Since the earliest days of social media use, higher education has played a key role in providing social structures for online connection. From the discussion of mutual classes to the recommendation of campus nightlife, social media networks have united, enriched and complicated collegiate social activity. As social media networks spread from the university to other institutional settings, the overlapping of social spheres – be it work, college or parent-teacher associations – pushed and often blurred boundaries in unforeseen ways. In this work we focus on one of those grey areas, in which the transition from either high-school or employment to the university setting is mediated by the use of social media. Specifically, Chris Ferguson and I examine the myriad social functions for which social media networks may play in the decision-making process for collegiate entry.
Specifically, we’re looking at social media networks built exclusively for managing this transition. We’ve been looking at what type of conversations are happening on these networks and who is talking. We’ve also been examining when activity occurs and for what reason. Also, and importantly so, we’ve been focusing on who benefits the most from this network.
So far, our preliminary findings have shown that African Americans are the most likely group to utilize the network for the admissions project. We also found that likelihood of enrollment for these social media users favors women over men. The breakdown of the discussion activity shows that connecting for offline and other online activities is the most important for the students. While they can use the network to find out about classes or other important facts about the university, connecting with other students and bringing that connection into their other social media platforms is the biggest advantage for them.
The working paper and project source code including the anonymized network data are available at the project’s github repository.
EU Media Consumption & Economic Valuation
Last Updated on 08 Jul 2012
There’s been a lot of talk lately, especially with the upcoming election, about the role that media plays in shaping public opinion. Some of the key issues have been about the role of television in shaping the public’s political philosophies, the state of reality and the economic processes that affect them. Political partisanship in the US is highly polarized, with people from either the liberal or conservative factions pointing fingers at the media environment.
For this project, I investigated how the media influences opinions about the economy, but throughout the European Union not the United States. The rationale being to show whether the media by default affect economic opinions for one political faction more than for another. For the the US, scholarship shows conservatives most affected by media when it comes to their political choices. While I worked at GESIS, a research institute in Köln, Germany, I was able to examine whether this assumption held.
Such a cross-national European study is more easily accomplished than within the United States, as there are a number of European Studies that particularly focus on values and opinions across states, for instance the European Values Study and the Eurobarometer. Using the December 2010 Eurobarometer, the study examined the economic expectations of 34 countries. As a result, it found that across the EU, “national economy assessment” had a negative correlation with television consumption, yet a positive correlation for radio, print and Internet use. This correlation however, was explained differently by political partisanship and European region. While positive economic outlook for left-leaning individuals could be explained more by media use, on the right economic outlook is determined more by demographic indicators, particularly gender, education and occupation in addition to media use. I found however, that media influence on economic assessment varies by geographic region significantly with the largest effects in western Europe. This ran counter to studies conducted in the United States, suggesting the media influence is not by default greater for one political leaning over another.
Affective Impulse and Network Morphology in Microblogging Networks
Last Updated on 18 July 2012
Little research has examined emotional states in relation to online social media use. With this project Chris Seemann and I examine the network characteristics of boredom with users on Twitter. Using an analysis of directed networks over the course of a week, this study shows that those whom discuss their experience boredom do not message as much as a random sample. On the other hand, those individuals have a larger network of followers than the general population. Looking at the aggregate levels of content topics, we also find that the distribution favors “soft” topics for the experimental population of bored users at the expense of “harder” topics such as business, religion and politics.
We present these findings to demonstrate that a smaller total number of message updates by an individual is indicative of a lack of meaningful activity online. As individuals who post they are bored may be in situations without meaning or intrinsic value, it would be expected that those individuals are lacking in interactive volume. Secondly, it was established that a smaller network of individuals receiving and individual’s messages is indicative of social isolation; however, isolation was not found amongst the experimental population. Lastly it was established that sending messages on largely ‘soft’ subjects suggests an increased desire for intrinsically-motivated stimulation rather than extrinsically-motivated connection; which may be detrimental to the individual’s long-term well-being.
The dataset, R source and latex code for the project is available at the github repository.
Media Consumption Topics & Produsage on Twitter
Last Updated on 12 Aug 2011
While Twitter has been in the news quite a bit for its political uses, I was interested in the type of networks that were forming based around certain types of content. This content, for instance creates networks that either facilitate or stop the spread of information around the Internet. I was therefore interested in the in-degree and out-degree numbers that allowed users to push or pull content through their own networks.
The idea of “Produsage”, a term that came into recent use by Axel Bruns, has described the social-ness of the online web 2.0 mediascape as the hybridization of production and consumption. In order to achieve this hybridization, I explored how much and to what degree in-degree and out-degree content channels were equalizing. I ran a script to scrape the tweets of a random selection of users (n[2,254,806]) over the course of a week. I ran experiments to see whether produsage was endemic to twitter or if produsage increased over time with more and more activity. Also, I explored whether this produsage rate varied by topical categories (i.e. gossip, war, politics, etc.).
The findings demonstrated that produsage was significantly low for low-activity users (the majority) but increased dramatically with user activity. In fact, it became the dominant communication modality for users with 5,000–25,000 status messages. The volume of soft news information is over double that of hard news information, while produsage networks vary only slightly based on the type of content distributed with ‘hard’ news information tending toward production bias and ‘soft’ news information toward consumption bias.
The final publication is available on the Taylor and Francis site for Information Communication & Society. The source for the paper and the analysis is available at the github repository.
Social Exchange of Cultural Capital
Last Updated on 03 Jan 2011
Building upon projects in the global distribution of technological connection, I investigated the distribution of followers, a form of digital social capital, and the topics that tended to increase the levels of followers and following by users in various countries throughout the world.
Diagrammed through the Prezi, you can move through the various countries throughout the world and view the levels graphically displayed. Originally developed for a conference in Sydney, Australia, the presentation is now available online for anyone to use.
Produced for the Failure Group, a sociological concept map for failure was developed to assist in a consulting capacity. It’s basic taxonomic features center around the logic of failure, culture of failure and the utility of failure. Utilizing each sociological vector, the taxonomic map displays the myriad facets necessary to understanding and utilizing failure in research and practice. The visual taxonomy can be accessed at here.