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Social Media and Civic Engagement in Higher Education

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Adam Gismondi

on 15 February 2016

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Transcript of Social Media and Civic Engagement in Higher Education

#CivicEngagement: An Exploratory Study of Social Media Use and Civic Engagement Among Undergraduates
Social media applications and websites are integral parts of current American college student lives
Civic engagement - both sought after and elusive to display in practice
Attempts to study civic engagement within higher education have largely ignored online contexts
Significance of the Proposed Study:
Research on social media use in higher education (growing)
Civic engagement (Pre-Internet, pre-social media)
Some combination of social media and civic engagement, but
within higher education
Social Capital Theory Informing Research Method
Social Capital Theory
Method: Data Collection and Analysis
Data Collection
Adler & Goggin (2005)
Civic Engagement
"...working to make a difference in the
civic life of our communities
and developing the combination of
knowledge, skills, values, and motivation
to make that difference...[and]
promoting the quality of life in a community
, through both
political and nonpolitical
processes" (Ehrlich, 2000)

The value of actions performed within a cooperative social network (Putnam, 2000)
Individuals and groups exist and function within social networks
Individuals' interactions with one another results in the exchange of value (information and resources)
Within a dense social network, individuals and groups tend to practice generalized reciprocity (deeds are eventually returned in some form)
Attempts to capture the social interactions that may serve as the underpinning for undergraduate civic engagement
Maximum variation sampling (Patton, 1990): 3 student organizations will be identified to align with Adler and Goggin's (2005) categorization of civic engagement
Key student affairs gatekeeper to aid in this process (Hammersley & Atkinson, 1983)
Observations - organization meetings and organizational social media pages
Organization meetings - transcription and discourse analysis (Ruiz, 2009)
Organization social media pages - Computer-Mediated Discourse (Herring, 2004)
6-12 semi-structured focus groups conducted with each organization
6-12 semi-structured individual interviews conducted, divided among participants from each organization
Synchronous ethnographic tours (Martinez Aleman & Wartman, 2009)
Journaling - removed from research design
Individual Interviews and Focus Groups
Heuristic coding
Constant comparative
Open, axial, and selective coding - inductively generate codes
Member checking
Contribution to the Literature
Policy and Practice
American higher education's role in solving societal problems
NASPA and ACPA: "Learning Reconsidered"
Civic engagement in the maintenance of a democracy (and sustaining social ties in communities)
Informing governmental initiatives
Civic Engagement
...as Community Service
Participation in
voluntary service
to one's
local community
, either by an individual acting independently or as a participant in a group.
...as Political Involvement
Activities that are not only collective but that are
specifically political
(i.e., that involve government action)
....as Social Change
How an active citizen participates in the life of the
in order to help
shape its future
...with a focus specifically on the dimensions of
long-term social change
...as Collective Action
people come together
in their roles
as citizens
..."The means by which an individual, through
collective action
, influences the larger civil society" (Van Benshoten, 2001)
Research Site - Commonwealth University
PWI institution (32% African-American, Hispanic, Asian or Native American)
Predominantly traditional college-aged (18-24)
Highly selective
Religiously affiliated
Division I athletics
187 Registered Student Organizations
Speaks to the importance of "citizenship, service, and leadership" in mission statement
In what ways is undergraduate social media use associated with students' civic engagement?
Research Question:
Granovetter (1973)
Weak ties, strong ties
Bourdieu (1986) & Coleman (1988)
Defining the term
Putnam (1993; 1995; 2000) & Lin (2001)
More recent work
Strong ties:
Highly trusting
similarities in attributes (similar backgrounds)
Weak ties:
More likely between people with no prior connection
Different resources
"Bridge" to information
Bonding: Connects individuals that share characteristics (e.g., Southeast Asian Student Association, Ukranian Society)
Bridging: Connects individuals to others that are dissimilar (e.g., Student Government, Circle K)
Both vital to a diverse, democratic society
Bonding - minority populations to find cohorts of peers; aids the cultural identity development process
Bridging - Cognitive dissonance; better understand issues of diversity; avoids clusters of homogenous groups
Bonding & Bridging Social Capital (Putnam, 2000)
Strong Ties and Weak Ties
Social Capital Literature
Observation (Organizational Meetings and Organizational Social Media Pages)
Focus Groups
1A & 2A

Focus Groups
1B &2B

Focus Groups
1C & 2C
Individual Interview 1a
Individual Interview 2a
Individual Interview 1b
Individual Interview 2b
Individual Interview 1c
Individual Interview 2c
Social Media Use
Civic Engagement
Social Capital
(Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007; 2011)
(Putnam, 2000)
Research Design
Social Media Use
Focus of
the Study
Social Capital
Civic Engagement
Adam Gismondi, PhD Candidate, Boston College
Social Capital
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