The privacy implications of online bonding, bridging and boundary crossing: An experimental study using emoticons in a social network map


This paper describes a study of privacy behaviour in situations of strong (bonding), weak and latent (bridging) and “boundary-crossing” relationships in online social network sites (SNS). An experimental study was conducted utilising screen capture, diaries, and a final interview. An innovative aspect of the experiment was the use of emoticons in a social network visualisation tool to represent emotional status. The contribution of the study is two-fold. We extend previous research with a more nuanced understanding of privacy concerns and behaviours in SNS in the context of different social ties. We also demonstrate an innovative research design using a social network visualization tool, and show the value of SNS visualization for researchers and social network users.

Privacy; social capital; social network sites; visualization; experiment
Author biographies

Xiaoyi Guan

Author photoXiaoyi Guan is a business information analyst and research degree student at Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand. Xiaoyi has researched and consulted in the use of social networks for community building and marketing, especially in international and cross-cultural educational and tourism contexts. Xiaoyi recently completed her BCA (honours) degree and has worked as a tutor, educational administrator, cross-cultural trainer, and social media consultant. Xiaoyi.guan(at)

Mary Tate

Author photoMary Tate is Senior Lecturer, School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Her research interests include attitudes and behaviours towards information systems, measurement theory, and research methods. Mary has a background in practice, including service delivery, project management, website management, and business analysis. Since joining Victoria University in 2001, Mary has won awards for teaching, supervision, and research; has been awarded several international research grants; and has produced over 40 peer-reviewed publications in journals and conferences. Mary.tate(at)

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