AgBioResearcher Part of Team Receiving NSF Funding to Study Social Network Sites

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An MAES telecommunications scientist is studying how people use social network sites such as Facebook to connect and collaborate with others and how the sites may actually produce social benefits for users, including college students.

Using a grant from the National Science Foundation, researchers are focusing on a number of issues, including how college students’ use of such tools can enhance their academic experiences.

Although many people assume that the use of Facebook and other similar sites can have a detrimental effect on a student’s grades, this has not been empirically demonstrated. Work by telecommunications researchers has shown that there are social capital benefits associated with Facebook use.

Nicole Ellison, assistant professor of telecommunication, information studies and media, said that more research is needed to fully understand how these sites are being used by students and others.

“This work will prove interesting because it is in contrast to the popular conception of social network sites detracting from time spent on academic pursuits,” said Ellison, lead researcher on the project.

“More and more students are using social network sites to collaborate,” said Cliff Lampe, MAES telecommunications researcher and member of the project team. “Some of these students use it very heavily for classroom participation.”

Lampe said many students will, for example, set up a Facebook page allowing them to share information quickly, regardless of where they are located.

“This also allows them to create a more diverse and broad network of contacts,” he said.

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