Keith N. Hampton is the Endowed Professor in Communication and Public Policy and Co-Chair of the Social Media & Society Cluster in the School of Communication and Information, he is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, and an affiliate member of the graduate faculty in the Department of Sociology at Rutgers University. Hampton received his Ph.D. and M.A. in sociology from the University of Toronto. Before joining the faculty at Rutgers, he was an 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. 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.

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new paper: Persistent and Pervasive Community: New Communication Technologies and the Future of Community

This paper lays out a theory that I have been developing about changes to the structure of community related to new technologies, particularly social media. I contend that the study of community has always been closely tied to understanding the social implications of communication technology. Our understanding of how these technologies have influenced community is based largely on what I have called the mobility narrative. The mobility narrative is the argument that communication and transportation technologies have made it progressively easier for people to overcome constraints of time and space. I argue that two characteristics of recent communication technologies – persistent contact and pervasive awareness – have the potential to break from this historic narrative and fundamentally change how social relations are organized.

Whereas previous communication technologies allowed people to communicate across distance with reduced time and cost, they generally lacked affordances for relational persistence and sustained awareness. That is, as a result of mobility, social ties were often lost at key life course events and as people moved over distances. New communication technologies often described as social media and including platforms such as Facebook provide for persistence by allowing people to articulate relationships and to maintain them over time. Social ties that previously would have been abandoned over the life course as we left high school, changed jobs, and moved from one neighborhood to another now persist online. Maintained through the ambient nature of social media, people have a new, pervasive awareness of the activities, interests, location, opinions, and resources of their social ties.

Visions of modern community often imagine a maximization of mobility to the point where people are nearly free from the constraints of time, space, and social bonds. In contrast, I have argue that persistent-pervasive community renews constraints and opportunities of traditional community structure. As a result of persistence — a counterforce to mobility — relationships and the social contexts where they are formed are less transitory than at any time in modern history. Through the ambient, lean, asynchronous nature of social media, awareness supplements surveillance with the informal watchfulness typified in preindustrial community. It provides for closeness and information exchange unlike what can be communicated through other channels. Social media and the algorithms behind them generate not only context collapse but an audience problem that, when managed through a dynamic balance between broadcasting and monitoring content, enhances indicators of awareness and availability of social ties. Persistent–pervasive community represents a period of metamodernity. It is a hybrid of preindustrial and urban-industrial community structures that will affect the availability of social capital, the success of collective action, the cost of caring, deliberation around important issues, and how lives are linked over the life course and across generations.

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

Mon Aug 17, 2015 @ 8:57:00 am

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