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: Why is Helping Behavior Declining in the United States But Not in Canada?: Ethnic Diversity, New Technologies, and Other Explanations

I am particularly pleased to see this paper in print, it took fifteen years and the help of over 50 research assistants to collect the data for this study. This paper started as a pet project the year my wife and I moved to Boston. That year, there was an article in the Boston Globe about a woman in Montreal who was attacked on a street and left unaided by passerbys. The Globe suggested that despite Canadians reputations, maybe Americans were now more altruistic. A hypothesis ripe for testing! Replicating an approach often associated with the famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram, with much assistance, I set out to “lose” nearly 4,000 letters in 62 urban areas in the US and Canada. The return rate served as a measure of helping/altruistic behavior. In 2001, the data confirmed a statistical tie. But, the end of data collection in 2001 also marked the horrible events of 9/11. It was immediately clear that this was an opportunity to measure how one of the most tragic events in American history might change community helping behavior. I sat on the data for ten years, returning to the field in 2011 and replicating the study in the same 63 urban areas. I expected to find a spike in helping behavior in the United States. Surprisingly, there had been a 10% decline in altruistic behavior in the United States relative to Canada. And, the decline was especially strong in those communities where the proportion of non-citizens had increased. Even more surprisingly, the trend was in the opposite direction in Canada. Since 2001, areas of Canada where the proportion of non-citizens increased experienced an increase in altruistic/helping behavior. What changed over that decade? One of the most obvious is the divergence in Canadian and US attitudes and policy towards immigrants. Canadian public opinion and the political rhetoric towards immigrants and diversity in general is much more positive than in the US. While Canada has institutionalize policies aimed at inclusion, valuing diversity, and a relatively speedy path towards citizenship, the US has not. Unintended evidence of how intolerance can hurt us all, while policies of inclusion and respect for diversity can lift us up. I discuss the implications of this trend a little further in an op-ed on why we should Stop blaming Facebook for Trump’s election win that was published in The Hill.


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

Thu Mar 2, 2017 @ 11:08:02 am

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