During her year at CASBS, Nicole Ellison hopes to write a book on the psychological and social implications of social media use, which is a topic she has been thinking about for many years but has explored primarily through empirical, collaborative shorter journal articles and proceedings. With her book, she hopes to synthesize existing scholarship in a way that surfaces elements of the conversation that she believes are not receiving enough attention in contemporary popular discourse. Structured loosely around the question of when, why, and how social media use can benefit and harm individuals in a variety of domains, her book project will include a more robust consideration of the positive outcomes of use, such as social capital and social support, as well as a (hopefully) more measured discussion of the actual harms and areas for concern. From a theory-building perspective, her hope is that this project will translate research in relevant domains (e.g., psychology, communication studies, sociology, political science) and propose a framework that articulates the practices, motivations, and outcomes of social media use, with an eye towards providing guidance for individuals, platforms/designers, and policy-makers. She is considering a popular book aimed at users, not academics, and hopes to explore the benefits and challenges of single-author, long-form writing among CASBS fellow travelers next year.
Currently, Ellison is the Karl E. Weick Collegiate Professor of Information in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. She also serves as chair of the Communication and Technology (CAT) division of the International Communication Association (ICA) and an associate editor for the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. She received her PhD in communication theory and research in 1999 from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication. Over the last twenty years, her research has explored a wide range of issues all loosely concerned with the social and interpersonal aspects of online technologies and computer-mediated communication. Favorite projects include studying self-presentational strategies used by online dating participants; exploring the role of social media in reshaping college access patterns for low-income and first-generation college students; and a broad collaborative project spanning many years that documents the ways in which users employ the communication affordances of Facebook to exchange social and informational support with their network and how the platform is used to maintain relationships with both weak and strong ties.