Exploring the ‘Social’ in New Media Systems

Michael Stefanone, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Communication

University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

Thurs. Jan 22 @ 4pm

Center for Complex Network Research (CCNR), Dana Research Center 

110 Forsyth Street – Take the LARGE elevator to the 5th floor.

Traditional and new mass media systems influence us in measurable ways. While effects of traditional mass media use are subtle and indirect, the effects and social consequences of social media use are less well understood. In this presentation, I discuss three branches of my research on social media: First, I briefly discuss antecedents of social media use from a social-psychological perspective. In this research, competing perspectives on motivations for social media use are compared, and results suggest that the social context of media use matters most. Next, I review research related to actual processes associated with social media use and outcomes operationalized in terms of social capital. Social capital is a complex and dynamic concept, but the extant literature is limited due to its reliance on self-report outcome measures. Results from a field experiment measuring actual, enacted support suggests that more conservative approaches to understanding online social networks and social capital should be discussed. 

Finally, social media platforms are essentially publicly accessible databases of personal (and often intimate) information about users. This presents a host of challenges to users including the potential for information asymmetries where one user has access to information about another, and the other doesn’t know it. I discuss a series of experiments conducted to assess the impact of information asymmetries on compliance gaining outcomes. Results show that access to information about another creates meaningful advantages in compliance gaining scenarios. I conclude the presentation by discussing some of the grant-funded projects I’ve been working on, and the future directions of my research program which centers largely around a concept I call situational awareness. Situational awareness is a function of the cognitive ability to process novel social stimuli in real time such that individuals with more comprehensive understandings of the social processes and dynamics which surround them should be better off. 


Michael Stefanone (Ph.D., Cornell University) is an associate professor at the University at Buffalo where his research focuses broadly on the social psychology of communication and technology use. He has published more than 40 peer-reviewed manuscripts using a range of methods on topics including relationship formation and maintenance online, cultural differences in social media use, information diffusion via social media, and the consequences associated with information asymmetries. His work has been funded by two Health Resources and Services Administration grants (division of U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services) supporting research exploring how social media can promote organ and tissue donation registration. He is currently funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research on a project designed to refine machine-learning techniques intended to analyze massive, decentralized, mediated conversations about current social and political issues.