The Role of Social Network Sites in Facilitating Collaborative Processes (Fall 2009 - Fall 2012)

socialnetworking-toilDate: Fall 2009 - Fall 2012

Funding: $498,359

National Science Foundation (CSE Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering, Division of Information & Intelligent Systems, Human-Centered Computing Program)

Authors: PI: Nicole Ellison, Co-PI: Cliff Lampe

Although traditionally conceived of as a purely “social” outlet, social network sites (SNSs) such as Facebook contain a number of social and technical affordances that enable users to engage in both organizing and collaboration. Recently, many people have been using social network sites like Facebook to seek information from their friends and colleagues. Advice on products, childcare, career, and education have all been popping up in newsfeeds and Twitter streams. In work funded by the National Science Foundation, TOIL researchers are looking at issues related to collaboration that are emerging in social network sites.

TOIL researchers are not just interested in how SNSs can be employed for collaborative purposes, but also who is engaging in activities that move beyond the more standard uses of the site and why they use SNSs for collaborating. To answer these questions, the research team is engaging in both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis across different populations of users.

One of the team’s current research projects is looking at college students’ opinions toward and use of Facebook to organize and collaborate on school projects through a series of surveys conducted in spring 2009, fall 2009, and spring 2010. A primary goal of this research is to understand how students engage in bricolage by repurposing Facebook as an academic tool (e.g., by using the site to set up a study group and organize a meeting time). A second project is examining the uses and motivations of older users (adults ages 25-55) to see how users outside the site’s original population (i.e., college students) take advantages of its various features.

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