Fred Stutzman's Dissertation Defense

December 8, 2010 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Manning Hall Room 014 (on the ground level across from the elevator)

Title: Networked Information Behavior in Life Transition

Abstract: This study explores the supportive and informational uses of social network sites that facilitate adaptation to transition.  This study focuses on the transition to college, a major life event requiring integration into new settings, the negotiation of informational challenges, and the mastery of new roles and identities.  Adaptation to transition is a complex process contingent upon the management of stress associated with transition and general integration into the transitional environment.

Social network sites represent a connective infrastructure within personal networks. Because social network sites are inherently connective, they afford a location for provision and receipt of social support during transition, and a site for the acquisition of information necessary for integration into the transitional environment.  Drawing on data collected directly from a social network site that describes the networked activity of a freshman class over the course of their first semester at college, from a sample survey of freshmen with 1,198 respondents, and from 15 semi-structured interviews, this research has two primary components. 

In the first component of analysis, Fred explores the structure and dynamics of socio-technical networks during transition.  Using exponential random graph modeling, he identifies the role and magnitude of preference, socio-demographic, and configuration factors in structuring socio-technical networks during transition.  He then uses an econometric framework to demonstrate that certain types of information sharing and profile change are associated with socio-technical network growth. 

In the second component of analysis, he explores uses of social network sites that facilitate adaptation to transition.   Using multiple regression and structural equation modeling, he demonstrates that supportive and social-informational uses of social network sites in transition exert a direct and mediated positive effect on overall adaptation. He then draws on interviews to explore supportive and informational uses of the social network site during transition, finding that social network sites are useful in pre-transition preparation, for social adaptation, and for academic support throughout the transition.  Upon evaluation, he demonstrates that a social network site is a useful place to turn for the social and informational support that facilitates adaptation to transition.