Today, I gave a talk as part of the CASCI research series at UMD, presenting some of the highlights from my dissertation. I’ve linked to my slides below and will try to follow up with some more detailed notes shortly.
I am very bad with updates, as you can see, but here’s a big one. On December 14, 2012, I successfully defended my dissertation! Woo! I’m finishing final edits this week and will submit to the grad school shortly.
I also just wrapped up my first semester as an assistant professor at the iSchool at Maryland; recently published my first solo-authored article in JOBEM; and have three articles coming in CSCW this February. Busy times I tell you!
Here’s the abstract for my dissertation:
Arguably, the technical features of social network sites simplify the process of maintaining and interacting with hundreds of social connections. At the same time, however, these sites’ affordances—namely the visibility and persistence of content and the articulation of those connections (e.g., through a “Friend List”)—raise new questions about how individuals engage in relationship maintenance with various types of ties. This dissertation seeks to expand our understanding of relationship maintenance processes to account for the unique affordances of these communication technologies through a survey of adult Facebook users (N=407). First, through exploratory factor analysis, it establishes a set of Facebook relationship maintenance strategies that reflect existing theory and measures while accounting for the affordances of social media. Next, through nested OLS regressions, it tests whether engagement in these strategies with a randomly selected Facebook Friend predicts three relational outcomes: relational closeness, relational satisfaction, and access to social provisions. Third, it tests whether engagement in these strategies is associated with perceptions that using Facebook positively impacts their perceived relational closeness and relational stability with that Friend, while controlling for existing levels of relational closeness. Findings indicate main effects for all four relationship maintenance strategies on perceptions of Facebook’s impact on relational closeness and relational stability, as well as interaction effects between existing relational closeness and multiple strategies in predicting these two outcomes, such that weaker ties who engage in these strategies view the site as having a more positive impact on their relationship than stronger ties. Subsequent analyses identify additional differences between those who primarily rely on Facebook to communicate with that Friend and those who do not, as well as those who are geographically distant from each other versus those who live nearby, while controlling for existing relational closeness. This study contributes to the extant literature on computer-mediated communication and relationship maintenance by extending our understanding of how individuals interact through mediated channels and the role that newer technologies like social network sites play in managing a wide range of relationships, especially weaker ties who are more likely to rely on social media to keep their relationship in existence.
This week I’m in Toronto, ON at the iConference. I’m presenting a small study done with Cliff Lampe, Rebecca Gray, and Nicole Ellison on how MSU employees balance their professional and personal lives on Facebook.
Link to the paper [pdf]
Full citation: Vitak, J., Lampe, C., Ellison, N., & Gray, R. (2012). “Why won’t you be my Facebook Friend?”: Strategies for dealing with context collapse in the workplace. In Proceedings of the 7th Annual iConference (pp. 555-557). New York: ACM. doi: 10.1145/2132176.2132286
This afternoon, Nicole Ellison and I presented some of our research on the use of social media in higher education, discussing results from three studies (two of which I have worked on) at the Instructional Technology Brown Bag Seminar Series, sponsored by MSU Libraries, Computing, and Technology and the MSU College of Natural Science. The presentation was video recorded and can be viewed here.
More information about the seminar series can be found here.
Recently, I was interviewed by representatives from the College of Communication Arts & Sciences regarding my experiences as a PhD student at MSU and what the university–and my program, Media & Information Studies–mean to me. It was a fun experience and helped me think about how much I’ve grown as a scholar and academic in the last 3+ years, and how well my experiences here have prepared me for the job market. I’ve included a link to the longer edited version below.
Just a quick note to direct your attention to a recent guest post I wrote for Play as Life about my experiences as a noob in World of Warcraft back in 2008 and a small study I conducted based on what I observed.
I’ve just wrapped up my first full week of teaching my new class, Social Media in Society, and I have to admit I’m pretty excited with how it has progressed so far. This is a 400-level undergraduate class (see syllabus here), so I’ve structured it to be focused less on me lecturing and more on class interactions, and so far the students have exceeded my expectations. This is my area of expertise, so I’m not surprised how much I’m getting into the lesson preps, but social media is also so important in college students’ daily lives, that I’m too not surprised that they have many opinions. I’m just glad so many are voicing those opinions! Next week is going to be a fun week as we talk about online identities. Tuesday, I’m going to spend a fair amount of time talking about the nymwars and some of the fallout from Google+’s real-name policies. There’s been some great posts so far on this topic by danah boyd, Alice Marwick, Bernie Hogan, and others. There are so many great questions when thinking about the benefits and potential problems of being fully identifiable online; I’m especially interested to hear opinions from people who grew up in the Facebook age. For them, they’ve always had their real names associated with their online identity, at least in one location (which is probably the one they use the most).
This week, the most interesting thing to emerge from our class discussions is an obvious generation gap in terms of how we perceive email as a communication medium. Across the board, the students in the class saw email as communication for older people; it is slower, more formal and less social than other forms of communication like sending a text or posting on someone’s Facebook Wall. They associate email with work; one student said his immediate thought when he gets emails from certain people is, “what did I do wrong?” Meanwhile, I check my email every five minutes, send and receive several dozen emails every day, and can’t imagine communicating without email as a prime player in my communication repertoire.
I’m trying to incorporate social media into the class, although I’m already finding it difficult to successfully do without making use of a specific social media site a requirement. For example, about 2/3 of the class says they have a Twitter account so I’ve begun tweeting about the class with the hashtag #tc401; I’ve also encouraged them to tweet in and/or outside of class with questions. So far, it hasn’t caught on, but I’m hoping a quick walkthrough on Tuesday will pique their interest. As a class, we’re also trying an experiment involving Twitter: we’re creating a Twitter account and seeing how many followers we can get by the end of the semester. The class will make all decisions regarding the handle, image, description, and tweets. I really hope the class stays interested in this so we can see it through; they’ve already come up with a great concept for the account.
In other news, research continues to move forward, with work happening on my dissertation, a CHI paper, an iConference poster, and two journal articles.