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University College London

Why We Post: the Anthropology of Social Media

University College London via FutureLearn


This online course is based on the work of nine anthropologists who each spent 15 months in fieldsites in Brazil, Chile, industrial and rural China, England, India, Italy, Trinidad and Turkey.

What are the consequences of social media?

The course offers a new definition of social media which concentrates on the content posted, not just the capabilities of platforms. It examines the increasing importance of images in communication and the reasons why people post memes, selfies and photographs.

Over five weeks you will explore the impact of social media on a wide range of topics including politics, education, gender, commerce, privacy and equality. You will come to understand how the consequences of social media vary from region to region.

Take a comparative and anthropological approach to social media

The course will be taught by the same nine anthropologists who carried out the original fieldwork and who are publishing eleven books based on this research.

You will meet many of our informants through our films, engage with our team through video discussions and lectures, and encounter our ideas through animations, infographics and text.

Adopting an anthropological and comparative approach, we strive to understand not only how social media has changed the world, but how the world has changed social media.

To learn more about our research, see the Why We Post website or read our blog. If you have a question about the project, email [email protected].

Translations of this course can be found on UCLeXtend in the following languages: Chinese, Italian, Hindi, Portuguese, Spanish, Tamil and Turkish.

The course is for anyone with an interest in social media and its impact in wider, global contexts.

It would be particularly beneficial to those working or studying within the field of anthropology, as well as those working in marketing, particularly within international enterprises.


  • What is the anthropology of social media?
    • Introduction
    • Academic approaches to social media
    • The research project
    • The English fieldsite
    • Summary and practical
  • What does social media look like?
    • Introducing the fieldsites
    • Social visibility
    • Memes and values
    • Illiteracy, summary and practical
  • The impact of social media on politics and gender
    • Introduction to this week's fieldsites
    • Social media and politics
    • Social media and gender
    • Platforms or users?
    • Conclusions and practical
  • The Chinese challenge
    • Introducing this week's fieldsites
    • Polymedia
    • Comparing the Chinese fieldsites
    • Social media and education
    • Social media and commerce
    • Social media and privacy
    • Summary and practical
  • Social media and social mobility
    • Introducing this week's fieldsites
    • Social inequality
    • Identity and normativity
    • Summary and practical
    • Conclusions of course and further activities


4.0 rating, based on 2 Class Central reviews

4.6 rating at FutureLearn based on 48 ratings

Start your review of Why We Post: the Anthropology of Social Media

  • Linda Saalman

    Linda Saalman completed this course, spending 6 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    Remarkably insightful, well-designed, and well-executed class that brings extraordinary depth to the subject. Really opened my eyes to the differences in how social media is used in different cultures, which gave me a whole different level of insight into how it is used in my own culture and among my own friends, and has in turn affected my own use. Loved the way that the instructors made it easy to learn from the class materials, the extensive supplemental texts, and the online discussions, enabling a student to limit their time while still grasping the material, or to dive in more deeply and have a richer experience. This means it brings value to beginning, intermediate, or advanced students.
  • Millie B.

    Millie B. completed this course.

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