GVU Center Brown Bag Distinguished Lecture - Bob Kraut
Online Social Support: Advances in Measuring Support and Understanding Its Effects
Many people with serious diseases use online health groups to exchange social support. For these groups to be effective, members must both seek support and provide it, and the support they exchange must have some benefits. For the groups to be sustained, some members must continue to participate. This talk describes analysis of behavior in two large, online cancer communities examining how people get support and the impact of support on members' satisfaction, commitment and psychological well-being. We use machine learning techniques to automate content analysis of millions of messages, measuring the extent to which messages contain such support-related actions as seeking and providing informational and emotional support, asking questions, expressing empathy and self-disclosing personal thoughts and feeling. These variables are used in longitudinal regression analyses to predict the type of support people receive, their satisfaction with the exchanges and their commitment to the group. The research illustrates differences in the how informational and emotional support are produced and their effects on satisfaction and commitment.
Dr. Robert E. Kraut is the Herbert A. Simon Professor of Human-Computer Interaction in the School of Computer Science and Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. He has broad interests in the design and social impact of computing and has conducted empirical research on online communities, the social impact of the internet, the design of information technology for small-group intellectual work and related topics. He has a PhD in social psychology, and previously was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University and as a research scientist as Bell Laboratories and Bell Communications Research.