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. - A free, public resource at 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.

View Full Bio >>

new paper: Explaining Communication Displacement and Large-Scale Social Change in Core Networks: A Cross-National Comparison of Why Bigger is Not Better and Less Can Mean More.

I recently published this paper with my colleague Rich Ling (University of Copenhagen). This paper came about as a result of a dinner conversation where we realized that we had each collected data on core discussion networks, national samples from the United States, Norway and Ukraine, over the same time period. The perfect opportunity to add comparative data to a growing literature on core networks (including a number of my own studies), that had previously relied exclusively on a series of repeated cross-sectional samples of Americans. This literature suggests that there has been large-scale change in the size and structure of American’s core networks over the past two decades.

The goal of our paper was to test the theory that there was something unexpected or exceptional about a finding that American’s core networks are relatively small and kin-centric. Our expectation was that this was not something exceptional at all. Rather, we anticipated that at the societal level a large and diverse core networks was a sign of something troubling, the need for large amounts of informal support. Our expectation was that where formal resources were relatively limited (Ukraine), we would find larger and more diverse core networks. When formal resources were more robust, as a result of things like a strong economy, strong civic society, and strong government safety net (Norway and the US), people would have less need for informal support and could thus rely on a smaller core network. We argued that kin are more likely to persist in core networks; when the median core network size drops to one it should be of no surprise that kin dominate these networks. As we expected, Norwegians have relatively small and kin-centric core networks, and a similar level of social isolation as Americans. Along the way, we also challenge a number of related arguments: that higher levels of individual and societal well-being predict higher levels of face-to-face contact, that most people have less face-to-face contact when mediated communication is used with core confidants, and that the use of ICTs within core networks displaces core confidants.

We have three main findings:

  • Concerns that low societal well-being is associated with smaller and less diverse core networks should be discounted. Arguments in favor of this position are based on an ecological fallacy that assumes that the positive relationship between individual well-being and core network size can be generalized to the societal level (that is, individual factors related to well-being, such as higher education, that predict larger and more diverse core networks, cannot be extended to conclude that societies with higher well-being should also average larger and more diverse core networks). This generalization is false; it ignores a network paradox. Unlike at the individual level, societal prosperity is negatively related to network size.
  • For most people, frequent ICT use within core networks is associated with frequent face-to-face contact. However, as a result of an affordance paradox, there is an exception based on individual inequality. In the absence of new communication technologies, the most disadvantaged, individuals of lower socioeconomic status, have more frequent face-to-face contact with core ties (compared to those of higher socioeconomic status). In this context, face-to-face contact is lower with ICT use only for those of lower socioeconomic status.
  • Social contact, in-person communication, and the use of ICTs support larger core networks. However, there is a contact paradox whereby, in a context of lower societal well-being, frequent contact with core networks, face-to-face and otherwise, impedes the ability to maintain a larger core network.

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

Tue Oct 22, 2013 @ 9:47:33 am

View blog archives >>

Blog RSS feed

home | bio | publications | vitae | classes | weblog | contact me