В поисках утраченных профилей: достоверность данных ВКонтакте и их значение для исследований образования
Research on social network sites (SNS) is mainly focused on Facebook, the most popular SNS in the world. The Russian analogue of Facebook is the social network VK with more than 100 million active users. The potential of this site as a data source is now acknowledged in educational research but little is known about the reliability of data obtained from this social network and its sampling bias. Our article investigates the reliability of the VK data on secondary school students from a Russian school (766 students) and bachelor students from selective Russian university (15 757 students). We describe the procedure of matching VK profiles to the students. A direct comparison permitted us to identify profiles of around 18% students. A special technique developed by us increased this number up to 88% for school students and 93% for university students. We compare age, gender and GPA of identified students and students who were not on the VK. We compared the structure of social relationships, retrieved from the VK data, to the expected structure of students’ social ties. We found that the structure of ‘virtual’ social relationships reproduces both the socio-demographic division of students into classes according to their age and spatial division into different school buildings or university campuses. To our knowledge, it is the first study of this kind and scale on VK data. It makes a contribution to the understanding of reliability of the data from this SNS and its potential in educational research.