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The death of a network: Yik Yak and the value of anonymous social media in universities (Keynote)

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Rebecca Ferguson
14 June 2017

CALRG Conference 2017 keynote by Sian Bayne, Professor of Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh.


This talk will present the early findings of a project which conducted research into the anonymous social media platform Yik Yak over 2016/17. Yik Yak was a location-based social media app, launched in 2013, which very quickly became ubiquitously adopted by students on university and college campuses in the US and the UK. It allowed users located within the same geographical area to create and respond to short, anonymous posts, and quickly emerged as an often-controversial space in which candid and dynamic issues were raised and discussed by young users, alongside much-publicised incidents of hate and victimisation.

Over the period of the research, Yik Yak shifted from being a vibrant community platform for undergraduates at Edinburgh, to a rapid decline in use and final closure in May 2017. This talk will discuss what we can learn about the value of anonymous social media through the death of this platform and the student community and network which inhabited it. It will suggest that universities need to ask serious questions about their duty of care toward students in social media, the sociotechnical ‘imaginaries’ which we use to understand platforms, and the need to support ongoing research on student social media use.

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