UH to Study Use of Social Media in Political Discourse

Photo by Nan Palmero/FlickrPolitically savvy users of social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are being sought for a University of Hawaii study.

The Hawaii Computer-Human Interaction Lab is launching a longitudinal study to better understand how social media is used as part of the political deliberation process.

“In other words, we are interested in learning how people use social media to learn about political candidates and political issues, as well as discuss political candidates and political issues,” writes Dr. Scott Robertson, associate professor in the information and computer sciences department and principal investigator with the HICHILab. “Ultimately, our goal is to inform the design of new social media tools that can help people more effectively participate in the deliberation process.”

Participants will only be required to participate in an initial interview lasting less than an hour, which can be conducted in person or via telephone or Skype. And even though it’s a UH study, they want to recruit people from across the country.

In exchange for their time, qualifying candidates will receive a $25 gift card.

And following the interview, there will be optional opportunities to continue with the project, allowing the researchers to measure use of social media for political deliberation over time.

A separate element of the study involves laboratory experiments in which researchers will directly observe how social media users seek out, explore, and share political information. These experiments also last about an hour, followed by a 15-minute exit interview. A new round of lab experiments are being prepped for later this month.

Scott Robertson

Dr. Scott Robertson

“All of the data we collect, as per University policy, will remain confidential and anonymous,” Robertson adds.

To participate, simply fill out the volunteer form (powered by Google Docs) or simply e-mail the team at HICHILab@hawaii.edu. E-mail inquiries should include your name, e-mail address and phone number, and which study elements you’re interested in (experiments, the longitudinal study, or both).

Last September, Robertson had received a $950,000 grant from the National Science Foundation “to study the use of social networks and new media in political deliberation, voter decision-making, and civic participation.” The grant prompted a September 2011 episode of “Bytemarks Cafe” on Hawaii Public Radio featuring Robertson, PhD student Misa Maruyama, and doctoral candidate Sara Douglass.

For more information, visit the HICHILab website, follow @hichilab on Twitter, or visit the HICHI page on Facebook.

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About Ryan Ozawa

Ryan Kawailani Ozawa has immersed himself in new technologies and online communities since the days before the web. From running a dial-up BBS in the early '90s to exploring today’s dynamic world of "Web 2.0" and social media, he has long embraced and evangelized the ways in which technology can bring people together.