Keith N. Hampton is a professor in the Department of Media and Information, in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at Michigan State University. Before joining the faculty at MSU, he held the position of Endowed Professor in Communication and Public Policy and Co-Chair of the Social Media & Society Cluster in the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University; Assistant Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania; and Assistant Professor of Technology, Urban and Community Sociology & Class of '43 Chair in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. and M.A. in sociology from the University of Toronto, and a B.A. (Hons) in sociology from the University of Calgary. Hampton studies community and the relationship between digital technologies, social networks, democratic engagement, and the urban environment.

Recent and ongoing projects include:

Pervasive Awareness - This study explores possible outcomes associated with the pervasive nature of social media. Based on a series of surveys of adults, this study suggests that pervasive exposure to information from people’s personal network of friends and family, combined with the anytime-anywhere accessibility of social ties, is likely to affect outcomes related to stress, social isolation, the provision of social support, exposure to diverse points of view, and willingness to voice opinions.

Changes to Helping Behavior: A Lost-letter Experiment - This study explores whether there has been a decline in helping behavior in the United States and Canada. Focusing on two arguments that anticipate change in the level of unplanned help provided to strangers: the rise of new technologies, and neighborhood racial and ethnic diversity. A variation on Stanley Milgram's lost-letter technique, 7,466 letters were "lost"" in sixty-three urban areas in the United States and Canada in 2001 and 2011. The proportion of returned letters from each area is an indicator of altruistic behavior. Census data is being used to predict change in helping behavior over the past decade based on changes in the composition of different urban settings, such as population mobility, privatism, and diversity.

Social Interaction in Public Spaces: A Longitudinal Study - The goal of this study is to understand change in the social life of urban public spaces over the past 30 years. Utilizing an archive of Super 8 time-lapse films of public spaces from New York and around the world that were made in the 1980s by William H. Whyte and the Project for Public Spaces, public interactions are compared to videos of the same spaces captured from 2008-10. The focus is on change in the tendency for people to be alone, and in the composition of groups, as a result of large scale social changes, such as the mobile phone.

i-Neighbors.org - A public website where people could find their geographic neighborhoods online and form corresponding digital communities. The i-Neighbors project investigated in detail the specific contexts where Internet use affords local interactions and facilitates community involvement. i-Neighbors supported over 8,000 neighborhoods in the US and Canada and delivered over one million messages to neighbors each month. This project was an outcome of prior work on the E-Neighbors and Netville studies.

Social Media and Social Well-being? - This study combined a longitudinal nationally representative telephone survey with transaction data on the use of Facebook. The project explored the relationship between the use/nonuse of social network services and other information and communication technologies, and the structure and size of people's social networks, health, tolerance, social capital, and other measures of well-being.

The Social Life of Wireless Urban Spaces - It is unclear if wireless Internet use in public spaces will facilitate greater engagement with co-present others, or encourage social disengagement. This study investigated how mobile technologies, focusing on Wi-Fi use but not excluding mobile phones, video games, portable music devices, etc., impact the use of public space. Updating William H. Whyte's classic study of The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, this project is based on observations of seven wireless Internet enabled public parks, plazas and markets in Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, and Toronto. The goal was to identify how mobile devices augment local interactions and people's social networks more broadly.

Social Isolation and New Technology: The Personal Networks and Community Survey - This national, representative telephone survey of adults explored the relationship between use of new technologies and social isolation, the size of core networks, participation in neighborhoods, voluntary groups, public spaces, and the diversity of people's social networks. Key findings challenge previous research and fears about the harmful social impact of new technologies, such as social media and mobile phones.

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new paper: Digital media and stress: the cost of caring 2.0

A new paper with two of my PhD students, Weixu Lu and Inyoung Shin, is now in print. This paper on the relationship between use of digital technologies (i.e., social media, internet use, Facebook, mobile phones) and social and psychological stress expands on a report we released with the Pew Research Center.


This research explores the relationship between the use of digital media and stress. Based on the findings of a national, probability sample of adults in the United States, the use of digital media was not directly associated with higher levels of psychological stress. Some uses of digital media were associated with lower levels of perceived stress for women but not for men. However, the evidence suggests that, for men and women, digital media provides heightened awareness of network life events (AoNLE) in the lives of both close and more distant acquaintances. An awareness of undesirable, major life events in the lives of others can be a source of psychological stress; this is the cost of caring. Thus, the link between digital media and stress is indirect. We argue that the growth of digital media is related to changes in the structure of peoples’ personal communities that contribute to this trend. There has been a shift toward networks that offer persistent contact and pervasive awareness. Findings suggest that different mobile technologies, Internet technologies, and social media afford AoNLE for men and women, but women tend to report greater psychological stress than men, and they experience psychological stress from a wider range of AoNLE. We discuss explanations for the negative relationship between technology use and stress for women, as well as the implications of our findings for research on the use of digital media and psychological well-being, such as the relationship to social support, narcissism and empathy.


You can download the final version of the paper here, or access a draft version of the paper on my website.


Inyoung Shin and I are now expanding on this work, creating a more expansive and parsimonious measure for awareness of network life events, and we are exploring other outcome measures.

Mon Sep 12, 2016 @ 1:22:02 pm

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