Communication at ‘just the right temperature’ with social media:Developing a framework for the use of social media by the New Zealand Fire Service in the promotion of fire safety to young New Zealand adults
Thesis DisciplineMedia and Communication
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts with Distinction
This thesis was derived from research conducted on behalf of the New Zealand Fire Service (NZFS) who sought an understanding of how social media could be used effectively to promote fire safety to New Zealanders. In order to do this, this thesis aimed to position understanding in a framework of young New Zealand adults and their relationships with social media technology. It drew on the theoretical work of McLuhan (1970) and Thompson (1995) in developing a framework that understood individuals as interacting with social media from individualised relevance structures. Research was conducted in the form of online focus groups and semi-structured interviews across four participant-types of young adults previously identified as being both at risk of fire danger and high social media users. These participant-types were: single mothers; tertiary students living in rental accommodation; young Pasifika adults; young Asian adults.
The findings of this thesis argue the following points: 1) variable modes of individual control afforded by media highlight how the development of social media has risen as a positive tool which young New Zealand adults use with greater control to make communication more personally comfortable; 2) this sees social media contribute to a modern shift away from community towards connected forms of individualism; 3) the ability of social media to make networks more visible and open contributes to an understanding of how the resource of social capital continues to be produced, and most significantly provides opportunity for the circulation of collective knowledge through weak ties. This can enrich shared forms of knowledge obtained through other communication means. The opportunities for the promotion of knowledge using social media were discussed in specific terms for the NZFS, however it is advanced that this framework may be useful for other public-good organisations in engaging with social media, particularly in a New Zealand-based context where there is little existing research on the topic; 4) caution is voiced over the fluidity with which social media is constructed as a place. This thesis warns that the relationships young New Zealand adults have with media technology in the construction of this is tenuous, and the more devoid of human investment this relationship becomes, the greater the risk of the loss of a social media platform’s status as a place.