection on the research methodology used to study some social media. More particularly, starting from the case of the Facebook group “Palermo di una volta” (“Palermo of the past”), subject of a previous study, the results achieved through the analysis of the research process are retraced. The group, in fact, for the many members (hundreds of thousands) who are part of it, is an opportunity to reconstruct the geography of places in the city, both in their contemporaneity and in their historical context, in an intertwining of individual and collective narratives. Regardless of the formal correctness of the information the group members reach, free participation in this reconstruction produces shared knowledge, giving value to interactions, albeit mediated, within the social network. It is a form of spontaneous “participatory geography” which, however, poses an epistemological problem to the researcher: joining the same group to study it, making the social network an object of study but also a means of study. In this sense, it is described how becoming a member of the same online community is a useful option for observing the interactions that take place within it (posts, comments, etc.) and establish a first contact based on trust with the informing members. In this process we cannot forget the positioning of the researcher “in the field”, even if virtual.