Keith N. Hampton is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, School of Communication and Information, and an affiliate member of the Graduate Faculty in Sociology at Rutgers University. He is Chair of the Social Media & Society Cluster in the School of Communication and Information. He received his Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Toronto in sociology, and a B.A. in sociology from the University of Calgary. Before joining the faculty at Rutgers, he was an assistant professor at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, and Assistant Professor and Class of '43 Chair in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research interests focus on the relationship between new information and communication 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 national, representative telephone survey 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.

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 1970s 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.

Changes to Helping Behavior: A Lost-letter Experiment - A variation on Stanley Milgram's lost-letter technique. In the summer of 2001 more than 5,000 stamped and self-addressed letters were "lost" in 80+ urban areas in the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa and Asia. The proportion of returned letters from each area is an indicator of helping behavior. In the summer of 2011 the project entered its second phase; letters were "lost" again in the same small urban areas. 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 and diversity.

i-Neighbors.org - A free, public resource at www.i-neighbors.org where people can find their geographic neighborhoods online and form corresponding digital communities. The i-Neighbors project investigates in detail the specific contexts where Internet use affords local interactions and facilitates community involvement. i-Neighbors supports over 8,000 neighborhoods in the US and Canada and delivers 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: Change in the social life of urban public spaces: The rise of mobile phones and women, and the decline of aloneness over 30 years

I have a new paper published with my former PhD student Lauren Sessions Goulet and former undergraduate research assistant Garrett Albanesius. This work was recently featured by NYT Magazine in an article by Mark Oppenheimer.


Despite concerns that Americans are increasingly likely to live alone, that loneliness has increased, and that the mobile phone – by distracting us from those around us – has led to the loss of conversation, today public spaces are a more likely source for interacting than they were three decades ago. Observations of nearly 150,000 people captured on film in four public places in 1979-80, and from video taken of the same places 30 years later, show that we are less alone and more together in public. Mobile phones, while seemingly always present, are used in public by a small number of people, who tend to linger in place, but rarely use their phones in groups. Other social changes have had a more meaningful impact on the use of public spaces. Women, whose participation in the workforce has increased by 44 percent since the early 1980s, have increased their use of public space. Men and women are spending more time in public together. These observations counter the suggestion that new technologies are responsible for a large scale shift in how people use public spaces, and that Americans are increasingly socially isolated.


In a comparison of pedestrians filmed in four public spaces located in Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia at two time periods, 30 years apart, we found that the proportion of people in groups had increased relative to people who were alone. The early films, created by the Project for Public Spaces, a nonprofit planning and educational organization founded to expand on the work of William Whyte, when compared to recent videos, show a decline of 24 percent in the presence of people who were alone at the Met Steps in NYC, a 24 percent decline in singletons within Boston’s Downtown Crossing, and an 8 percent decline in people alone on the sidewalks outside of Bryant Park in NYC…


READ THE FULL BLOG POST on the London School of Economics (LSE) American Politics and Policy blog (USApp).


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

Fri Jul 11, 2014 @ 10:57:00 am

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