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2010-2011 CSE Lecture Series


Title: Social capital implications of Facebook-enabled communication practice

Dr. Nicole Ellison
Telecommunication, Information Studies, & Media
Michigan State University

Date:  October 29, 2010
Time:  11:30 am
Room: 1279 Anthony Hall

This talk will provide an overview of research exploring the ways in which emerging adults use social network sites and the social capital implications of various communication practices enabled by these tools. Early research identified a link between Facebook use and bridging and bonding social capital. More recently, we have identified different ‘connection strategies,’ a term which describes a suite of Facebook-related relational communication activities. Survey data (N = 450) from a random sample of undergraduate students reveal that only social information-seeking behaviors contribute to perceptions of social capital; connection strategies that focus on strangers or close friends do not.We also find that reporting more ‘actual’ friends on the site is predictive of social capital, but only to a point. The mechanisms behind the relationship between Facebook use and social capital gains is described: we believe the explanation for these findings may be that the identity information in Facebook serves as a social lubricant, encouraging individuals to convert latent to weak ties and enabling them to broadcast requests for support or information.

Nicole Ellison is an associate professor in the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media. Her research explores issues of self-presentation, relationship development, and identity in online environments such as online dating and social network sites. Nicole received her Ph.D in Communication Theory and Research from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California in 1999. Currently she is exploring ad-hoc collaboration in social network sites, for a project funded by the National Science Foundation, and perceptions regarding the acceptability of profile discrepancies in online dating profiles. Her previous research has examined the formation of virtual communities and the ways in which telecommuters use information and communication technologies to calibrate the permeability of their work/home boundaries, as explored in her 2004 book, Telework and Social Change. Her work has been published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Communication Research, and the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Representative publications can be found on her publications page: