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«International Journal of Sport Communication, 2012, 5, 503-521 © 2012 Human Kinetics, Inc. ORIGINAL RESEARCH The Positives and ...»

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Uses-and-Gratifications Theory According to uses-and-grati cations theory (Katz, Blumler, & Gurevitch, 1974) media use emanates from goals, as media consumers select speci c, targeted channels to satiate needs and achieve grati cation (Clavio & Kian, 2010). Motivations help media users frame what they stand to gain from consuming a media channel or what they will lose by avoiding or opting out of that media source. Whereas uses-and-grati cation theory has been extensively applied to traditional media, the emergence of the Internet and social media has created fruitful directions for further extension of the theory. Ruggiero (2000) observed three uses and grati cations for Internet consumers: interactivity—corresponding and sharing information with others and developing relationships; demassi cation—selecting activities and interests that are user driven, customizing the Internet to their needs; and asynchroneity— exible communication that allows users to send and respond to messages when personally convenient. Other research has found that people use the Internet to dispense information and receive social support (Anderson, 2011).

With respect to social media, researchers have found that social interaction is a primary factor underpinning consumption (Ancu & Cozma, 2009), that communicating with of ine friends is a salient motivation for using Facebook (Barker & Ota, 2011), and that the strength of one’s habits is a signi cant predictor of playing social-networking games (Wohn, 2012). Several scholars (Armstrong & McAdams, 2011; Hollenbaugh, 2011) recently examined the motivations of individuals with regard to blogging, which is another form of social media.

Uses and grati cations also has been extended to research on sports and new/ social media (Clavio & Kian, 2010; Frederick, Clavio, Burch, & Zimmerman, 2012; Hambrick et al., 2010). Clavio (2008) surveyed college-sport message-board

users and noted four primary areas of uses and grati cation for these individuals:

interactivity, information gathering, diversion, and argumentation. Ruihley and Hardin (2011) surveyed fantasy-sports users to ascertain their reasons for using message boards and discovered that participants used them as part of the fantasysport experience for logistical conversation, socializing, surveillance, and advice and opinion. Hambrick et al. (2010) content-analyzed professional athletes’ tweets and found that Twitter was used in six ways: interactivity, diversion, information sharing, linking to content, fanship, and promotion. Clavio and Kian (2010) surveyed Twitter followers of a retired professional golfer and discovered that people 508 Browning and Sanderson followed her because they perceived her to be an expert about her sport and they had an af nity for her writing style.

Dialogical Self Theory Hermans, Kempen, and Van Loon (1992) view the self, or I, as uctuating between multiple positions as a person adapts to change. The self continually moves between different positions and imaginatively endows each position with a “voice,” thereby establishing dialogical relations between them. These voices exchange information, resulting in a complex, narratively structured self with a hierarchy of positions (Hermans, 1996a, 1996b, 2001). Hermans (2004) further elaborates that over time, the self assumes different positions, as voices are in uenced by externalities, re ecting the internal discussions in a person’s mind and his or her ongoing interaction with the world (Lysaker & Hermans, 2007). This process is uid, as positions move within the hierarchy in response to change. Thus, a predominant position can quickly become suppressed, while a previously neglected position moves to the forefront. Dialogue between voices does not follow established protocol, and the self-repertoire is frequently rebuilt in response to an individual’s inner thoughts and interpersonal encounters (Dimaggio, Catania, Salvatore, Carcione, & Nicolò, 2006; Lysaker & Hermans, 2007).

Hermans (2004) observed that the expansion of digital media escalates dialogical possibilities. That is, individuals become multivoiced and enact the dialogical self through digital channels, offering one exposure to a wide variety of people, whose voices, culture, and communication become part of one’s private world, creating new contexts for dialogue. Hermans (2004) posits that participation in a complex and hybrid computer-mediated world affects the dialogical self in three prominent ways. First, the self becomes composed of a higher density of positions and becomes subject to an increasing number of positions and voices. Next, these self-positions become more heterogeneous and integrate into a broad, interconnected system.

Third, the self is prone to larger position leaps (one’s ability to negotiate and move between positions, paying close attention to their speci c purposes, memories, and experiences) than ever before. Via digital media, people have a wealth of options to conveniently express identity and quickly navigate between identity positions.

In terms of sports, Sanderson (2008) used dialogical self theory to explain how former Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling used his blog to counter sports reporters who questioned his athletic integrity and to respond to backlash for criticisms he leveled at fellow player Barry Bonds. Sanderson (2008) observed how Schilling shifted between presenting himself as a sport-media critic, committed individual, and accountable person and argued that blogging extended Schilling’s dialogical possibilities. That is, his blog enabled him to present his identity in a manner of his choosing, without media ltering, and he also could assess fan responses to his self-presentation. These luxuries would have been dif cult for Schilling to obtain using traditional-media channels. Sanderson (2013) used dialogical self theory to investigate how rookie athletes in Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, and the National Hockey League used Twitter to build identity after entering the professional ranks.





He noted that Twitter enabled these athletes to display a multifaceted identity that allowed them to emphasize aspects of their identity that would have remained submerged via traditional media.

How Student-Athletes Use Twitter Critical tweets from fans, de ned as messages that attack a student-athlete personally or athletically, are at their core an identity hit. When these messages are received, student-athletes must navigate between various identity positions to interpret these messages and decide, how, if at all, to respond. How this process plays out is likely attributable to which competing identity voice gains primacy.

With the theoretical background in place, we now move into a discussion of the methods used in this study.

Method This study employed qualitative methods to examine themes that emerged from semistructured interviews with student-athletes. Student-athletes at a midsize private educational institution in the southern United States at the Division I level were recruited via snowball sampling to participate in an interview about their Twitter use. Before the recruitment effort, institutional review-board authorization was obtained. The rst author contacted student-athletes known to have Twitter accounts and who competed in major sports to ascertain if they were interested in participating in the study. These student-athletes also were asked if they knew of other student-athletes who would be interested in participating in the study, and the rst author contacted those individuals, as well. Student-athletes who met these criteria then scheduled a speci c time, date, and place for the interview. In all, 20 student-athletes participated in this study. Ten of the participants were football players, 5 were men’s basketball players, 3 were women’s basketball players, and 2 were baseball players. Considering the fact that the football program has the largest number of student-athletes of any athletic team, the participants being more heavily skewed to football was not considered problematic. While football players made up half of the participants in the study, they actually had a lower percentage of participants than either basketball team. There are 80 scholarship football players, which means that 12.5% were involved in the study, whereas men’s (5/13, or 38.5%) and women’s (3/15, or 20%) basketball had higher overall percentages of their teams involved in the study. Participants reported having used Twitter for as little as 5 1/2 months and for as long as 4 years (M = 18 months). They reported having Twitter followers ranging from as few as 100 to 18,263 (M = 3,207). Participants reported checking Twitter frequently throughout the day, ranging from 20 to hundreds of times each day (these student-athletes shared that they con gured Twitter to alert them each time they were mentioned or that they would simply look at their phone every few minutes). All student-athletes stated they accessed Twitter on their cellular phone due to convenience, and they stated that only in the rarest of cases would they access Twitter via a computer.

A semistructured interview format was chosen because this method enables participants to offer spontaneous comments that produce rich data and increase the chances for candid and representative responses (Brown, 2011; Karim, Bailey, & Tunna, 2000). All 20 interviews were conducted face to face by the rst author on university premises. Examples of interview questions included “Why did you start using Twitter?” and “If you receive negative tweets, how do they make you feel?” The length of the interviews ranged from 17 to 36 minutes (M = 25 minutes). Each interview was audio recorded and then transcribed by the rst author and sent to the second author.

510 Browning and Sanderson To answer the research questions, both authors independently familiarized themselves with the transcripts through careful initial reading and forming initial impressions. After this initial immersion in the data, each author isolated relevant material and classi ed these data into emergent categories (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).

After this initial categorization of data, each author independently returned to the data to gain insight into the usefulness of the developed categories (Suter, Bergen, Daas, & Durham, 2006). Through this constant comparative process (Glaser & Strauss, 1967), development, clari cation, and enhancement of categories continued until new observations failed to add signi cantly to existing categories. Both authors then discussed themes until reaching consensus regarding the content and nature of themes, a procedure that has been employed in other qualitative research (Karras & Rintamaki, 2012; Kassing & Sanderson, 2009). Each of these themes is now discussed along with exemplars drawn from the data.

Results and Interpretation Motivations for Using Twitter

Student-athletes’ motivations for using Twitter fell into the following categories:

keeping in contact, communicating with followers, and accessing information.

Keeping in Contact. Student-athletes shared that Twitter was a valuable and convenient resource to keep in contact with others. They indicated that Twitter enabled them to “see what my friends are doing; not to have to text them and say ‘what’s up?’ but just look and see what’s going on throughout their day,” and with Twitter, “you don’t have to have phone numbers—just hit them up on Twitter” and “you want to always see a friend tweet something and you wanna re-tweet or reply to their tweet or something like that—just a lot of interaction with your friends.” Beyond those in their immediate vicinity, Twitter’s utility also extended to the friends and family from whom they were separated. Via Twitter, one participant was able to provide “quotes and stuff like that just for people back home in [state] who really want to know what I’m doing,” while another student-athlete stated, When you in college and your family is back home sometimes like your family have it so you can see what they’re doing and what they saying. So you can post pictures too, and so they can post pictures and I’ll just look back at what they’re doing.

Student-athletes also disclosed that Twitter allowed them to stay connected to their teammates and celebrities. For instance, “I follow Skip Bayless and NBA and certain people like that because I like to see what they say”; “I try to follow all my teammates, a lot of famous people I like to see what they have to say”; and I follow pretty much all my teammates that tweet, like if they don’t really tweet I’m not going to follow them, but I follow pretty much everybody that I know really or professional athletes and actors, comedians stuff like that, I follow them.

How Student-Athletes Use Twitter Communicating With Followers. Another way that student-athletes reported frequently using Twitter was by communicating with their followers. For some student-athletes, this involved motivating and encouraging their followers: “I have more fans on there so it’s just communicating with them; giving young kids tips or whatever they need help with, and just trying to keep people’s spirits up by keeping positive” and “I use it to motivate other people who follow me because there are younger athletes that look up to me that I know, so I just give them encouraging words without actually saying it to their faces.” For other student-athletes, they interacted with their followers by requesting assistance from them, a task that has become popular for athletes using Twitter (Sanderson, 2013). Examples included “One time I just asked about this taco place and asked if I should eat there, and some people said you should and some people said it’s gross” and I’m trying to nd new cleats for next season. I always want new cleats; like this past year I had these [speci c type] so I’m trying to nd something, like some exotic cleat so I asked my friends and they all sent me pictures.

I’ll tell people, “Hey, let’s take this to Twitter.” If I’m in an argument with somebody about who’s better, Kobe or LeBron, I’ll just be like “Let’s take this to Twitter” and ask the question and get several replies and see what they have to say.

One time I did for this haircut I have now. I got this haircut right when school got out and I had asked “Should I keep my regular fade or get a “boosie fade”?

And people started tweeting me back all their ideas.



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