My research interests are in social computing, online communities, and computer-mediated communication. I use both qualitative (semi-structured interviews; content analysis) and quantitative methods (surveys; experiments) to study non-normative behavior and social deviance on social media sites. I am particularly interested in why users participate in online harassment.
I am a member of the Social Media Research Lab and the Living Online Lab at the University of Michigan School of Information. I was formerly a Community of Scholars fellow at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender and a UX Research Intern on Facebook’s Protect and Care team.
An Eye for an Eye: When Online Harassment is Perceived to be Justified
My current research aims to better understand online harassment using a retributive justice framework, sometimes referred to as “an eye for an eye.” The integration of theories about justice and punishment with existing knowledge about social deviance and sanctioning has the potential to radically transform our current understanding of misbehavior in online spaces—in particular, when an instance of online harassment is perceived to be justified. Recent cases of online harassment help to illustrate this tension: for example, the 2014 public shaming of Justine Sacco, the 2015 release of 40 million Ashley Madison users’ personal and financial information, or the 2016 doxxing of notorious men’s rights activist Roosh V. Ultimately, this research could generate a new paradigm for the sanctioning of social deviance online, influencing the design of technologies to instead support more restorative forms of justice. This work appeared at ICA 2017 (slides; 45% acceptance rate).
Classification and its Consequences for Online Harassment
I conducted interviews with 18 users of HeartMob, a private online support community for people experiencing online harassment. In collaboration with Dr. Jill Dimond, Dr. Sarita Schoenebeck, and Dr. Cliff Lampe, we examine systems of classification enacted by technical systems, platform policies, and users to demonstrate how 1) labeling serves to validate (or invalidate) harassment experiences; 2) labeling motivates bystanders to provide support; and 3) labeling content as harassment is critical for surfacing community norms around appropriate user behavior. We discuss these results through the lens of Bowker and Star’s classification theories and describe implications for technical approaches to labeling and classifying online abuse. The results of this work will appear in the Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction (PDF; 27% acceptance rate).
Anonymous Interaction and its Benefits for Adolescents
In collaboration with Dr. Nicole Ellison, Dr. Cliff Lampe, PhD pre-candidate Penny Trieu, and independent scholar Tsubasa Moriaka, this study explores adolescents’ use of anonymous question-answer site Ask.fm. We identify five primary themes: (1) perceived authenticity, (2) circumventing social expectations, (3) learning about the self, (4) managing identity and self-presentation, and (5) initiating and developing relationships. Across these themes, we find that users strategically employ anonymity to achieve their social goals. Use of the site was often deeply embedded in offline social structures, such that the platform was used to circumvent rigid norms around socialization (who can talk to whom) and information-seeking (who can ask what), enforced in educational institutions and elsewhere. We conclude that the strategic use of selective anonymity has the potential to scaffold social processes through which adolescents work toward critical developmental goals. This work appeared at ICA 2016 (46% acceptance rate) and was published in October 2016 in Social Media + Society (PDF).
LGBT Parents’ Use of Social Media
I conducted interviews with 28 LGBT parents, in collaboration with PhD pre-candidates Tawfiq Ammari and Jean Hardy, Dr. Tiffany Veinot, Dr. Cliff Lampe, and Dr. Sarita Schoenebeck. Shifting social movements are beginning to achieve greater recognition for LGBT parents and more rights for their families; however, LGBT parents still experience stigma and judgment in a variety of social contexts. We found that 1) LGBT parents use social media sites to detect disapproval and identify allies within their social networks; 2) LGBT parents become what we call incidental advocates, when everyday social media posts are perceived as advocacy work even when not intended as such; and 3) for LGBT parents, privacy is a complex and collective responsibility, shared with children, partners, and families. We consider the complexities of LGBT parents’ online disclosures in the context of shifting social movements and discuss the importance of supporting individual and collective privacy boundaries in these contexts. The results of this work appeared in the proceedings of CHI 2016 (PDF; 23% acceptance rate), where we were awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Paper (top 4% of papers).
Families and Social Media
I conducted 42 interviews with parents and their teenage children about household technology use, in collaboration with Dr. Sarita Schoenebeck and BSI student Emma Gardiner. Paired analysis surfaced a number of tensions between parents and children. Specifically, parents underestimate their children’s social media use. Parents report that they communicate with their children about technology, but children feel their parents only tell them which behaviors to avoid. Both parents and children describe violating household technology rules. While parents and children are not looking for more attention from each other, they do want their expectations of attention to be shared—that is, agreed-upon contexts when attention is paid to each other instead of a device. The results of this work appeared in the proceedings of CSCW 2016 (PDF; 25% acceptance rate). We thank the National Science Foundation (HCC #1318143) for support.
Young Adults’ Reflections on their Teenage Facebooks
I worked with Dr. Sarita Schoenebeck and Dr. Nicole Ellison as part of an ongoing study of adolescent social connections in online environments. Drawing on interview data with 28 young adults, this study investigates how young adults reflect on their historical Facebook use. Young adults perceive archival value in their Facebook histories, and often choose not to delete content—even if it is embarrassing—in order to preserve authenticity. Many of our participants “backstalked” the Timelines of other Facebook users, though they did this openly only with close friends. We discuss the concept of retrospective impression management, which describes how young adults manage past content to better align with their present-day self-presentational goals. This research becomes especially crucial with the rise of applications like Timehop and On This Day, which intentionally resurface historical digital content to present-day audiences. The results of this work appeared in the proceedings of CSCW 2016 (PDF; 25% acceptance rate). We thank the University of Michigan MCubed Program and the National Science Foundation (HCC #1318143) for support.