What role does technology play in mediating human communication and social interaction? Moreover, what roles could it play, should it play, or should it not play? From designers, to sociologists, to policy makers, numerous perspectives on information technology require engaging with such questions. My research explores these questions, both by implementing novel technological systems and by empirically studying existing sociotechnical practices. This talk focuses on the non-use of social media, a phenomenon that foregrounds negotiations over where, when, and how technology should or should not be used. Specifically, I present a study of people who attempted to cease using Facebook but, in some cases, were unsuccessful. Using a mixed-methods approach, this study triangulates across multiple analyses to identify four major factors influencing the likelihood of successfully leaving Facebook: perceived addiction, privacy-related factors, changes in mood, and use of other social media. For example, respondents who perceived themselves as addicted to Facebook were more likely to return to the site. These results add important nuance to our understanding of how and why people use, or do not use, social technologies. More broadly, this work belongs to a larger effort to expand the ways that we conceptualize, study, and design for the relationships between information technology and human beings.

Eric P. S. Baumer is a Research Associate in Communication and Information Science at Cornell University. His research examines the roles computational and information technologies play in mediating human communication and social interaction. He also designs novel computational systems to explore the roles that such technology could play, should play, or should not play. His current projects include using computational analyses of framing in political text to foster more thoughtful, reflective discussions of political issues, and studying technology refusal in the context of Facebook to understand how society decides where in our lives technology is in/appropriate. Dr. Baumer’s work has been supported by such sources as an an NSF Cyber-Human Systems grant, an NSF Social-Computational Systems grant, and an NSF CreativeIT grant. His research has been published in numerous conferences and journals, including the ACM CHI Conference, Social Media + Society, First Monday, the ACM CSCW Conference, the Journal of Information Technology and Politics, and Environmental Communication. He holds an MS and PhD in Information and Computer Sciences from the University of California, Irvine, and a BS in Computer Science with a minor in Music from the University of Central Florida. He is also an avid ultimate frisbee player, an aspiring rock climber, and an amateur photographer.